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How Connected Car Data Is Producing New Insights About Radio Listening.

Connected cars collect a treasure trove of data about how people drive, where they go, and what they listen to. For vehicles equipped with DTS AutoStage, broadcasters are now tapping into timely insights into how, when, what and where their listeners are engaging with their station's programming.

The hybrid radio platform launched by Xperi in 2020 is now included in 5 million cars, with the largest concentration in the U.S. The company announced Thursday at NAB Show New York that its newest auto partner is Lincoln, the first brand from Ford Motor Co. to integrate the system.

While the audio is delivered to cars over the air, the rich visual images are transmitted to dashboard screens via the internet. That allows Xperi to collect listening data and share it with partner radio stations through a broadcaster portal. From May 2023 – Sept. 2023, Xperi tabulated more than 13 billion listener sessions and surpassed 3 million sessions in September. “When car companies ask us, ‘Does radio matter?’ We can point at these statistics and say, ‘absolutely.’ Your drivers are listening to radio a lot more than you think,” Joe D'Angelo, Senior VP, Broadcast Radio & Digital Audio, Xperi, said at the conference. Broadcasters can make the same case to their advertisers.

Steve Shultis, CTO of New York Public Radio, which owns eight signals in the New York City region, said the data is helping them get a better picture of listening to their signals that target specific parts of the market, like Northern New Jersey or White Plains, NY. “When I first got access to the portal, I went to look at the little guys and I said, ‘Holy cow, there are listeners here!’ There are heat maps where you can see where they're listening and the day-to-day in minutiae about when they’re listening, the peaks and valleys of the broadcast day in the car.”

While it only represents in-car listening by people who have DTS AutoStage-enabled vehicles, broadcasters say the sample sizes are larger than what Nielsen offers. And with the hour-by-hour data loaded into the broadcast portal 26 hours after the end of the day,the tracking enables them to see with more specificity how the audience is responding to programming.

In Nielsen diary-measured markets that get only two ratings “books” a year, stations go prolonged periods of time with no audience insights. For example, Beasley Media Group classic hits WJRZ, licensed to Manahawkin, NJ in the Monmouth-Ocean market, experiences a population influx during the summer months at the Jersey Shore. The data coming from Xperi’s broadcaster portal documents that listening spike, said Beasley Chief Content Officer Justin Chase.

According to Xperi data shared during the session, WJRZ, a station with a limited signal, was capturing 10.3% of listening during a 30-day period among DTS AutoStage-equipped vehicles. “That is far above what we see in Nielsen,” Chase said. “This is a great tool for our sales team to show our clients that this is a real legit station.”

During the session, D’Angelo displayed a line graph showing hour by hour listening on a specific day, along with a separate line that showed the average for that day of the week over a period of time. WJRZ’s listening had a massive spike on Memorial Day, when droves of people were driving home from the shore.

With classical WQXR New York in a fund drive week, Shultis said the data would show how that impacts listening behavior. “Do people tune out? Or stay in with it for their music?”

While Nieslen ratings show the hot zip codes where a station’s listeners live, they don’t offer insights on where they drive. Chase said the connected car data helps fill in that gap. And while Beasley stations do music research to identify the most popular songs with their audience, Chase said Xperi’s ability to show the most listened to songs on a station (as opposed to the most played) lines up closely with its music research.

The Xperi data is also being used to document listening spikes caused by station promotions and events. “This is very helpful for launching a new promotion or if there's something happening on a particular day, or in a particular week,” Chase said. “It’s a great tool to measure that in near real time.”

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