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Pew: Online Listening in Car Taps the Brakes

Annual “State of the News Media” report includes radio listening on all platforms

One in a series this week delving into the recently released “State of the News Media” report.

The rise of the American public’s consumption of audio content continues, however slightly, in nearly all categories. However, the different platforms that are being used to access this content are seeing varying levels of success. Specifically, according to Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media 2016 report, the rate of growth for online car listening has slowed.

Courtesy of Pew Research

Listening to radio online via cell phones had been growing on a quick pace since 2010, when it sat at just 6 percent, to 2015, when 35 percent of people said they had ever listened to online radio by phone. Per the report, in 2016, that number only rose to 37 percent. The 2 percentage point increase is the lowest rate of growth in the last seven years. Overall, Pew reports that 8 percent of car listeners used online radio more often than other radio options, though monthly online radio listenership went up 4 percent since 2015 to 57 percent and is now more than double what it was in 2010.

Satellite radio also saw an uptick in number of listeners this year, with Sirius XM reporting 29.6 million subscribers as of 2015, up from 27.3 million in 2014. Still, only 12 percent of people said that they listened to satellite radio the most in the car. Still reigning supreme is AM/FM radio, which is the most popular in-car radio service for 63 percent of listeners. In the week prior to the survey, 91 percent of respondents ages 12 and older said they’d listened to AM/FM terrestrial radio.

The report also looked at the number of news stations and news programs that are offered. It found that there has been practically no growth, but no real loss either. As of January, there were 32 all-news stations in the U.S., an increase of one since last year, but since then KGO in San Francisco shifted formats away from local news. The same can be said for news/talk/information radio stations, with Pew reporting one such station was lost in 2015, bringing the total to 1,989. In the last three years, only a net of five news/talk/information stations have been lost.

To see Pew’s full report on radio, click here. Radio World will also look into Pew’s research on podcasts and NPR/public radio in the coming days.