While transforming personal listening habits in most areas of life, digital audio devices have also burrowed deep into a setting once considered the last inviolate preserve of broadcast radio: the automobile.
That's according to the forthcoming annual report on digital media from Arbitron and Edison Research, "Infinite Dial 2010: Digital Platforms and the Future of Radio." The survey of 1,753 people ages 12 and up found that 44% of Americans in this age group own an iPod, iPhone or comparable MP3 player, and 54% of these have used the device in conjunction with their car stereo.
Crunching the numbers, that equals 23.8% of all Americans 12 and up, or roughly 66 million people.
The Arbitron/Edison finding comes as broadcasters, online audio services, consumer electronics manufacturers and car makers have all shown increasing interest in the convergence of digital audio technology and the automobile.
In January, Pandora announced a deal with electronics manufacturer Pioneer Corp. that will allow consumers to bring Pandora's personalized audio content to their automobiles. Priced at $1,200, the device will allow customers with iPhones to stream the online music service to their car stereos, after they download a new app that lets the devices link up.
Not long after, Pandora Senior Vice President Jessica Steel made the company's ambitions in the auto arena clear: "Delivering Pandora's personalized internet radio to our 48 million listeners in their vehicles is a key focus of our company this year."
Pandora has to contend with various digital competitors, including Sirius-XM Satellite Radio and HD digital radio. In December 2009, Ford became the first car maker to offer HD radio sets with iTunes tagging (which allows users to mark songs they like during digital broadcasts for later purchase via Apple's iTunes store) pre-installed in some models, beginning in 2010.