AM/FM Radio Alive and Kicking Thanks to Our Cars

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Recent years saw a revolution in music entertainment unlike any other before. With all the Sirius satellite radio stations, Bluetooth direct media streaming, the vast Pandora Internet Radio library just a fingertip away and iTunes car integration, you'd expect traditional AM/FM radio stations to slowly but surely die off. But as a matter of fact, this medium hasn't lost a great deal of its audience thanks to people that listen to local radio while driving.
A 2013 Pew Research Center & Nielsen Audio study for Quartz shows that 91 per cent of Americans over the age of 12 still pump up the volume on car radios at least once a week. That means just a 5 percent decrease in 13 years of new media revolution. Same study also hints that people listening to AM/FM radio stations in their vehicles amount to 44 percent of total radio audience. Even if most radio stations play on heavy rotation the same awful tunes you can also hear on popular TV music channels, that's still an astonishing popularity figure for this medium.

However, more and more car manufacturers are implementing Internet conectivity into their products. Internet radio services already have a serious advantage over old-fashioned AM/FM by offering a gigantic amount of music options. Pandora is also pushing its services into Internet connected vehicles like Buicks equipped with IntelliLink infotainment systems. But the most important aspect of why Internet radio will eventually kill traditional AM/FM is that record companies are paid higher royalties from Internet music providers than from terrestrial counterparts.

The main problem that keeps Internet radio from being more widely used in cars is, of course, the high price you have to pay for that data contract with enough Gigabytes to suit in-car media streaming. Here's an example how easily you can use your contract data: an hour of high quality music (192 kbps) streaming uses 86.4 Megabytes. If you work an hour away from home, that's 2 hours per day. Multiply that at least 20 times and you get over 3 Gigabytes of Internet data used monthly only when commuting.

So there you have it - while it is true we are spending more time with new forms of media, terrestrial radio still reigns supreme when it comes to in-car entertainment.
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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