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Economy Crashes, Digital Radio Keeps Going

Woolworths New Malden the Last Days (cc) Fred Dawson @ flickr

The DRDB has released Christmas 2008 sales figures for DAB Digital Radio, and I think they tell a remarkable and positive story.

Obviously, if you were a bit bitter or a bit cynical, you’d focus on the fact that growth slowed down in 2008, and that “only” 2.08m Digital Radios were sold in 2008, rather than the target of 2.6m which was set in January 2008

I think they’re remarkable numbers.

Since January 2008, the bottom has fallen out of the world’s economy. I’d love to know of any comparable sector that has achieved its annual sales figures set “pre-crash”. People are losing their jobs, and even if they’re not losing their jobs, they’re reining in their spending to be on the safe side. Consumer electronics, as a sector, is down 5% in value (year on year), despite a slew of “must-have” gadgets.

But amidst the economic turmoil, the uncertainty, and the cutbacks, people are still buying radios – digital radios. 510,000 sets in the run-up to Christmas, and by all accounts, catching some retailers unaware. The sector shrank 5%, but DAB sales grew by 3%. That’s not a blip, that’s bucking the trend.

It’s interesting, because 2008 couldn’t have been a worse year in Medialand for DAB. The headlines have been dominated with sad, bad, and depressing stories on the fate of DAB. It’s been a struggle to find the shafts of sunlight.

Some of the DAB turmoil has been felt in the real world too. theJazz and a number of other stations disappeared off the dial. FUN Kids had to drop its coverage on DAB outside of London after being disposed of by GCap. Planet Rock’s future was uncertain, also when GCap announced its disposal. More and more voices were heard extolling the virtue of connected radios.

I hope that 2008 was DAB’s Annus Horribils, and that 2009 will mark the starting point of a new phase of DAB in the UK (of which more as soon as I find out what I can talk about publicly). There’s no doubt that whatever sales predictions were created for 2009 will need revising in the light of the current economic situation, and it will be miraculous if we manage to beat 2008’s numbers in 2009.

But maybe this is the point where we see that DAB is resilient, and something that consumers really want to have in their lives.

Photo: Woolworths New Malden the Last Days (CC) Fred Dawson @ flickr