From Inside Radio:
Has the iPod peaked? …Wall Street analysts warn the iPod may go the way of the Sony Walkman (history-making product, but it faded). Apple sold an amazing 60 million iPods in five years. But Wall Street researchers say sales may’ve peaked. 14 million iPods were sold in the fourth quarter of 2005 — but sales are down this year. It sold just 8.5 million in the first quarter and that figure dropped another 400,000 in the second quarter. …The press is still pretty positive — but check out this headline in the UK’s Observer — “Why the iPod is losing its cool.” How trendy can something be to young people if mom and dad now have one? We’ve also heard from consultants whose research points to fatigue among iPod users — many of whom are returning to the radio.
Inside Radio is getting confused between a sales snapshot for the iPod and the overall impact of mp3 players on the marketplace and on listening behavior. Ditto for the Sony Walkman and portable media players from generations gone by. Both the iPod and the Walkman were/are game-changers. Will they fade? Maybe. But just like a hurricane fades – it leaves the landscape permanently altered.
Besides, iPod sales will likely rebound once the ’07 product announcements are made (not a good idea to miss Xmas, though).
The iPod is “losing its cool” only to the degree that the product isn’t sufficiently refreshed by its makers. In Apple’s world, that’s a six to twelve month cycle. New products and “cool” go hand in hand. It has nothing – nothing – to do with whether or not “their parents own one.” The iPod is fashion but it’s also a utility, and utilities are assumed to be used across generations. This is nonsense talk, probably sown by envious Apple competitors.
On the issue of “fatigue,” I don’t believe it. Forget all the “opinion” research and watch Arbitron for the facts: When, five years from now, you can show me that 18-34 TSL is returning to radio you will win your case. Wanna make a bet?
Until then, the plethora of listening options will continue to suck the TSL oxygen from the radio room.
On the whole, the spin here seems to be of the “don’t worry, it’ll all pass and everything will go back to normal” variety.