Gwen Niehues (ARD)

For decades, the radio has been a trusted companion in the car: one push of a button, and drivers can enjoy music, news, talk, traffic information and more. Radio is intuitive, reliable, free and entertaining. However, in recent years, the entertainment choices of drivers and passengers have grown exponentially. As cars have become ‘connected’, they have sprouted screens, through which users can access virtually any on-demand content they desire. In this new environment, radio might become one of many applications, and that intuitive, first-level physical radio button might disappear altogether.

Sounds worrying? Maybe. But that’s not the full story: our audiences keep telling us they love radio, and especially in the car. And nowadays PSM organizations have even more (audio) content to offer on demand. That is why now is exactly the right time to act. Within ARD, we are putting increased focus on the automotive space to make sure we can continue to provide audiences on the road with high-quality linear and on- demand content.

Four principles

Even as we consolidate ARD’s automotive efforts on a national level, we are very aware that car manufacturers operate on an international, or even global level. We are happy, therefore, to contribute to the EBU’s Connected Cars and Devices group, where we not only exchange ideas with our colleagues from across Europe, but also come together to execute concrete projects to a future radio experience look like? To answer these questions, we developed a set of four principles that we, as the EBU Connected Cars group, use to guide our work.

First, radio must remain easy to use. It should start with the push (or touch) of a button. Audiences love radio precisely because it is so easy and because they don’t need to choose. Even if we might add features, we should not forget that radio needs to remain intuitive and, especially in the car, safe to use without distraction.

Secondly, radio should not just be easy to find, it should be impossible to miss. Just like the physical radio button used to be, it should exist on that first level and not disappear in the jungle of apps.

Thirdly, radio in the car should be focused and personalized. We should make smart suggestions based on prior listening but be transparent with the data we collect.

And lastly, radio comes as a package. It includes public and private stations, as well as local, national and international broadcasters. All radio stations should be found in the same place.

A video explaining the principles for radio in connected cars is available here.

Automotive industry

Within the Connected Cars group we are not just using these principles to guide our work internally, we are also actively approaching the automotive industry. In meetings and workshops we are sharing our ideas for the future of radio and PSM content. And so far, car manufacturers have shown great interest and are open to our suggestions. By collaborating on a European level, we can offer automotive companies the scope and scalability they are looking for.

We should not forget that as PSM organizations we are the ultimate experts when it comes to radio. That means that we also have the expertise to directly collaborate with the automotive industry, who are open to input from us. Now is the time to make sure that our content stays front and centre in connected cars.

This article first appeared in issue 54 of tech-i magazine.

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