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Jacobs: Connected Car Is "Absolutely Critical"


Jacobs Media chief Fred Jacobs hosted the much anticipated closing panel at Convergence 2014, saying the connected car, the digital dashboard, is "an absolutely critical issue for advertisers" – and for radio as well. He noted that automotive has been radio's number one category for the past five consecutive years.

On the now-fierce competition on the dash, Jacobs said, "Radio people, to a great degree over the past few years, have not seen this one coming" – despite having long been aware of what streaming is about. But radio's relationship with auto has "always been a nice kind of peanut butter-and-jelly relationship," to the point, he later said, that radio may even have come to feel entitled.

After a video showing a number of variations of in-dash apps and features, he asked the panel -- Doug Sterne, VP of audio sales at Pandora Media, Alan Taylor, CEO of ERN, Tobin Trevarthen, CEO of Spatial Shift, and Roger Tsai, deputy GM of media personalization and insights at Gracenote – whether the future will be a connected car, or cars that interface with smartphones.

Sterne noted that safety must be a first concern – some of the apps seen in the video were pretty concerning, considered they'll be used when people are driving – saying, "Automakers and regulators are going to have to decide what safety looks like" in the face of all these innovations.

Trevarthen pointed out that radio and automakers are facing a similar issue with tech companies: "If auto gives up the center stack to Google and Apple, they own the in-car experience" rather than the automaker. He agreed that safety is an issue, as Jacobs added, "But the reality is, this stuff is selling cars." Tsai pointed out that when Ford was initially pushing its successful Sync product, it was at the mass-market level, and hit a "sweet spot" with buyers. Jacobs pointed out that Audi Connect is the top driver of showroom traffic for Audi.

There's no standardization in dashboard interfaces, and Sterne pointed out that OEMs see them as a point of differentiation, and tend to be "very proud of their own creation." Taylor pointed out that some cars have even been returned because drivers found the interactivity too difficult and distracting to use.
He said that automakers need to have ubiquitous technology – they can't split the market the way, say, Apple and Android phones do.But he's enthusiastic about the connected car, saying it's "The beginning of an entirely new door opening for radio stations and content creators like myself."

(6/9/2014 7:26:44 AM)
I understand, Ron. I made the comment only in order to, one day, come back and say: "You read it here, first".
It's up to us (radio) to make our app on the dash much more than a second-rate alternative - along with so many others that might be much more appealing.

- Ronald
(6/9/2014 5:29:27 AM)
Ronald, you wish. Apple, Google and Microsoft have enough money to buy every radio station in America, swallow, digest and spit out the bones without blinking. A few lawsuits wont stop them from taking over the dashboard. Expect AM and FM to become just another app on page two of most cars connected entertainment and communication systems dashboards by 2017.

- Ron
(6/8/2014 9:28:15 PM)
Two words: Law suits.
When the litigation starts rolling in based on drivers dicking around with ever more complex dashboards and their multiple apps - including radio - manufacturers and software/hardware designers are going to be placed in serious jeopardy.

And we can forget about voice activation. Those behaviors suck up brain power as well as any cell phone conversation, especially if there is inter-activity with the technology.

All this stuff will be a far cry from a radio with a couple of pre-sets and a volume control.

It could be argued that radio - a passively-accessed medium - should be all that is allowed in the front seat with driver access.

- Ronald

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