FM Radio in a Digitized World

FM radio, a broadcast channel coming from an analogue era, has thus far shown resilience to the intense onslaught of digital media. Contrast that with the fate of analogue television and print which have succumbed spectacularly to the digital beast.

After all, traditional TV viewers have now become multichannel media users. As a result, cable and satellite TV are the big losers. In fact, results from a recent US study indicated that 61 percent of young adults rank online streaming services as the main way they watch TV (Christiane Cordero, CBS Minnesota).

At the same time, the print media has also been heavily disrupted by digital media. In fact, news has now gone primarily online. For that reason most major media companies have changed their business models to accommodate consumer preference for digital content (Forbes Communications Council).

For traditional television and print media the battle against digital media has largely been lost.

But what is it about FM radio? Surely, as radio made its first broadcast in 1906, the sequence of disruptive technology should have made it absolute a long time ago? But not so – here’s why…

How FM Radio has so far survived the digital disruption in the media

The resilience of radio has surprised many of us…

“Reports of radio’s impending death have persisted for decades. In the 1950s, television was supposed to lead to its demise. Then, with the advent of MTV in the ’80s, video, you may recall, was supposed to the kill the radio star” pondered Joey Morona recently in

And yet, here we are, after all of this and the internet, still enjoying FM radio. That’s going against media trends, to put it mildly. So why is FM radio so otherwise?

  • Radio is mobile. Of course most media is nowadays mobile because of broad band and mobile phones. But, FM radio still thrives in the car, perhaps its single most important listening environment.
  • FM Radio is at physical places. It lives in many offices, shopping centers and homes.
  • Radio can also be found online. The vast majority of online radio listeners also listen to over-the-air radio. According to Just Media, Inc, results from a study showed that 82% of weekly online radio listeners also listened to over-the-air AM/FM radio.

It seems that people that grew up with FM radio are continuing to listen to it, whether they do it over-the-air or online. The problem for radio is that the ‘radio’ cohort is getting older and moving on. And shopping centers are also closing down…

However, the future of FM radio is in the hands of the younger generation.

The old-time companion – FM Radio

The future of FM Radio in a digitized world

So, what are the younger generations thinking about FM radio? Unfortunately, according to a recent study (reported by Jem Aswad,, traditional radio has failed to engage with Generation Z — (people born after 1995…)

Some other issues reported by Jem are:

  • Music as a whole is moving away from AM/FM radio and toward YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, especially among younger listeners.
  • By 2020, 75% of new cars are expected to be “connected” to digital services, breaking radio’s monopoly on the car dashboard and relegating AM/FM to just one of a series of audio options behind the wheel.
  • The onset of “smart speakers” such as Amazon Echo, which do not have an AM/FM antenna, are rapidly shaping home entertainment without broadcast radio that does not have a digital option.

The future of FM radio, as it is, in a digitized world looks not that bright.

Has FM Radio now joined television and the print media in the archives of history?

Here there are two answers…

The answer at this moment is yes. The current proliferation of audio media on different platforms and the multiplicity of available options for radio delivery are, from the perspective of traditional radio, confusing and disruptive 1. Indeed, technological convergence on radio seems to carry the promise of democratizing and opening up radio to audiences 2. For example, digital technologies like the internet and mobile phones have arguably multiplied and pluralized radio spaces.

The answer in the near future is ‘maybe not’. However, according to Marco Broccardo (MemeBurn), in the case of radio, and more specifically, radio advertising, the real golden days still lie ahead. Macro says that it is because of advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. He explains that because we can now leverage data that was previously considered useless, but is now actually highly valuable, we can inform radio and digital campaigns with more accuracy and insight than ever before.


Money matters, and if FM radio broadcasters can’t reach significant audiences over the airwaves, they will close down or need to move online. In the online channel, however, radio will have to compete with platforms that utilize web 2.0 at its fullest: including blogs, wikis, video sharing services, and social media websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Therefore, radio in the online channel should focus on interactive sharing and participatory collaboration rather than just simple content delivery.

And radio needs to fascinate the generation Z cohort…

Additional reading: Demographic Segmentation – Dividing the Market by Generations

A Marketing Plan helps you to communicate the right content to the right audience.


1 Ala-Fossi, M., Lax, S., O’Neill, B., Jauert, P. and Shaw, H. 2008. The future of radio is still digital—but which one? Expert perspectives and future scenarios for radio media in 2015, Journal of Radio & Audio Media, 15(1):4-25.

2 Moyo, L. 2013. The digital turn in radio: A critique of institutional and organizational modeling of new radio practices and cultures, Telematics and Informatics, 30(3):214-222.


  1. Featured image: Creative Commons
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