New Media to Listen to in the Car

Traveling by car continues to be an integral part of American life. Driving down the road is typically paired with some kind of audio entertainment. Eyes need to stay on the road, and ears should be attuned to noise outside the car to alert the driver to situations on the road. This doesn’t mean some background noise doesn’t hurt. Car radios have been a guarantee in vehicles since 1930, and have developed to include cassette tapes, CDs, and, in modern times, phone compatibility. Whether you’re a commuter driving in traffic on a daily basis or planning your next road trip, it can be helpful to have some noise playing in the background.

With the advancement of smartphone technology and in-car connectivity systems, there are many more options than public radio for passing the time while driving. Many modern cars are equipped with car-connectivity and Bluetooth devices for plugging in smartphone’s music players. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto act as their own infotainment systems within cars to play a variety of audio media to help drivers pass the time. Besides radio music and talk shows, check out these 5 different media to listen to while driving:

1. Podcasts

Podcasts get their name from “pod” in reference to iPods and similar portable devices and “broadcast” as a nod toward radio talk shows. They are audio recordings of a conversation surrounding a particular theme and are often released as a long-term series of installments categorized into seasons or episodes. Podcasts usually have a host, or multiple hosts, a rotation of guest, and related topics discussed according to a fluid structure. Many people listen to podcasts for advice, learning about specific topics, pop culture, current events, and for the enjoyment of a funny conversation — many comedians host or make guest appearances on podcasts.

There are over 600,000 podcasts out there, meaning there’s a variety to choose from. Most of the best podcasts are downloadable to your phone or can be listened to through web browsers and apps like Stitcher, Spotify, iTunes, and NPR.

2. Audiobooks

For lovers of reading with a long drive ahead of them, an audiobook is a great way to pass the time while following a story. Audiobooks are essentially books on tape or voice recordings of text from a book. Busy commuters and those driving on a long upcoming trip can indulge in a book they’ve been meaning to read for far too long.

Audiobooks come as word-for-word recitations of books and in abridged versions. Originally used in schools as early as the 1930s, they can now be listened to on CDs, the internet, tablets, and through downloadable apps on smartphones from public library groups, Audible, and Spotify. Simply choose the book you want, download it, connect the phone to your car’s speakers, and enjoy the story.

3. Vintage Radio Shows

Before television, radio was the top entertainment platform. Within the stations broadcasting music and talk shows were radios shows following plotlines to your modern-day true crime dramas, action thrillers, and sitcoms. Some “old time” radio shows still play on current stations today. While driving, it can take the turn of a dial to tune into an old-timey radio show. Check your local radio stations to see who’s playing all the classic hits.

Many vintage radio shows are available for downloading from the internet to computers and smartphones. If no local stations blast the classics, downloadable versions to smartphone compatible with in-car connectivity systems can provide binge-worthy hours of listening entertainment.

4. Learn a Language

Find yourself sitting for extended periods of time in traffic? Spend that time learning a language to avoid frustration with congestion. A variety of audio language courses are out there waiting to be heard and learned. Human brains are wired to learn language by listening, as we remember how to speak by knowing and interpreting sounds.

Language courses are available for download to smart devices which can then be plugged into your car’s speaker system. Some great places to start are LanguagePod101 and FSI Language Courses, both of which offer introductory levels and advanced sessions.

5. Music

Music has been the go-to weapon against driving boredom since the radio reached the car. Practically every station on the radio loves to play music devoted to a certain genre. However, it can be challenging to find a reliable station that doesn’t cycle through the same songs on repeat with loud commercial interruptions. Nowadays, apps like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and more allow you to create curated playlists devoted entirely to what you like to listen to. Many free versions of these systems do include advertisements while offering payable upgrades for ad-free listening.

With a phone that plugs into your car, you can listen to just about any music you want depending on your data plan. Some apps will play music regardless of wifi connection, while others will only do so if the songs have been downloaded first. Music makes an easy go-to for audio entertainment while driving in the car.

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