Radio Gets Personal at the New York Auto Show

It seems as though mass-marketing of anything these days is passé. If it can’t be made personal, than it appears it just isn’t worth talking about.  So, here I am talking about the latest in car connectivity, or should I say…making the radio all about you, and from my perspective, it’s getting rather crowded. In the next year, it is going to be interesting to watch all manufacturers scramble to become a player in the battlefield of driver multi-interface connectivity and see who takes the lead.

This year the New York Auto Show was no exception.  It seems everyone is linking up with web-based radio and smartphone crowds. Every manufacturer, from Mercedes-Benz to Hyundai is getting in on the action by adding features to their existing systems or expanding into other connected services (i.e. smartphone apps).

The trend does not seem to be going away.  From the innumerable demonstrations at the New York Auto Show, I think it is safe to say that nearly every new car will be a “connected car” in the coming year.  It is getting so crowded there even seems to be some competition from within. GM, with its long time connectivity partner Onstar, has to share screen space with Chevy’s MyLink and Buick’s new IntelliLink.  Mercedes-Benz now offers a multitude of connectivity options, including live agents, built-in online access and smartphone apps. Eventually, we are going to need technology tutorials before driving a new car.

With personalized online music radio services cutting into commercial radio’s potential audience (with 80 million registered users), access to internet radio on the road is on every manufacturer’s mind. Corresponding apps allow the driver to access their playlists at a touch of a button from their smartphone. With voice-recognition control systems getting better at integrating multifarious devices in today’s cars (i.e. onboard navigation, entertainment systems, MP3 players and smartphone aps), the radio as we know it will never be the same.

It certainly feels like times are changing for radio and it’s exciting to see where our smartphones lead us.  Here at CBS Radio, we have always believed in connectivity but at a personal level, as in humans talking to humans. I’m all for hands-free and voice activated controls, but there is nothing more personal or connected than the simple act of ‘live’ interaction.

Dan Mason (CEO and President CBS Radio) recently sent a memo to CBS Radio employees that echoed the digital excitement he expressed at RAIN Summit West, commenting “never have I been more certain as to what an incredible opportunity we have before us” and “the digital side of the business is just as important as our over-the-air operations.”

With the 265 million listeners that free and local radio sources provide weekly, this novel idea of live human interaction proves to be one great social network. It’s more than connecting our vehicles with hand held devices, it’s all about the human element connecting “in the now;” Facebook and Twitter has proven that. Change is good, and the core benefit of radio, being “on-air,” will continue to evolve.  Who knows, one day we could be chatting instantly on the radio via the hands-free interface in cars…now that’s an idea that I can really get excited about.