Surviving the Internet

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Surviving the Internet

Jun 1, 2001 12:00 PM, By Chriss Scherer, editor

We all know that habits change. Radio listening habits (and naturally radio itself) have undergone some changes from their origin. The most dramatic change was in radio's very early days when usage changed from a messaging medium to an entertainment and information medium. Another significant change was the shift in focus of the radio being the centerpiece of the home, when radio listeners �watched� the radio. This occurred when TV was introduced, and radio slowly moved to a background medium in many cases. Since then, the habit changes have been smaller, introducing only minor differences.

Internet time, a phrase that is often heard today, has real meaning. Changes in habits and technology are occurring much more quickly today. The changes in radio took place over a period of more than 75 years. Now we see technology, and subsequently habits, changing every month or even more often. Changes in online usage as a result of these technological advances are readily recognized.

In May, Scarborough Research released the results of a National Internet Study that examined Internet usage habits and changes in the way Internet consumers embrace online and traditional media. This is Scarborough's first study on the topic, and more are planned.

Some of the general statistics are not surprising to me. It reports that 48% of Americans have used the Internet in the past 30 days, and 42% have consumed some form of streaming media. Further investigation would no doubt reveal that these users are younger as opposed to older people.

The decline in usage of other media as a result of the time spent online shows that the Internet is winning the competition for attention � except in radio. By combining the reported consumption statistics (that is, the percentage of those who consume certain media less and those who consume a certain medium more now that the Internet is available) for various forms of media, the results are: TV viewing down 16%; magazine readership down 12%; newspaper readership down 6%; radio listening up 2%. Some respondents indicated no change in their media habits, and radio again came out ahead with 81% while other media forms showed less favorable responses.

What does this mean for radio? It means that radio is not being affected as much as other media forms. Radio is retaining its audience better than other media forms.

I believe that this can be attributed to radio being an aural medium. You can listen to the radio while performing other tasks: working in the office, working around the house, surfing online. In some cases, listening (online or terrestrial) can be tied directly to the online experience.

Radio, TV, magazines and newspapers all offer additional information online. It's common to see references to additional online stories within an article or during a TV show. It's difficult if not impossible to read something online and also read something in print or watch it on TV. It's not so difficult to listen to the radio and work online.

Listening online may not be the preferred choice because of sound quality or data transmission limitations (other surveys show that at least 60% of the computers on the Internet connect with 56K or slower modems). But regardless of the transmission means, radio and surfing work well together.

Radio is facing its own evolution as terrestrial radio is introduced to IBOC and challenged by satellite radio and Internet radio, but in the end, it's all radio in some form. The same ties can be created and expanded upon. Radio and the Internet work well together. As people stop buying newspapers and reading more information online, the radio will always be turned on in the background.

Do you surf and listen? Does your station offer an online presence to enhance the listening experience? Tell us about it