The Infinite Dial in the Car: Miles DIfferent

Here are some excerpts from the speech I gave at the RAIN Summit in Las Vegas on Sunday April 12, 2105 on the subject of how things are changing in the in-car environment:

The concept behind the Infinite Dial is the notion of radio expanding past the bounds of the AM and FM dials to a world of incredible, boundless choices.  These newer, expanded choices were once mostly accessible on desktops.  Then the smartphone came along and reconnected the notion of audio to mobility.  And that has been revolutionary.

But to date, one location, one key location, has remained pretty resistant to change, and that’s the in-car experience.  The challenges of bringing new options into the in-car experience, and especially the slowness with which the car market turns over, have made the in-car environment the most resistant to change.

But as Sam Cooke said, A Change is Gonna Come.

And so I decided to go through the 2015 Infinite Dial data set and give people a taste of the change that is gonna come. 

In our survey we asked people the model year of the primary car they drive or ride in.  I decided to split things out between those whose cars came from before 2010 and those whose cars are from the 2010 or later model years.

About three in five people are mostly in cars more than five years old; and about two in five have newer models. 

So let’s look at what each of these two groups told us they use in their cars.  In the graph below you can see that the 'currently ever' listen to AM/FM is the same regardless of the age of one's car. When it comes to reach – AM/FM is as strong as ever.  In fact we got the exact same number for listening to AM/FM in older cars and newer cars.

But look at what else they use.  Newer car owners are a bit less likely to use a CD player.  But they’re way more likely to use their smartphone for audio in their car, way way more likely to use internet radio in their car, and way way way more likely to use SiriusXM.  So take a second to add the numbers down the columns.  The right hand column is way bigger.  People have more options in their newer cars, and they use more options.

Then we asked about frequency of listening.  Here the picture starts to change a bit.  The graph below shows what percentage said they use that device “almost all the times they’re in their car” or “most of the times” they are in their car.  A couple of things to note.  First – people with newer cars are 11 percentage points lower for frequent listening to AM/FM.  With regard to other items – the same pattern emerges.  They are less likely to use a CD and more likely to use other things – and in the case of SiriusXM – WAY more likely – FOUR TIMES more likely.  


The world of automobiles turns over slowly.  But when people have access to more ways to consume audio in the car -- they take advantage of these options.  The evidence to date is that they don't stop using things -- they simply change the amount of time they spend with the different platforms as they become available.