Now Hear This: Half Of All U.S. Radio Listeners Are Tuning In Online

Once upon a time in America, radio was king.

Before television, and long, long before the internet, families gathered around a giant radio in the living room and took in all manners of entertainment and information.

From news broadcasts to concerts to serialized dramas to football and baseball games, radio was the established and dominant broadcast medium for news, sporting events and cutting-edge entertainment in America. Even a famous hoax or two played out over the radio airwaves all across America – and one of them even involved a full-scale alien invasion that later grew to near-mythic proportions.

Of course, much has changed in our nation and society since the 1920s and 1930s – with what you could even term “sea changes” having occurred many times over in the realms of technology and mobility.

Rotary phones gave way to touch-tone corded phones, which morphed into cordless phones, then car phones, then mobile phones. And that was all before the official smartphone revolution kicked off.

And those giant living room radios in-dashboard car radios, which spawned boom boxes and ghetto blasters. And that was all before the Sony Walkman sprung legs and danced in and out of ears all across the country. And that was well before people were able to access their favorite music, programs and radio stations on the internet. Or via their smartphones.

And of course, the eventually ubiquitous iPod was a major game-changer – for both America and Apple, Inc.

But as we’ve chronicled here before at the official blog of Amplitude Digital, radio remains relevant in 2014. Much more than you might think, even.

And when it comes to the ways in which Americans tune in today, online radio is making big-time gains in audience share, with the increasingly popular Pandora Internet Radio leading the surge. This and other news was broadcast visually in the annual Infinite Dial report, published in a joint effort by Edison Research and Los Angeles-based Triton Digital.

The Infinite Dial 2014 study was based on a national survey of 2,023 people conducted in February of 2014. Among many other findings, it revealed that 47% of all Americans age 12 and up – an estimated total of 124 million people – listened to online radio in February, while some 36% (94 million Americans) listened over the last week of February. These figures are up from 45% and 33%, respectively, in 2013. The average amount of time spent listening surged from 11 hours and 56 minutes per week in 2013 to 13 hours and 19 minutes in 2014.

Not surprisingly, the number of online radio listeners are much higher for teens and young adults, with 75% of Americans ages 12 to 24 listening to online radio in February – compared to 50% of Americans ages 25 to 54 and just 21% of Americans age 55 and over. The weekly figures for those same demographic groups were 64%, 37% and 13%, respectively.

When the study tuned into specific online radio platforms, it found that 31% listened to Pandora in February, with 22% tuning in to the popular Pandora over the month’s final week. When it came to Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio, the monthly and weekly figures dipped to just 9% and 5%, respectively. Apple’s new iTunes Radio, which debuted in the second half of 2013, is off to a solid start, with 8% of Americans age 12 and up listening in February. Spotify, meanwhile, turned the dial at just 6%.

With long-standing traditions like “wacky morning zoo crews” and mind-numbing over-saturation of “hot” songs, it’s easy to see why regular radio is less appealing than online options for many. And of course, more and more Americans spend time online than ever before, with lightning-fast online access becoming more and more standard all across our country. The report also revealed that a whopping 66% (or two-thirds of the surveyed population) of online radio listeners are now tuning in to internet radio via their smartphone.

Broadcast radio still dominates overall audio consumption, however, with 75% of consumers saying they turn to broadcast radio stations to discover new music – versus just 48% for Pandora. Broadcast radio also still holds strong in the car, with 58% of survey respondents saying they listen to AM/FM radio “almost all of the time” or “most of the time” in their car or truck – versus just 6% answering the same for in-automobile online radio.

The report was even more encouraging for advertisers. Why? Because 75% of survey respondents who listen to online radio on a weekly basis said they believe advertisements and commercials are a fair price to pay for free programming. Online audio ads were even viewed as less annoying than their broadcast counterparts, with 30% of survey respondents saying internet radio ads are more intrusive – versus 47% saying the same about Listen To Classic Old Radio Commercials.

What do YOU think about all this? Do you listen to online radio much? If you’re an advertiser or an advertising agency, have you experienced any success with internet radio advertising?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below this blog post. We’d love to hear from you.

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