What Volkswagen can teach us about radio’s future

Something relatively simple highlights radio's competitive disadvantage in the car

By James Cridland
Posted 8 March 2017, 8.04am gmt
Graham Higgs

Jump into a brand new Volkswagen, or Skoda, and you’ll notice the radio - part of the “VW Infotainment” in car option.

There’s a lot to like. For a start, there’s a big button marked ‘radio’ on the dashboard. Surprisingly, these buttons are disappearing in some cars, in spite of radio being the most-used audio source in the car.

There are also big tuning and volume controls. Physical buttons you can reach out and change without taking your eyes off the road.

And there’s a big, bright, full-colour screen. Glowing like a little iPad in the middle of your dashboard, it’s a great experience.

Tune in to your favourite station, and the name is in big letters in the centre of the screen: great for reminding the driver what they’re listening to, just in case they have to fill in a diary or get called by a research company later.

Just below is the RadioText, which shows useful information like the song that’s now playing, or more details on what you’re listening to.

And just below that - your presets, with some pretty logos to help you tune in.


That’s the idea. But no, you don’t get any logos. When delivered, the car will have lots of black squares on the screen. No logos. Nothing to make this receiver really shine. Nothing to promote radio’s consumption on this thing. Just some ugly black squares.

There are places to get logos. Visit Volkswagen’s website, and you’ll find some logos. They’re not actually the right size for their own car radio, so they look fuzzy and rubbish. And many of the logos are out of date. Fuzzy, out-of-date logos? Hmm.

But then - what’s Volkswagen to do? Contact each and every radio company? Hardly their business to talk to tens of thousands of different organisations.

Aggregators like TuneIn could help - but why should they? Broadcasting is in competition with their app, after all.

Industry groups could step up. Yet, they’re not normally wholly inclusive. Commercial, community and public radio rarely all play together. And do we really expect VW to research and contact three or four industry groups in every single country?

“Radio” needs to step up its game here. Because TuneIn, Pandora, Spotify, Google or Apple already offer an easy route for Volkswagen to make everything look pretty. Everything, that is, apart from broadcast radio.

Where’s the one-stop shop for broadcast radio? How can Volkswagen make radio look stunning in their new cars with just one call?

Those people who really want to play with laptops and SD cards can download individually-sized station logos for their radio off this media information website. (It’s been quite popular, which probably tells you something). But really, this isn’t the answer.

How can “radio” make this easy? Because our competition is...

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


4 years, 8 months ago

In the UK, there is a standard set that is downloaded onto cars at the pre-delivery inspection of VW Group cars.

My Seat, delivered in November, had most there - some were a little out of date, and other recent stations like Magic Chilled were missing, but in the main - most were there.

There is also a logo catalogue on the VW site - - available as a ZIP.

4 years, 8 months ago

That's nice to know, Christopher. Indeed, there is a download, but many are out of date: but I'm pleased that some are pre-loaded.

4 years, 8 months ago

There is an answer to this. DAB Slideshow.

I understand that most modern Volkswagen-Audi Group DAB radios support DAB Slideshow. Where DAB Slideshow is broadcast, then the slides are displayed instead of the station logo.

Unfortunately, Arqiva and the big radio groups haven't really embraced DAB slideshow in the UK.

However, the minimuxes are leading the way. Here in Portsmouth, we have DAB slideshow on 16 of our 19 services. In fact, most minimuxes have some kind of DAB slideshow presence.

If Arqiva and the larger groups move along, then VAG etc... wouldn't need to come up with their own system of improving the radio experience for the listener.

4 years, 8 months ago

Ash - DAB Slideshow isn't there for a station logo. It's there for a slideshow (the clue's in the name).

4 years, 8 months ago

This is true. But my understanding is that when slideshow is broadcast, the VAG radio hides the logo.

4 years, 8 months ago

Then it's a rubbish implementation for a set of colourful presets. :)

4 years, 8 months ago

Well, I've not used a VAG DAB radio myself. Just going on what a mutual friend of ours has said!

4 years, 8 months ago

In answer to part of this, they are contacting radio stations individually. I was contacted late last year by the company contracted by VW for an up to date logo.

4 years, 8 months ago

Cheers, David, that's interesting. (Wonder who the company is?)

Login or register to comment
It only takes a second with your Google or Facebook account.