Why In-Car Media Is Sexier Than Ever
Do you remember the Jetson’s space car? It was an open air vehicle that avoided all traffic delays, flew George directly to Spacely Sprockets, and best of all…it folded into a briefcase.
Unfortunately we are a long way off from having a space car in our garage. Plus traffic in major cities is only getting worse, and time spent in the car has increased proportionately. Highways are jammed, and consumers are confined to a very specific and opportunistic media space…in the car.
Average One-Way Commute Time (in minutes) by City (US Census Bureau Data)
Arbitron reports that the average time spent in a car during the weekday has gone from 2 hours and 11 minutes in 2003 to 2 hours and 52 minutes in 2009. That accounts for a 31% increase in just six years. I doubt these numbers are going to decrease over time.
So where’s the media opportunity? It’s in the car. Think about it. Where else are media choices limited during the average day? Where else are consumers confined to a singular space? And where else do you have the opportunity to communicate with one-on-one to your target?
Tim Westergren of Pandora understands the power of in-car media. Ford Motor Company recently announced that their hands free mobile app SYNC will be standard issue in all Ford cards. That means Pandora music will be able to target the lucrative in-car audience with customized music streaming beginning this year.
Along with music comes the inevitable traffic jam and the corresponding need for up to the second traffic information. Arbitron reports 50 percent of people get their traffic information from radio, 31 percent from television, and 5 percent from the Internet. Some think this may change with the advent of hands free in-car mobile applications.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE. Who’s got the technology and the content providers already in place? Radio does! Not only does almost every single car in America have a functioning AM and FM radio receiver, but almost everyone understands how to work technology. No fancy hookups. No mobile apps to download, and no surfing the web. Push a button and bingo…free music, local traffic and weather 24/7.
The key is local. The singular most important competitive advantage for radio is local. Local information delivered by local human beings, reporting from the local community, about local events that impact the people living in the local area. And believe it or not, some people rely on others to surprise them with personally selected musical choices rather than computer modeled choices of songs you know nothing about.
The most recent estimates suggest that in-car radio listening accounts for around 33 percent of all radio listening. Competing technologies understand that mobile in-car technologies such as SYNC provide newfound ways of entertaining the captured car driver who sits within the snarled traffic systems of most major markets.
But people gravitate towards those things they are most familiar with. Local personalities, with recognizable call letters, and comfortable voices. Local radio does that better than anything else, but the competition for the space inside the car is heating up. Keep an eye on it because you probably won’t see a George Jetson car within your lifetime.