Did Technology Kill The Radio Star?

Portland Radio Group Effective Small Business Advetising MaineThe year was 2003.  Ninety-three percent of Americans listened to radio each week.  But what else could they do in the olden days?  Facebook did not exist; that would come a year later.  2003 was the year iTune’s was born but there were only 200,000 songs available then, far short of the 100,000,000 titles available today. And back then you needed to plop down $535 for an iPod to listen to downloaded music.  Now, of course media players are free on phones and tablets.  Also is 2003, YouTube was two years from existence; Twitter was three years from birth; Amazon Kindles were four years away; and iPads would not show up for 7 more years.  No wonder radio still flourished in 2003, there was nothing else to do!  So, ten years later, has technology killed the radio star? Absolutely not!

Last week Arbitron and Edison Research released a study entitled, “The Infinite Dial 2013: Navigating Digital Platforms.”  This study, conducted in January and February of this year set out, according to the researchers “to provide estimates of emerging digital platforms and their impact on the media landscape based on self-reported consumer behavior and attitudes.”  The bottom line: 93% of Americans still listen to radio every week. And, drum roll please, traditional AM/FM radio still owns the automobile dashboard.

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In addition to traditional ways of listening to the radio, “The Infinite Dial 2013” study also reveals that listeners are consuming their favorite radio stations via their smartphones, their tablets, and their laptops. As a matter of fact, online radio has grown since 2003 to include one-out-of-three Americans.

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Question: Since 2003, technology has fostered an onslaught of new media options from Hulu to Angry Birds. So, how do Americans still have time to listen to the radio??  Answer: We have made more time.  In 2003, according to Arbitron and Edison, Americans spend 7-hours and 3-minutes per day consuming the three largest media: Radio, TV and Internet.  In 2013, however, they spend 8-hours and 15-minutes per day with on-air and online media.  The research doesn’t directly indicate what activities were sacrificed to make room for 72 more minutes per day, but I can only guess it is a result of multi-tasking since more than half of all Americans now have smartphones and tablets with almost ubiquitous access to WiFi and other broadband internet connections. And 82% of smartphone users say their device is “almost always” or “always” within “arm’s length.”

“The Infinite Dial 2013” also suggests that a contributing factor to radio’s sustained dominance is the listener’s desire to learn about new music.  Seventy-eight percent of people say traditional AM/FM radio is their source for learning about new music.

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 Despite the vast expansion of media options now available to the typical consumer, radio still has two distinct advantages as an advertising medium.  Number 1: Radio, as it has been forever, is the last medium used by consumers within a 1/2-hour prior to shopping.  This makes radio the last chance an advertiser has to influence a consumer prior to purchase.

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Radio’s second advantage revealed by “The Infinite Dial 2013 is consumer responsiveness.  Almost 1/2 of consumers say they have responded directly as a result of hearing a radio commercial.

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Besides the findings that radio remains a powerful and effective advertising medium despite the inundation by new media alternatives, “The Infinite Dial 2013” revealed other interesting information regarding America’s media habits.  For instance:

  • 45% of all Americans now have DVR.  This represents 60% growth over 5 years.  More and more viewers are skipping commercials
  • Four-in-ten smartphone users are “habitual” social media users
  • 60% of Americans have a profile on a social media site.  Facebook leads this category with 58% penetration.
  • 30% of Americans wake-up each morning to a cell phone

The entire “Infinite Dial 2013” study is available as a free download by clicking here.


Portland Radio Group is Maine’s largest media company. Our account executives work with local marketers and advertisers to harness the $12-billion of buying power commanded by our vast audience. Watch the video below to find out how Portland Radio Group clients feel about working with our company.

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