Back in 1981, the English new wave band the Buggles famously warned about radio's demise in their hit song "Video Killed the Radio Star," and in the decades since, there's been no shortage of dire predictions about the industry. But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of radio's death have been greatly exaggerated.
While classic radios and stereo systems of yesteryear are steadily disappearing from U.S. homes, 93 percent of Americans still tune in to the radio each week. Radio remains the dominant media in the car, and the rising popularity of voice-activated devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple's HomePod are fueling a new audio renaissance that harks back to an era when families gathered to listen to FDR's fireside chats and shows like "The Lone Ranger" and Jack Benny.
According to the Spring 2018 Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research, an estimated 43 million people over the age of 18 in this country now own at least one smart speaker. By 2022, Juniper Research predicts that Americans will be using nearly 900 million voice-assistant-enabled devices across smartphones, tablets, PCs, speakers, TVs and cars—a 95 percent increase over today.
These next-generation radios are no longer designed just for passive listening—they're smart, interactive tools that enable us to live our lives in different ways. Today, we don't look up the weather report; we call out to Google. With a few words to Alexa, groceries magically arrive at our doorstep. Siri turns off our lights and turns on our air conditioning. And for the 37 million people who listen to NPR broadcasts each week, these devices provide instant access to local public radio stations. As Julia Chen Davidson, Google Home's head of partner marketing, noted at a recent Advertising Week panel, users rely on their Google devices to "help them with the little tasks, so they can get back to the stuff that matters."