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(DASH) What Happened To My Radio?


A few weeks ago, I purchased a GMC Acadia. A week later, it was on a recall list so thank you, GM. Thats disturbing item number one. Now, number two: Where is the AM/FM radio? Repeat: Theres no AM/FM.

When the car is started, the main screen includes various audio options: Pandora, Stitcher (a good but not well-known talk aggregator), SiriusXM, a USB hub, and a picture viewer. (A picture viewer? Really? And GM thinks it has problems with auto recalls now.)

So where is the AM/FM radio? Could Radio Inks Eric Rhoads have been correct with his apocalyptic pronouncement last year that AM/FM radio would be wiped out from cars? And so soon? Was the Jacobs Media Techsurvey 10 study wrong in saying 89 percent of people consider AM/FM important when shopping for a new vehicle, and that its their top audio choice? Edison Research/ Triton Digitals Infinite Dial 2014 found 86 percent of people use AM/FM and 14 percent are streaming radio. Winning.

Well, I found the AM/FM it was indeed in the vehicle. And here is the news that was incredibly eye-opening to me, and it should be to everyone in the radio business: It was relegated to a second screen. One now has to click and search to find AM/FM. And to add insult to injury, AM/FM radio is no longer one of the physical buttons surrounding the screen.

The ergonomics of the screen itself in this 2014 GM car show how convoluted and difficult engineers can make the center stack, as it is known. For sure, it wasnt designed by anybody at Apple. There is little intuitive about it. Buttons are small, menus are complicated, and the screen choices appear to be intended to promote GMs economic partners, rather than focused on usability and customer preferences.

All the icon placement on the screen in this GMC can be customized. That is good news. But it is also asking a lot of the average driver. My parents, my wife, even my kids may not have the technical ability or the desire to reconfigure menus to achieve what used to be simple and instinctive.

Like a bolt of lightning, this change must focus the need for AM/FM radio to aggressively and rapidly advocate for itself to ensure that it remains a starting point and a default choice in an increasingly complex audio supermarket in the car.

Here, in this issue of Radio Ink, are the 40 Most Powerful People in Radio. They need to be more than thought leaders on this subject. They need to be vocal advocates with the auto manufacturers. The car is our beachhead. If we lose it, there will be implications for generations to come.

The DASH Connected Car Conference in the fall, October 15-16 in Detroit, moves up on my list of importance, as do the RAB and NABs voices in this matter.

We are the top audio source in the car. We had better tell our story. And now. Its a good one, and if we dont tell it, we may end up on the second page of more car screens.

PS: I also bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee recently, and the screen in that car is what everyone in our business should hope for. It is simple, intuitive, and clear.

Steven J Goldstein is executive vice president of Saga Communications. Reach him at

(8/13/2014 6:21:04 AM)
Would work in Germany. Most of the stations are boring, only in Berlin there are a few exceptions.

- Torsten Williamson-Fuchs
(8/7/2014 1:01:22 AM)
A nice dream Kevin. Unfortunately the top guys at CBS, Clear Channel, a Cumulus, and Salem have no intention of cutting back their commercial clusters breaks. They could care less that audiences are rejecting those long breaks, and that advertisers are getting shafted (because most people tune out of those long commercial breaks.) They figure, that more suckers will line up, to buy the time.

- Bob
(8/4/2014 8:05:41 AM)

Very well said. Radio needs to wake up to the fact that it is becoming irrelevant to a segment of the population. Time to go back to being local (which I know Saga does a good job at doing), and being an integral part of communities again. Does every daypart need to be live? Probably not. But it is time, in a general sense, to bury the liner cards, pay attention to commercial loads and get back to what radio has done that made the formidable force it has been.

- Kevin Fodor

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