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Online Radio Has Become “Mainstream”

Infinite Dial survey also quantifies trends in podcasting and music discovery

As we report in this issue, a recent survey from Edison Research and Triton Digital shows that streaming audio has become an ingrained part of Americans’ lives.

No longer is streaming just for occasional listening, the companies found, which means streaming audio is a “huge opportunity” for publishers and marketers to target listeners and maximize ad revenue.

“The Infinite Dial 2015” is the latest in a series of studies that began in 1998. I found it intriguing to flip through its results. Here’s a summary to complement the discussion in Tom Vernon’s article.

Edison provides research for a range of media businesses including Disney, Pandora, SiriusXM, Bonneville, Emmis, CBS and Radio One — a variety of clients that in my mind makes its research results more credible. Triton’s business is to “connect audio supply with advertising demand” with technology like programmatic ad buying. (Triton was acquired last month by tech-focused private equity firm Vector Capital.)


The images on this page are a sampling of the kind of info given by the survey. Here, we see that smartphones and desktops/laptops are the preferred method of listening to online audio, although TVs connected to the Internet are making gains for this purpose.

By several measures, Pandora is the leading Internet-only audio service, including the above. A related finding is that more than half of Internet audio users say Pandora is the service they listen to most often, with iHeartRadio a distant second, followed by Spotify and iTunes Radio.

Notice how strong YouTube is in helping people learn about new music. The researchers found that YouTube as a music channel is “as mainstream as all of online audio put together.” Also notice the drop from last year for AM/FM radio.

The study was based on phone interviews with 2,000 Americans in English and Spanish, via both landlines and cellphones. Here are some important conclusions from its summary:

• Online audio is a “fully mainstream” activity for people under 55. (This includes the audio of AM/FM stations consumed online, as well as streamed audio available only on the Internet.) More than half of Americans now listen monthly to online radio, and 44 percent — 119 million people — listen weekly, compared to 8 percent a decade ago. Younger demos are far more likely to listen online.
• AM/FM “continues to dominate” in the car but is losing its music discovery leadership.
• Pandora remains the “dominant” online audio brand, but Spotify has grown, particularly among younger consumers.
• YouTube as a music channel is “as mainstream as all of online audio put together.” Nearly two-thirds of users and nine out of 10 in the 14–24 demo have used YouTube to watch music videos or listen to music.
• Online radio in the car is growing, more than doubled in two years.
• The smartphone continues to drive online audio; most drivers don’t care about the data consumption issue.
• Podcasting is increasingly mainstream, “carving out a segment of highly attractive advertising targets.” About 10 percent have listened to a podcast in the past week, which projects to about 27 million people. People with more education or higher income seem more likely to use podcasts.
• Facebook remains the leader of social media, even among the young, though younger Americans “are gravitating towards mobile, visual content.”

The research also found that more than seven in 10 people own a smartphone (up significantly even in the past year), and that a majority of Americans say technological change over the past decade has had a positive impact on society.

Truly, it’s a new radio world out there. These trends affect what you do, whether you spend your time building online streams or tending to an AM transmitter facility. I recommend you flip through the full slide set at