The iPhone, ten years on - was it the radio destroyer? | radioinfo

The iPhone, ten years on - was it the radio destroyer?

Sunday 29 January, 2017
Photo: James Cridland

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Did you have one? I did. The iPhone. The original iPhone.

Launched in a blaze of Steve Jobs alternative reality, it was an exciting rethink of how a smartphone could be. It didn’t have any apps - those came later - but it was a fabulous device with a decent web browser, built-in Google Maps, Google’s new acquisition YouTube, and email.

I got mine from the basement of Selfridges in London. The mobile phone company I was with had a special plan for the iPhone, with much more data than anyone else. Within a few months, they’d done a deal with two wifi providers to offer free wifi to their customers - an attempt to shift as much data away from their own network as they could.

The iPhone was supposed to an incredible threat for radio. Streaming radio stations through the iPhone would replace the FM radio, we were told. American radio executives stood up at conferences and declared that the future was the iPhone.

It’s certainly changed things. The iPhone heralded a new era in connectivity and portable computing power. It’s amazing to remember that the original iPhone wasn’t even 3G - that came a year later. I don’t think I had wifi at home until the iPhone came along - why would I need it, after all? I think my ADSL connection was still 512k.

Today, the iPhone has been joined by Android phones, and the “smartphone” is now ubiquitous. We now have high-speed mobile connections with 4G and LTE. Forget live radio - live television is now available on the move. Public wifi hotspots are in almost every coffee shop and shopping mall. YouTube has grown to have almost every song ever recorded on it, and Spotify and podcasting has also appeared. And then there’s Facebook and Twitter and all those social media networks sucking up our time and attention. All, in part, because of the iPhone.

The iPhone is ten years old this month. So, how horribly did it treat radio? With all this advancement in technology in the last ten years, radio must be screwed, right? Why are we still bothering?

In the US, 91% of adults (12+) listened to the radio in 2007. That figure’s actually increased, to 93%. In the UK, it was 90% of adults (15+) in 2007; now it’s a near-identical 89%.

The ‘cume’ is only half the story, of course. While that remains stable, say radio’s doom-mongers, the time we spend with radio is collapsing.

Over the last ten years, total time-spent-listening to radio has dropped. In diary markets in the US (so we compare like-with-like), listening is down by about 20%. And in the UK, total listening is down by 8% - from 23.2 hours a week to 21.5.

So, people are still listening to the radio - in roughly the same numbers as before. And after all this incredible change - after we’ve put every single song ever released in the hands of our audience, we’ve massively increased the amount of distraction with social media, and we’ve changed media consumption for ever - we’ve still kept 80% or more of time spent with radio.

As we move into an even more uncertain future, it’s worth reminding ourselves how resilient radio is - and how, even with all this new technology, radio continues to survive and thrive.


About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK's ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio's future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.


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