If We Build It…

Mark Ramsey and VIP Research surveyed consumers to answer the question “Do Consumers Really Want FM Chips on Mobile Phones,” something the NAB, darling of radio consolidators, is to trying to ram down radio execs’ throats. With it, Mark has debunked some prevailing “wisdom” of the poobahs, using the following rationale:

More than one industry survey claims that consumers would use FM radio if it were to be built into their mobile phones.

What these surveys ignore, however, is that there are many phones on the market already which feature FM radio built in. So it makes sense to ask not “will you use FM if it’s built in” but “have you ever used FM radio as a decision factor in the mobile phones you have purchased?” In other words, if FM radio built into phones matters, then we would expect consumers to use this as a decision variable in their choice of phones.

After all, FM radios can literally be built into anything. If you built it into a toaster, consumers might well say they’d “use” it. That’s not the issue. The issue — from the standpoint of manufacturers who must safeguard the feature set and user experiences and unique selling propositions of their devices — is what will motivate consumers to purchase their device over any other.

As one commenter pointed out on a Radio World article of the same variety: “[D]o you want to carry around some headphones so the FM side would work? I have a droid with a FM app and have not used FM radio because I don’t carry a headphone in my pocket. Not in my car because I have a car radio. I have an ipod with music on it that I can CHOOSE what music I want to hear.” Well, doh.

Mark makes this interesting point as an aside:

Now you might argue “well, sure some mobile phones contain FM radios, but not that many.” Exactly how many is “enough” to prove or disprove your point? Isn’t this the same supply-based logic that confounded the radio industry at the time HD radio was introduced? The notion that “if we build it they will come” was wrong then and it’s wrong now. And when it comes to devices and electronics, it’s wrong — period.

And further down in the comments, Mark makes this point:

My problem with the industry’s push on this is that they argue that consumers WANT FM chips in mobile devices — that’s different from whether or not they would USE FM if it just happened to be available.

Because folks don’t seek it out doesn’t mean they wouldn’t use it. It just means they don’t seek it out and won’t choose mobile devices based on its presence or absence.

To which readers respond the following:

Again, again, again, radio just doesn’t understand. Whether from an FM chip or the internet people will prefer their own brand of entertainment. In 1960 you had AM and FM, today with smart phones or really mini computers radio’s competitors are unlimited! E-bay is a competitor, so is Amazon or Hotmail we’re competing for time. Smart phones with internet are ubiquitous so FM, AM and HD radio listeners can listen anywhere. The idea of an FM chip built into a mobile device is obsolete.

And:

Another confirmation of how corporate radio has completely misunderstood listeners . . . and what they really want and care about.

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