Radio and Cars, the best of friends | radioinfo

Radio and Cars, the best of friends

Sunday 14 February, 2016

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

In the US, 42% of radio listening is in the car. In Australia, 33% of radio is listened-to in the car. In the UK, the figure’s 20%.

Radio seems really important to car drivers. Car drivers are certainly important to radio. So it’s a mystery to me why the two industries haven’t been talking to each other more.

If you do a cursory search on LinkedIn, you notice relatively quickly that Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn are all over automotive. But the radio industry appears fairly absent.

We end up with a poor listener experience. Radio stations do silly things with RDS (or even don’t broadcast it), so car receivers are worse than they need to be. Auto manufacturers do silly things with the DAB or HD user experience, so they work in a messy, inconsistent way.

But we also end up with a lack of understanding - on both sides - on what car drivers want from the radio. I’ve not been able to point to any research that shows that people want radio in a car, for example: much less, how to make their radio experience better.

So, three cheers for UK Radioplayer, the not-for-profit organisation owned by radio broadcasters in Britain, that has gone out and done research across the UK, France and Germany - the largest of its kind, it claims.

They’ve discovered lots of things. Even in modern cars, 75% of all audio listening is to the radio. 82% of people wouldn’t buy a car if it didn’t have a radio. And so on. Radio is really important to car drivers.

They also filmed people talking about their car radios. They’re fascinating snapshots of why people like radio in the car - and what could be better. It’s interesting, watching the videos, to see normal people talk about how difficult touchscreens are to use in a car, and how it’s important to keep your hands on the wheel.

Because radio is such a multi-tasking medium, it’s easy to forget how important radio is. And perhaps we’re guilty of not always communicating that. So here’s hoping this research is used by radio broadcasters and auto manufacturers alike. We should talk more together. Because great cars need great radios inside them.

About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist, and is Managing Director of, a companion website to radioinfo and AsiaRadioToday.

He has served as a judge for a number of industry awards including the Australian ABC Local Radio Awards, the UK Student Radio Awards, and the UK’s Radio Academy Awards, where he has also served on the committee. He was a founder of the hybrid radio technology association RadioDNS.

James is one of the organisers of, the radio ideas conference each September, and is also on the committee of RadioDays Europe. He writes for publications including his own, Radio World International and RAIN News.

James recently moved from North London to Brisbane with his partner and a two year-old radio-loving toddler. He very, very much likes beer.



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