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Edison Explores Preferences and Habits of “Heavy Radio Users”

A new report compares demographics and choices of radio’s most devoted cohort

Frequent radio listeners are different from their counterparts with less affinity for the medium. According to new findings from Edison Research, they tend to be older and more male — and more likely to adopt new technologies like smart speakers.

The folks at Edison have rolled out an Infinite Dial Report centered on listeners it considers to be “heavy radio users” — defined as those “who said they had listened for more than one hour in the day before [Edison] called them.” According to Edison, 30% of Americans aged 12 years and older qualify as heavy radio users.

However, it is important to note that the definition of “radio” was left up to respondents — meaning there is not necessarily a distinction between over the air radio, online radio and other forms of streaming audio.

Some basics about the demographics of heavy radio users:

  • Men are 8% more likely to be heavy listeners than their share of the population
  • Heavy listeners skew older
  • Radio listening tracks with full-time employment
  • African-Americans and Hispanics are slightly more likely to be heavy radio consumers
  • Heavy radio listeners are well-educated, especially among those with four-year degrees
  • Heavy listeners tend to have somewhat higher incomes

Heavy radio listeners also stand out from the general population in terms of technology ownership and utilization.

Interestingly, in-home radio ownership is not a requirement to be a heavy radio user; 18% don’t have one. In general, 71% of Americans do have radio, averaging out to 1.6 radios per home. But the numbers don’t look nearly as promising for those aged 18-34 — 40% those in this demographic don’t have a radio at home.

However, 20% of heavy radio users own a smart speaker, and the majority of smart speaker owners also said they own a radio. Heavy radio users are also slightly more likely to have an Amazon Alexa or Google Home at 20%, compared to 18% of the general population. Also, heavy radio users with one of these devices are more likely to have more than one.

About one-in-five heavy radio users does not have a smartphone — the same percentage of ownership as the general population — but the majority of those who do own one use its voice assistant. Among the 82% of heavy listeners with smartphones, 40% have downloaded Pandora, making it the most popular audio app for this segment. One-quarter have downloaded Spotify, while one-fifth have added an app belonging to a radio station, and the iHeartRadio app is present on 13% of these devices.

Unsurprisingly, heavy radio listeners are more likely to listen to AM/FM radio in their vehicles — but they are also likely to listen to online radio and satellite radio. About two-thirds of these respondents indicated that OTA radio is their primary audio source in the car, which is eight percentage points higher than for the total population of drivers/riders. Also, 49% of these heavy radio consumers said they have connected their phones in the car to stream audio, while 44% of smartphone owners in general have done so.

The majority of heavy radio users also say they listen to online audio. In the week prior to the survey, one-third said they used Pandora; on in five streamed a broadcast radio station; 17% listened to a podcast.

Edison has tracked online radio listening for nearly two decades, asking about habits in the prior month. In 2000, the answer came to 2000, and in 2018 it is now 64%. Among heavy radio listeners, the most recent figure is even higher at 69% said they did so during the past month.

In terms of online audio platforms, heavy radio listeners are more 5% likely to have listened to Pandora and iHeartRadio — which position themselves around the idea of radio — than other respondents, but are no less likely to have used Spotify, Apple, Amazon or Google to stream. Also, heavy radio listeners are about as likely to listen to music on YouTube in a typical week.

When the window is narrowed to the prior week, 63% of heavy radio users said they listened to online audio, compared to 57% of the population at large.

Podcast listening over a monthly period is basically equivalent among heavy radio users and others, slightly higher among those listening to radio more often. But weekly listening is 17% for both types of users!

Regarding social media: Facebook is the primary social media platform used by heavy listeners at 64%, and only 20% of that group use Twitter.