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Rosin discovered a statistic formerly tracked by the U.S. Census that is now tracked only by Edison Research, and its implications for the radio industry. Below is an excerpt from the article; make sure to click here to read the full text.
At the RAIN Conference before the 2018 NAB Radio Show, my colleague Megan Lazovick gave an extremely compelling talk entitled “Radio’s Hardware Problem: How does radio compete if consumers don’t have a radio?” You can find her talk in written form here — seriously, read it. Pretty much everything she said matters as much or more today. But the ‘hardware crisis’ that Megan pointed the industry to in 2018 has only accelerated. Earlier this year we reported in the 2022 Infinite Dial, brought to you in partnership with Wondery and Art19, that now 61% of Americans report having at least one single-use, traditional ‘radio’ in their houses or apartments (excluding those in their cars).
Meanwhile, I recently read the terrific new book, “Democracy’s Data,” about the history of the U.S. Census, and only then learned that there was a period of time when the decennial census was also tracking ownership of a radio in the home. In 1930, the question was first asked, and the bureau reported that 40% of American households had acquired a ‘radio set’ by this date. Ten years later, the 1940 Census reported that the number had swelled to about 83% of households.
It’s a little daunting to contemplate that these questions were once deemed important enough to be on the U.S. Census and now are being tracked, exclusively as far as I can tell, by Edison Research.
It is clear that in-home ownership of the radio device is dropping, as they are rapidly being replaced by internet-connected devices. And even that bastion of the radio— the car — is now seeing some small decline in radios, especially AM in electric vehicles, but in select cases even FM is now an option (as opposed to standard).
I have maintained for years that the abandonment of hardware is a problem, if not a crisis, for the American “Radio” industry. Merely having a radio set is the first step to listening to the radio. If we were to run a test where we put a radio into every single room of someone’s house, I can virtually guarantee that radio listening in that house would rise.
Ultimately, the American radio industry grew to prominence as a software provider for a hardware platform that is now in decline. Radio sets were a protected ‘walled-garden’ environment with a limited number of options available. There is a reason we dubbed the new audio environment an “Infinite Dial” so many years ago. How well you think ‘radio’ has competed and can compete on this Infinite Dial will determine how much of a concern radio’s “hardware problem” really is.
From our Edison Research family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!