Working in radio, we are constantly aware of consumer listening habits. When a study is released showing how consumers listen to or discover new music, we take note.
Last summer I saw a Nielsen Music 360 study that said radio is still the dominant way people discover new music (48 percent). This was followed by tips from friends and relatives (10 percent) and YouTube (7 percent). That sounds good for radio. We're still on top.
But looking into the survey closer, it was noted that teens listen to music most via YouTube (64 percent), followed by radio (56 percent), iTunes (53 percent) and CDs (50 percent).
Again, radio is doing well, but it's not on top. And it's not on top with teens. The established audience -- adults -- still listens to the radio. We grew up with it. Teens are the next wave of listener. If we don't capture them early, we won't keep them listening all their lives.
This is the ongoing challenge we face in radio: Keeping our audience despite the ever-increasing competition of other audio entertainment and information sources.
The NAB is pushing to have FM radio in all smartphones. To those outside radio this seems like a pointless pursuit to push what some consider a legacy distribution system in a modern device. But it keeps radio in front of the consumer in the most ubiquitous personal device available.
And more important, if a radio is active in every phone handset, it's no longer a feature consumers have to choose. If it's included, they will likely use it to some degree. If they have to think about getting a phone with a radio, they probably won't make the effort.
But there's more to a smartphone than talking on the phone or listening to the radio. A Pew Research study released in March says a high percentage of American teens (12 to 17) use their smartphones to access the Internet rather than a computer. And stats for other age groups are increasing in the likelihood of getting online with a smartphone.
The trend is (not surprisingly) that consumers are using their smartphones more and more. It makes sense to have a radio tuner in the phone.
And speaking of smartphone access, do you have a mobile-friendly version of your station's website? Mobile versions of websites are easy to establish with most content management systems.
And of course, you should have your station app available, too. And make it a real app and not just a link to the station's website.
Without needing a study, we all know that smartphone usage will continue to increase as time passes. But teens are embracing it much quicker. And again, it's teens (when they get a little older) who will be the next target listener.
Our established terrestrial transmission has a long life ahead, but its longevity will be aided by catering to the needs of the listener. Listening habits evolved slowly for the first 60 to 80 years. They are changing much faster as consumer technology evolves. And consumer use of the technology is changing, too.
Let's look ahead to engaging tomorrow's listeners today.