News has reached these shores of a significant increase in the number of people who are streaming radio in their cars via their mobile phone. Indeed, the number is said to be as high as 17% of all owners of a ‘cellphone’ (I admit I am not sure if this covers all phones or just ‘smartphones’) ‘have listened to online radio streamed in their cars this year through a connection to the radio’. The report goes on to say that this is up from 11% last year, and furthermore, around 30% (76 million!) Americans are listening online, that’s an incredible number.
This is interesting as, in my opinion, internet listening will be the driver for the UK’s digital radio push. And is the case with most things today, mobile phones and apps hold the key. DAB sets are very good, there’s no doubting this, however there is a barrier – price. With a basic DAB costing at least £30 and, with household budgets tight, take up may be slower than desired.
However, there are now a number of apps available that offer the world’s radio for no more than 69p. There are some technical barriers to this, caps on data roaming allowances and loss of connection while on the move, however the simple fact is, a smartphone, ownership of which according to the Q1 Ipsos Technology Tracker now stands at 42%, and an app can give you the digital radio experience for next to nothing. While home listening accounts for around 65% of all radio hours, this should not impact on mobile app listening, indeed, wifi circumvents the data roaming allowance caps and radio can be streamed all day long.
Of course, apps also run on tablets and while ownership is still fairly small, currently 9%, a trip on a commuter train will soon demonstrate how they are definitely taking hold and probably here to stay. The annual upgrades to tablet and phone operating systems and functionality, and the furore they create as the next must have item has caused a ‘hand me down expansion’ – the idea of the original owner of such a device upgrading and passing their perfectly usable cast offs down the household chain – meaning the prediction of multi-tablet households is starting to look like a reality while also helping smartphones to further penetrate the market.
This means that there is plenty of opportunity for the UK market to start thinking differently about how to use apps and mobile devices to stream digital radio, particularly while we wait for car connections to be widely available.
As of Quarter 4 2011, RAJAR shows us that around 10% of the population (5 million or so) are listening online or using mobile apps. This has remained steady over the last year, so not taking off in quite the same way that it seems to in the US, yet. Online listening using traditional online methods most notably Radioplayer will help. We usually see a ‘Christmas Effect’ boost to DAB ownership and digital listening with a Quarter 1 RAJAR release, and we’ll find out in a few weeks if this is again going to be the case, but I believe the real driver of digital growth going forward will come with online, and particularly via those apps housed on a mobile device.