Play It By Ear

When is your favorite time to listen to audio?
Is it while commuting, to hear traffic and weather reports? Passing the time on a long trip? While exercising? Playing music in your home? To keep up with news or listen to an interesting podcast?

When you’re traveling, do your listening habits change?

Traditional radio broadcasts, streaming audio services, and smartphone apps provide the soundtrack to our lives, whether at home or abroad. Relocating families often find comfort in listening to familiar programs or series on apps or streamed in the host location.

Broadcasters with global reach make it easy to find their content from wherever you are around the world. BBC World Service, for example, broadcasts over air in many countries, as well as online and via app. iHeartRadio broadcasts, streams, and has an app for music as well as news, features, and hundreds of thousands of podcasts. Based in New York, it has affiliates in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand.

Terrestrial radio still enjoys a huge audience. For example, 83% of Americans still listen to it in an average week. While listeners in cars declined in 2020 during the pandemic, the numbers are bouncing back. And all those ears are powerful: local radio in the U.S. accounts for an estimated $12 billion in annual advertising spending.

The sheer breadth of options is astounding. My 91-year-old mother listens to an AM news station on her battery-operated transistor radio, and she also listens to classic radio shows from the 1940s with her SiriusXM subscription. My children favor music on Spotify and podcasts for entertainment and information. Outside of mainstream broadcasts, there are specialty stations and podcasts on every imaginable topic, from religion, politics, and tech trends to true crime, psychology, and extreme athletes.

Fans of public radio often have a choice of national and regional broadcasts.

Around the world, Poland, South Africa, Germany, France, and the United States have the highest percentage of radio listeners, according to Statistica. Countries undergoing instability often rely on radio to stay abreast of political volatility. In locations where censorship is an issue, journalists struggle to convey balanced information to the public. Underscoring the importance of radio for basic safety, it is often the first alert system for a pending weather event or in a natural disaster.

The power of radio is unmistakable. A few years ago, the BBC’s Steve Martin gave an interesting talk about innovative radio stations in Africa. On a lighter note, the movie Pirate Radio takes an entertaining look at the 1960s when the BBC’s exclusive hold on radio prompted unlicensed stations to broadcast popular music from ships offshore in international waters.

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll find audio options in a variety of delivery methods. Living Abroad International Relocation Center subscribers can check out our Media & Communication section for “Media Worldwide” resources.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group