Inside Radio solemnly declared:
The Consumer Electronics Show signaled the imminent arrival of the mobile broadband car. For radio to remain competitive in tomorrow’s digital dashboard, a faster industry-wide push towards digital is needed.
Yes, coverage of CES focused the digital dashboard, as bacchalian boosters celebrated the announcements by Ford, Mercedes, Hyundai, BMW, Buick, and Toyota that at least some of their cars would be wired for broadband.
Once again Pandora ran promotional circles around its competitors by grabbing all the headlines. While Clear Channel’s iheartradio will be a featured app in Toyotas along side Pandora, you wouldn’t know it from the press coverage.
A recent USAToday press release story gushed about Pandora’s success and goals:
Westergren's goal: Pandora in every vehicle. "We think that 50% of music listening is done in the car," he says. "That's a huge market that we haven't been able to be part of." Westergren says half the company now is focused on advertising and expansion to autos and other devices.
Apparently it hasn’t occurred to writers that an Internet equipped car means that drivers can also listen to alternatives to Pandora including the streams of local radio stations.
How else explain this feeble Forbes analysis of Pandora’s impact on CBS:
Pandora is now pushing into the drive-time radio market. Traditionally, this market has been dominated by larger radio services like CBS. But can the stalwarts withstand Pandora's push?
Here’s Consumer Reports’ reaction to Ford’s MyFord Touch system:
None of the options works as well or is as easy to use as old-fashioned knobs and switches, and they can be more time-consuming and distracting to operate. First time users might find it impossible to comprehend.
The center screen’s cluttered pages, tiny buttons, and small fonts make choosing the right spot to touch difficult. (Speaking of voice control) Synch isn’t perfect, so you might find yourself uttering some words not found in the system’s vocabulary.
Apparently things are so bad that Ford has begun offering 45 minute sessions on how to operate the system. This from Engadget:
Some folks, folks who apparently didn't spend their childhoods mashing thumbs into D-pads, are finding it all a little confusing. Many dealers now offer tutorial sessions that owners of Touch-equipped cars can attend, a 45 minute thrill ride that'll let you and your salesman get just that much closer.
As we recently wrote, people adopt a new technology only when they find it solves a problem. The Ford story shows that it is also true that people resist a new technology when it creates bigger problems than it solves.
Noting Pandora’s push for in-car listeners:
The majority of drivers place a higher value on convenience than capability in a car. The average commute is less than an hour, the average errand by car considerably less.
The likelihood that you are going to plug in your iPhone, navigate to the app of your favorite music service, launch it, and then select a stream in the 15 minutes it takes to drive to the grocery store to buy milk is small.
Ford’s MyFord makes listening to streams even more complicated than just plugging your iPod into an auxiliary jack.
One day voice controls will work better, the screens will be easier to use, and people will get used to digital dashboards. However, it will take years for this to happen.
By that time, the entire Internet radio landscape could change.
Broadcast groups are not standing still. Inside Radio today quotes Bob Pittman declaring, “The whole digital world is an untapped opportunity for explosive growth.” He notes, “You’re going to find adaptive radio becoming a feature on a lot of streaming properties.”
We have repeatedly noted that broadcast radio groups are well positioned to capitalize on Internet radio’s development. Pandora might seem to have a tremendous lead in mobile streaming right now, but this will turn out to be another tortoise and hare story.