Television did not kill radio, neither did the Walkman, nor will the Internet.
During the past 10 years technology has dramatically broadened radio (and other audio) programming. It began in the mid-1990s with "streaming" audio over the Internet. By the end of the decade XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio were launched. Since then, digital radio has continued to expand with the addition of podcasting, offering time-shifted radio programming, and HD Digital Radio, offering superior sound quality and additional AM and FM frequencies.
Indeed, as a new report, "The Infinite Dial: Radio’s Digital Platforms," jointly issued by Arbitron and Edison Media Research, states, "The radio dial, which was once limited to what was sanctioned by the FCC and available only on AM and FM, is now entirely unbound."
In fact, the report verifies that far from killing the older medium, by adding more listening options and giving listeners more control, the Internet may actually be reviving it.
Internet radio continues to grow rapidly. The US monthly audience (ages 12 and up) is now 52 million, up from 37 million in 2005.
The weekly Internet radio audience increased 50% over the past year, with 12% of respondants to the survey listening to Internet radio in the past week, up from 8% in 2005.
Satellite radio is flying high, too. Not everyone is listening yet, but a majority of Americans have heard of it. Both XM and Sirius have reached awareness levels of 61%.
More importantly, subscriptions are being added faster than earlier estimated. Based on the firms’ reported numbers, at the end 2005 Sirius had 3.3 million subscribers, and XM had 5.9 million.
The "Infinite Dial" report found that 18% of those who do not currently subscribe to satellite radio say they are likely to subscribe in the next 12 months.
While podcasting is still in the early phase of its development, 11% of Americans, 27 million altogether, have already tried this new way to listen to radio programming.
eMarketer estimates that by the end of the year the active US podcasting audience will be 3 million, growing to 15 million in 2010.
More so than Internet or satellite radio, podcasting skews young. The report showed that about 20% of Americans who have ever listened to an audio podcast are 12-17 years old, and more than half (53%) are under the age of 35.
HD radio is a completely new concept to most listeners. But those that have heard of it are interested in hearing more, and as HDTV penetrates more American homes, HD radio is certain to follow.
Somewhat amazingly, according to the respondents of the survey, the interest in all these alternative radio channels is not diminishing the audience’s enthusiasm for the current channels. The vast majority, 75%, of the projected "digital radio" audience claims that they will continue listening to AM/FM radio for as many hours per week as they do now.