Radio - all radio, AM/FM, Internet-Only/Internet Simulcast Streaming - is about to learn about its next great challenge for listeners in-car.
It's no secret that AM/FM radio's final bastion of exclusivity - the car - is up for grabs.
Today's smart phones have legitimately removed the need for Wi-Max/Wi-fi for streaming radio consumption in-car. With my iPhone, I can listen to any Internet stream through my car sound system.
Ford's Sync system developed by Microsoft will be capable of providing in-car passengers the great personalized experience of Pandora.
So, how does traditional radio or any audio content found on the Internet get a leg up on its competition?
Ford's Sync system is a pioneer in in-car audio content delivery and its voice-activated capabilities, though limited for the moment, will expand very soon to provide for safer driver-audio system interaction. Most auto makers are making a 'reasonable effort' to minimize in-car distractions for motorists.
Paul Green, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute who studies the effects of distractions for motorists says that Ford's system should make it easier for drivers to keep their attention on the road.
This is why voice activation for selection of your personal audio entertainment is coming and all audio content providers must figure out how to tackle this challenge.
If I want rock music and I simply say "Rock" to my in-car system, what type of Rock music will it select. Who will categorize these descriptors? Which streaming station will be fed to me? How will this work?
All indications now are that motorists will preselect a limited bucket of 'stations' or channels they wish to have access to and thus the system will recognize the voice command. This may be as many at 50 preselected channels.
So, brand continues to be the secret sauce in this ever expanding "infinite dial" of options for in-car entertainment and strength of brand will continue to dictate popularity.
Meanwhile, radio's electronic measurement system - Arbitron's Personal People Meter - seems to be confining what traditional radio offers. The science of the device does not seem to encourage experimentation in programming and radio brands are becoming too generic which may inevitably hinder stations' ability to compete in the new world of voice search in-car.
But the branding process starts long before the new car owner uses this voice activated system.
Frankly, it starts long before now. It started yesterday.
Consumer habits are being formed every day and brand trust and expectation will go a long way for any content provider to land-grab in-car real estate.
If your company is competing in this brave new world, brand development and the delivery of the brand's promise should be job One starting today.
Because what you sow today will surely bear much fruit far down the road.