Infinite Dial Learnings

By David Alpern

Earlier this year we posted about the Infinite Dial study about audio consumption, with the conclusion that streaming is goiThe Infinite Dialng wide, YouTube is mainstream, and podcasting is growing. Below is an article by Brad Hill, published earlier this year, that details the study.

The 2015 edition of The Infinite Dial was unveiled in March 2015 by survey producers Edison Research and Triton Digital. In its 23rd edition, The Infinite Dial is one of the most significant and respected research projects in the streaming audio industry.

A major headline came when John Rosso of Triton said that 53% of American adults listen to online radio at least monthly — an estimated 143-million individuals. (“One of the most significant findings of this year’s study,” said Rosso.) Holding to demographic tendencies of previous Infinite Dial editions, uptake of streaming radio is weighted to youth. The 12-24 demographic shows 77% listening to online radio each month.

Weekly online radio listening continues its upward march in the 2015 results — 44% of Americans listen at least weekly. That is an estimated 119-million people. In the 2000 survey, two percent of Americans made the same claim. (There has not been a year-over-year decrease during that span.) Weekly listening also skews young, with 69% of the 12-24 group listening weekly.

How about time spent? Edison found that the average weekly time spent listening to online radio was 12 hours and 53 minutes — a slight drop from last year (13:19). but with a large year-over-year jump in audience size (from 36% of Americans to 44%), the overall time spent with online radio is much higher.

Where does the listening happen? Mobile dominates, and is growing — 73% use smartphones, increased from 66% last year. Computers are still in frequent use, but declining from 64% in 2014 to 61% this year.

The presentation provided deep dives into several research topics:

  • Brands:Pandora is the best-known brand in the Internet audio business, followed by YouTube. Pandora, iTunes Radio, and Spotify all enjoyed substantial listening growth from last year’s survey. YouTube is used for music by 63% of the total population, and 90% of the 12-24 cohort.
  • Discovery:The Infinite Dial tracks music-discovery methods. The top resource in this year’s data is the Friends/Family response (70%), followed closely by AM/FM Radio (69%). YouTube is next at 61%.
  • Podcasting:The podcasting segment of today’s presentation showed overall listening at 33% of the population, or approximately 89-million people. Podcast listeners are characterized by the data as voracious, listening to an average six shows per week, and 15% listening to 11 or more shows each week. Interestingly, the podcast audience skews affluent (52% of listeners are in $100k+ households), a data point that all ad-repping networks will probably include in their sales decks.
  • Smartphone ownership:Jason Calacanis told last year’s RAIN Summit West audience: “Mobile is the only thing that matters.” Edison tells us that 71% of 12+ Americans own a smartphone.
  • Cars listening:In the car, as other studies have shown, AM/FM is the most-used audio source (81%). CD players and MP3 players fare well in this survey, and online radio comes in at 21% — higher than the 17% listenership to satellite radio. In-car online radio listening is the fastest-growing audio source by far, leaping 50% between last year’s survey and this one (from 14% to 21%).

Key takeaways provided by Edison and Triton:

  • Online audio is now a fully mainstream activity for people under 55.
  • AM/FM Radio continues to dominate in-car, but is losing its music discovery leadership.
  • Pandora remains the dominant online audio brand, though Spotify has grown, especially on the young end.
  • YouTube as a music channel is as mainstream as all of online audio put together.
  • Online radio in the car is growing—more than doubled in two years.
  • The Smartphone continues to drive online audio, and most users don’t care about data consumption.
  • Podcasting is increasingly mainstream, and carving out a segment of highly attractive advertising targets.

The Infinite Dial survey was in the field in January and February, questioning a sample of 2,002 people on landline and cell phones.

Cultivated Streaming vs. Radio

tuneinBy David Alpern

Rick Dees, The Real Don Steele, Don Imus, Cousin Brucie, Kevin & Bean, Scott Shannon….these are all larger than life personalities that busted through the radio over the years and became huge radio sensations and thus ratings monsters. Comparing that to the non-interrupted music flow that comes from Amazon Music, Rhapsody, Spotify, Songza, and others is not truly a fair comparison. One is full of life and the other is full of efficiency. Some services like Slacker try to inject pre-recorded announcers, which is a nice effort, but does not even begin to approach the presence that a “jock” brings to a station.

That is why the re-emergence of cultivated content is a refreshing trend. As Wired Magazine reported last month in “Internet Radio Is Fixing to Make a Comeback”, several Internet streaming providers including Apple Music (with its impressive Beats1 radio station guided by Zane Lowe) and the new premium service from TuneIn are working to inject a personal touch into online music services.

“TuneIn anchors a human at the other end of the broadcast,” says CEO John Donham.

Nobody Killed the Radio Star

Despite the recent proliferation of online streaming alternatives, rumors of radio’s decline have been greatly exaggerated. Due to its cultivated and personality driven heritage, it’s managed to hold its own. The reach of radio and the number of people listening to the radio have remained mostly constant over a long period of time.

That is why stations like K-Earth 101 and KOST 103.5 tend to be heard all over town. While all those stores and food stalls and passing cars could choose to stream a personality free online alternative, the DJ driven presentation along with the program director cultivated playlist still conspire to produce a compelling listener experience and Internet Radio is certainly noticing and adjusting. South Korea . Game on!