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Is Radio Waving its Future Goodbye?

From Bloomberg:

By early next year, Ford Motor Co. will be shipping Fiesta cars with software that operates Pandora via voice controls. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz is promoting the radio service in vehicles, and Pioneer Electronics sells car stereos that include Pandora. The advantage of Pandora is marketers can target users based on age, gender, home ZIP code and musical taste, letting them deliver more relevant ads than what’s possible on regular radio, said Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager at Ford, which is also advertising on Pandora. “It’s very intimate,” Kelly said in an interview from Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. “Because Pandora knows so much about the user and who they are, where they’re listening and what artists they like, it really lets us hone in on that message.”

The smartphone will still be required to drive the service, but you will not have to reference the smartphone at all.  All the work will be done at the dash – just as it’s done for traditional radio.

Here’s a look at how it works:

This is the most vivid yet illustration of a theme that I and this blog have obsessed on for years now:  The rise of online radio effectively disconnected from clunky devices (mobile or otherwise) and integrated directly into the devices we drive to work in every day.  And with it the rise of precise targeting metrics which match individuals with messages (not to mention content) relevant for those individuals – no muss, no fuss.

Granted, this is not news – it has been coming for a while.  But I don’t think it is getting nearly the attention in the radio industry that it should. Especially when a major broadcasting group head tells me flat out:  “Nobody is making any money in streaming.”

Anyone in the radio industry who doesn’t see this as both a tremendous threat and opportunity should have their heads examined, especially when the automakers and advertisers swoon over the prospects of a platform which both helps to sell cars and to sell advertising, all at once.

The issue is not whether mobile phones have FM receivers.  The issue is whether or not consumers can control their own content experiences in your presence, and whether or not you are capable of providing much richer metrics to the advertisers you claim to serve.

The radio industry has to get deadly serious about streaming and about accountability.

Or it needs to stop pretending that this, too, is their business.

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