In 2017, digital radio hits the mainstream
More than half now listen to it on a weekly basis, finds a new report
March 13, 2017
By the editors of Media Life
For any sort of new technology, the question always is when does it move into the mainstream?
By 2013, the majority of Americans owned cell phones. It took longer than that for half the country to get DVRs, until 2015, and tablets are still not at the 50 percent mark.
For digital radio, it appears this is the year it’s hitting the mainstream.
A new comprehensive study of digital listening habits, from Edison Research and Triton Digital, finds that, for the first time ever, more than half of respondents listen to digital radio on a weekly basis.
That’s up sharply from 36 percent just three years ago. Ten years ago, that number was a mere 10 percent.
For the study, Edison and Triton defined digital radio as a streaming AM/FM station or streamed audio content only available on the internet.
The gains seem to be due to a combination of factors. Greater awareness of internet radio is a big one, but so is the personalization that online radio offers. You can program stations, build playlists and play only the songs you like.
You can’t do any of that with traditional radio.
“Two reasons why people find it attractive is accessibility and ability to control the songs played,” confirms one media buyer.
Gen Z listening peaks
The adoption of digital radio is especially strong for younger people, who have essentially grown up with online radio – the technology for streaming local stations and online destinations such as Pandora has been around for more than a decade.
Among Gen Z, people 12-24, the survey found a stunning 83 percent use digital radio each week. That’s up from 52 percent in 2013.
By comparison, just 32 percent of those over 55 stream digital radio weekly.
Online vs. offline radio listening
Another interesting finding of the study:
People now spend similar amounts of time listening to terrestrial and streaming radio, though one doesn’t seem to be cannibalizing the other.
It appears people are using them at different times, not instead of the other.
According to the most recent Nielsen reports, people listen to traditional radio 13 hours a week, a number that’s held steady over the years.
Streaming radio, meanwhile, soared to an all-time high of 14 hours and 39 minutes this year, up from 12 hours and 8 minutes last year.
Why the big jump?
Certainly it may have to do with the increasing choices available. Amazon, for instance, now offers streaming music as part of its Prime service.
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