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Online Radio Grows

'Radio's digital platforms may be reaching critical mass'

A study from Arbitron and Edison Research shows continued growth in usage and ownership of digital audio platforms, including online radio, iPod/MP3 players and podcasting.

“The Infinite Dial 2009: Radio’s Digital Platforms” found that weekly online radio audience increased significantly to 17 percent of the U.S. population (age 12+), up from 13 percent a year earlier; and that online radio reaches 20 percent of 25-to-54 year-olds weekly.

Arbitron’s Bill Rose stated, “The sharp growth in weekly usage of online radio in this year’s study provides compelling evidence that radio’s digital platforms may be reaching critical mass. The growth of online radio is reinforced with what we are seeing in PPM. We are beginning to see encoded streams of AM/FM broadcasts with significant audience in local markets.”

However, the study also found, “AM/FM radio continues to have a big impact on people’s lives. The study asked consumers to rate the impact different digital audio platforms has on their lives. More than one in five radio listeners say it has a big impact on their lives; ranking second only to owners of the Apple iPhone in particular and cell phone owners in general as the audio platform/device that has a big impact on people’s lives.”

More findings: Weekly online video viewing is up significantly. Meantime, a third of people 12+ now have a profile on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or another social networking Web site, including nearly two-thirds of teens and young adults. IPod/portable MP3 player ownership continues to grow dramatically, and audio podcasting uses continues to increase.

Further of interest to radio: “While only 14 percent of persons age 12 and older say they are spending less time with over-the-air radio specifically due to time spent with iPods and other portable MP3 players, digital audio players have greater impact on radio among 12-to-24 year-olds. Thirty two percent of teens age 12-to-17 and persons 18-to-24 say they are spending less time with over-the-air radio specifically due to time spent with iPod/other portable MP3 players; this is nearly twice as many 18-to-24 year-olds who reported spending less time with over-the-air radio as 2008.”

The researchers concluded, among other things, that radio’s digital platforms “provide advertisers with new touch points to reach consumers,” that Americans are exercising more control over their use of media; and that audio content providers should not ignore the explosion of online video or social networking. They also reiterated that media should “accelerate efforts to get their content on mobile phones.”