Could Smart Audio Erase Satellite Radio as we Know it?

People said satellite radio would kill AM/FM more than a decade ago. While they’re both still here now, the next great technology is coming to eat their lunch.

In a world where technology evolves so rapidly, the radio experience in the car has been remarkably static.

Smart audio has changed the way we enjoy music and news on our desktops and mobile devices, and it’s about time the experience in a car catches up.

Satellite and AM/FM aren’t good enough anymore

More than half the time people spend listening to the radio is in a car, but what do they do when they hear something they don’t like?

1. Change the channel

2. Sit and wait

3. Turn off the radio

How primitive. Where’s the customization? Where’s the innovation?

As modern audio consumers we listen to what we want, how we want, wherever we are. We no longer wait for a DJ to serve us. We have devices and systems we program to give us what we want like Pandora or Spotify.

In the car, the ideal radio experience happens when we no longer question what we’re hearing. No need to change stations or skip stories, an experience which happens too much in terrestrial and satellite radio.

Today’s drivers are craving a semi-passive listening experience. They’re happy to tell the audio companies what they want, and providers who are smart will not only deliver what customers ask for, but leave room for custom discoverability for new audio content.

It’s been a long time coming

While serving as EVP at Navteq, a digital mapping company that supplied data to navigation system manufacturers and app creators, I learned a lot about the auto industry.

Car companies have grown increasingly protective of their customers. They balance user experiences, safety and unique design to differentiate their brand for a complete in-car experience (away from external devices). But ever since companies started making stereos with iPod integration, the auto industry has realized customers won’t settle for anything they can’t curate or customize. The driver has asked to be in control of their listening experience, and car manufacturers are finally responding.

Rivet is taking that concept to new heights, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring it to our listeners.

Smart audio in cars is happening now

Pandora has already signed up more than 5 million users for the in-car version of their service, and Spotify allows premium users to access their music via bluetooth while they drive.

Like these curated music channels, Rivet Radio’s doing the same thing in the news industry; and there’s no simple way AM/FM or satellite radio will be able to compete.

Rivet’s listening experiences were concepted for the car, with built-in features for safety and customization. The programming — which is unique to each listener based on preferences — will pause when drivers get a phone call or turn off their car. And once they’re driving again, the story they were enjoying will pick up where it left off.

There’s a lot of engineering behind the art

At The Walt Disney Company, I learned a lot about imagineering. Behind any fun attraction at Disney was a team of “fun engineers,” scientists designing an experience and essentially anticipating and controlling the consumers’ reactions to a ride, a character and more.

Applying that concept to audio entertainment, listeners come for the great content, and we’ve learned that they stay because our of the simple tailor-made listening experience created by our rigorous audio/data format.

Rivet’s journalists work tirelessly to tell compelling stories, and we’re constantly looking at how to make each listener’s individual audio playlist as engaging as possible: from relevant and topical news, to localized weather reports from AccuWeather and development towards new custom content, we’re always optimizing.

Our technology will also allow listeners to get information and advertising by geographic location — a complete game-changer in the sense that information could be as hyper-localized as a few hundred yards.

Combine those two things with the app being easy to use — on a smartphone or in the car — and we think Rivet is the future of news radio.

And here’s the best part:

The industry is still at the beginning of understanding how smart audio will scale. The ability to share and skip has tremendous implications for listeners, content producers and advertisers alike. So, get ready for the next wave of smart audio.


John MacLeod is the Founder & CEO of HearHere Radio Inc. and visionary behind Rivet News Radio. Previously he was an EVP at NAVTEQ, in addition to VP roles at Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company. Read his previous Medium piece Welcome to Smart Audio.

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