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Quu Dashboard Survey Reveals Ripe Metadata and Content Opportunities For Radio.

The good news from Quu’s 2024 In-Vehicle Visuals Report of 2023’s top-selling vehicle models: Broadcast radio is ubiquitous in today’s connected cars. The sobering news from the meticulous dashboard inventory: So are Apple CarPlay and Android Automotive, apps that provide a gateway to radio’s streaming competitors. During a webinar discussion of the study results, which Inside Radio reported Tuesday,  the consensus was that radio is universally available, but the industry can’t be overconfident.

Jacobs Media General Manager Paul Jacobs said the study provides powerful ammo for radio sellers to counter misinformation that people don’t listen to radio anymore. “We always talk about radio’s reach and now we can talk about radio’s access, and access equals reach,” he said during a Wednesday webinar led by Quu President Steve Newberry. “That key finding should be taken out to clients of all types to make sure they understand that, unlike a lot of other traditional media, we’re blowing and going.”

Beyond the smartphone-mirroring apps offered by Apple and Android, carmakers are baking their own streaming apps into the dashboard – 20% of the vehicles surveyed by Quu have these apps. McVay Media Consulting President Mike McVay predicted radio’s in-dash competition will only continue to increase. “The connected car has leveled the playing field by eliminating our exclusivity,” he said. But now radio has the opportunity to provide visual information that complements its on-air broadcast, he added. When a traffic report is airing on the radio, the dashboard screen could display a map of the trouble spots. A radio ad could display an accompanying QR code for the advertiser.

McVay also said radio can take a cue from Sirius XM by using HD side channels for artist-branded stations like the Garth channel. These can be promoted on the dashboard screen “to move an audience to your other channels” or to station-produced podcasts. Keeping radio dominant in the dashboard, McVay contends, will require “improving the listening experience with both quality content as well as displaying text, logos and other images that really take advantage of that big center stack screen board.”

Robust HD Radio Penetration

One of the biggest headlines from the study is the robust penetration of HD Radio – 70% of new vehicles surveyed are equipped with HD Radio and 60% of them can display images for radio. But HD Radio adoption is uneven. While automakers such as Ford and Toyota are increasing their support of HD Radio and moving towards standardization, General Motors is bucking that trend and only supports the technology in certain Cadillac models.

Joe D’Angelo, Executive VP of Broadcast and Digital Radio at HD Radio licensor Xperi, reminded the webinar audience that it takes time to “convert one of the largest infrastructures on the planet,” one that encompasses 300 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. and tens of thousands of  radio stations. With 100 million HD Radio-equipped cars now on the road, “audiences are already enjoying a lot of HD Radio content,” he noted. And with consumers confronting the paradox of too much choice, “people revert back to known and trusted brands,” D’Angelo suggested. “The analytics that we’re generating are proving that you have tremendous opportunities in these digital dashboards. You just need to lean into them to take advantage of both metadata and programming.”

Levelling up broadcast radio’s visual appearance in the dashboard has become a bigger priority and the Quu report brings some encouraging news on that front: 100% of the vehicles surveyed receive text displays for radio and 60% can receive image displays from radio, such as artist images and station logos. Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs called this “a clarion call” for broadcasters to make better use of metadata capabilities in new vehicles. Broadcasters, he said, should leverage images, graphics, and text to enable better experiences for listeners. “We’ve got to make sure that our metadata looks good and that it’s accurate and really consistent,” he implored. This week’s solar eclipse offered a reminder of the how dashboard metadata can be used to display messages that “keep your radio station sounding current, whether it’s things going on in town or in the world or on your radio station.”

Paul Jacobs, his brother, echoed the notion that radio’s ability to be seen and heard in new cars offers new value to advertisers. “Radio’s enhanced presence in the dash is a key message to advertisers about the vitality and relevance of the medium,” he said. “At pivotal moments in the buying decision, radio provides a sound and sight experience designed to capture and motivate consumers.”

Data for Quu’s 2024 In-Vehicle Visuals Report was collected by an independent contractor tasked with auditing in-dash systems. Each dashboard was analyzed for audio entertainment features and visual components, including radio text, artist, and song information. Data was collected from new vehicles onsite at various auto dealerships between November 2023 and January 2024.

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