Exploring the Online Radio Adoption Decision-Making Process: Cognition, Attitude, and Technology Fluidity

Article excerpt

Even though online radio services have been available since the mid-1990s, academic research on online radio diffusion remains scarce. The present study explores how online radio's value-added affordances may help shape the cognitive and affective responses to influence the adoption process among terrestrial radio listeners. Results show that online radio's fluid technology attributes, positive adoption beliefs and attitudes, and functionally similar technology clusters are significant predictors of online radio adoption. A lack of familiarity with online radio and low affinity with radio listening might have contributed to the lack of interest in online radio adoption.

Online radio services enable Internet users to receive audio programs originated from terrestrial radio stations and Internet-exclusive audio program providers around the clock from anywhere in the world.1 While nearly 33 million domestic listeners (12 years or older) did access online radio services for free,2 there were about 19 million fee-paying subscribers for the merged Sirius and XM satellite radio services.3 Even though online radio has been available to Internet users with the ability to download audio streams since the mid-1990s, its user population is dwarfed by terrestrial radio, which claimed 234 million listeners (12 years or older) per week.4

Listening to online radio, as differentiated from downloading music files not containing program-oriented content, typically involves downloading and replaying audio streams either via a personal computer or a mobile digital media device such as an iPod (hence the term "podcasting"). The process of sorting out the vast number of audio program resources online to build a favorite station list and playlist can be laborious, even with the cataloging services provided by such sites as Pandora, Slacker, or Yahoo! Music to aid listeners. While online radio faces royalty payment pressures,5 it is projected to outpace satellite radio in both audience and revenue growth,6 given digital (HD) radio's stagnated diffusion of and the satellite radio industry's struggles to sustain their fee-based services.

Will online radio, as a digital media delivery medium, continue to mature in its historically "organic" manner or transform itself into a fledging supplemental medium to its terrestrial and satellite brethren? Or could a viable business model and advances in programming structure and delivery mechanisms enable it to overtake analog terrestrial and subscription-based satellite radio delivery modalities in the future, if the declining readership of print media foretells things to come?

For researchers to render a technology forecast, it is crucial to first understand why the audience chooses to adopt online radio. As academic research on online radio adoption remains scarce, the present study explores how audience beliefs about value-added affordances associated with online radio may help shape the cognitive and behavioral responses associated with online radio adoption among terrestrial radio listeners. In particular, it will examine how beliefs about online radio's technology attributes and adoption of functionally similar technologies influence adoption belief and adoption attitude, which in turn, facilitate the actual adoption (or use) of online radio.

Adoption Beliefs and Attitudes. The widely accepted innovation adoption paradigm proposed by Rogers suggests that perceived technology attributes - including relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, observability, and trialability - can influence an individual's decision to adopt a technology innovation.7 Inherently broad and general in nature, these technology attribute indicators were developed to study the adoption of a wide spectrum of innovations, ranging from new farming techniques to new communication technologies. Past studies have found that perceptions about an innovation's technology attributes can help form individual beliefs about the functional values of these attributes in their adoption consideration. …

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