Radio Listening Stronger Than Ever According to New Research

Chris Byrnes – ByrnesMedia

With all the various experts predicting the death of radio, again, this time via the removal of AM & FM receivers in cars, I wanted to share some positive news about radio listening via a research study that was completed in February by two companies that have a lot of credibility and access to a tremendous amount of data across all age groups.

Bill Rose from Abriton and Tom Webster from Edison Media Research shed some new light on emerging digital platforms as well as the state of traditional media with the release of “The Infinite Dial 2013” on April 2nd. While digital usage is growing, more people than ever are tuning into radio via terrestrial devices, on smart phones, and on-line according to this research.  This is, in part, because radio is now available on more devices and has once again become truly portable and put radio back in almost every room in the average home.

Over half of all Americans (53%) now have a smart phone. 232 million Americans now have access to the internet. 182 million now have access to broadband at home. Home Wi-Fi penetration has exploded over the past few years with over 177 million people or 67% of all Americans connecting on average up to five devices to their home system. People are spending 8 hours 15 minutes on average each day with radio, TV and the internet, which is up 72 minutes from 2003.

AM/FM radio listening is stronger than ever and radio reaches 243 million weekly listeners up from 223 million users in 2003. Time spent listening is stable at about 2 hours per day.

AM/FM rules the road with far more consumers listening to radio in the car than any other device. Nearly 60% (58%) say they listen to the radio all the time or most of the time when in the car. Only 15% listen to CD’s, 11% listen to MP3 players and 10% listen to satellite radio.

AM/FM radio reaches far more consumers than any other media in the 30 minutes prior to a consumer purchase. 50% of all consumers reported listening to the radio just prior to arriving at a store or mall to make a purchase.  Only 21% saw a billboard and 12% watched TV. Only 8% reported reading or looking at a newspaper in the 30 minutes before making a purchase. Up from previous years is the number of people who use a smart phone (6%) to check a price or look for product information. By the way, 6% also reported using the internet on a computer to find a price or checking product information.

Radio is also a very effective advertising medium, according to this research. In fact, 43% of consumers say they have visited a restaurant after hearing an ad on the radio. 41% have visited a specific store and 40% have attended an event. 39% have talked about a product or services with friends based on a radio ad and 28% have recommended a product or service to others. Radio advertising is also a great way to drive traffic to an advertiser’s website with 28% saying they have done so as a result of hearing an ad on the radio.

Online radio listening is growing rapidly. In 1998, the first study indicated that 6% had used some form of online radio.  Today those people that listen to AM/FM radio on the internet or audio content that is only available on the internet in the past month has grown to 120 million Americans. Now, with more in-home broadband and more smart phones, online radio reaches 45% of all people 12 and over.

On a weekly basis, the number of people consuming online radio now reaches 86 million Americans or 33%, up from 22% in 2011. They are also spending more time listening online, and that has grown from 9 hours 17 minutes in 2011 to almost 12 hours in a week which is a significant increase. Heritage media is still strong with 82% of people who regularly listen to online radio in the past week reporting that they also listen to terrestrial radio each week. Only 18% listen to online only.

One in five Americans who own a smart phone has listened to online radio in a car by listening to the stream via a cell phone connected to a car stereo. That number has grown from 17% in 2012 to 21% in 2013, so if you do not have a smart phone app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry, then contact our office and we can have them built for you.

Most people (62%) who listen to radio while at work still listen by a traditional radio device. 19% are listening on their computer and 14% listen via a smart phone or tablet.

Pandora, not available in Canada at this point, is the best known of the online products at 69% (up from 59% in 2012) but iHeartRadio has grown from 31% in 2012 to 45% in 2013, which is another reason radio stations in Canada should adopt this one player model on station websites and mobile platforms.

More people than ever are consuming online video and almost 50% of Americans have looked at videos online in the past month. You Tube is the biggest player and controls 44% of the space and consumers spend about 4 hours a week watching videos online, which is down about 20 minutes from the previous year. That compares to 12 hours a week listening to online audio, and this is likely because of bandwidth restrictions and costs being the limiting factor for online video consumption.

The smart phone has had the biggest impact on consumer behaviour in 2013. For the first time the majority (53%) of all American now own a smart phone.  The biggest growth of smart phone ownership is among 35–44 year olds where almost 70% (up from 54% in 2012) of this demographic now carries a smart phone. 75% of 18-34 and 60% of 12-17 own smart phones.

97% of people, especially people over the age of 25, mainly use their smart phone to make calls, while 94% send text messages, 90% take photos and 83% browse the internet. 63% view or update social media and 44% listen to online radio. 25% are accessing coupons from retailers and 21% are using QR codes. Texting is the most popular way to communicate for teenagers, which will be no surprise to anyone who has a teenager in their home. 30% of Americans wake up to an alarm or audio on their smart phone, while 22% use a traditional alarm clock. 15% wake up to a clock radio. For younger people, 60% of all 18-34 year olds wake up to an alarm or audio on their smart phone. This creates a tremendous opportunity for radio to have them wake up to your radio station playing on their smart phone via a radio app.

62% of all Americans 12+ now have a social media profile on at least one social network. Facebook still dominates at 58%, LinkedIn is a distant second at 17% and Twitter has doubled in growth in a year to 15%. Google+ (12%), Instagram (12%), Pinterest (10%)  and Tumblr (4%) are also growing. As you would expect, the numbers are higher in the younger demos with 83% of all 12-34 year olds having a social profile. Almost 40% of smart phone users admit to using their devices to access social media platforms several times a day. This creates an opportunity for air talent to say things on radio that will encourage listeners to go to the station’s Facebook page. If you do it right they will access your Facebook page, click on a post which will then take them to your station’s website. Remember that while a lot of your listeners are on Facebook, no radio station can generate revenue from this platform. However, if you have a solid digital strategy you may be generating revenue from your station website.

As mentioned earlier, 84% of all people 12+ who have been in a car over the past month reported listening to AM or FM radio in the car. Satellite radio is at 15% with 12% listening to online radio. HD radio is only at 3%, by the way. 58% of all people who use in-car audio devices report listening to the radio almost all the time or most of the time when they are in a car. Bluetooth is growing  with 28% of people who have driven or ridden in a car now having access via Bluetooth. This number will continue to grow. Only 6% reported having access to an in-dash information or entertainment system (an example of this is the Ford Sync system). This number is expected to grow quickly over the next five years and radio needs to be doing more to ensure we have a presence on these systems.

Learning about new music and keeping up to date with new music is still very important to consumers. In fact, 45% of all people 12+ said it was very important or important and that number grows to 67% among 12-24 year olds. But the most popular way that people discover new music is by radio with 78% saying that they use radio to keep up to date with new music. You Tube is growing at 55%, as is Facebook at 41%. Finding songs in a local store is declining at 30%. 72% of all 12-24 years olds still learn about new music via radio which is slightly behind recommendations from friends and family at 79% and from You Tube at 77%.

The average age of heavy users of the Internet is 33, while for radio it is 42 and for TV is 50. The average age of the American population is 42, by the way. This means that radio is a better fit to reach the average consumer. The average consumer listens to radio 2:04 a day, 3:33 with TV and 2:38 on the internet. But heavy users of radio (6:23) still spend the same amount of time watching TV and surfing the intent. Heavy TV users (8:16) still spend 2:12 listening to radio and 2:52 on the internet each day. Heavy internet users spend 7:16 per day but they spend a little over 2 hours a day listening to radio and 3:35 watching TV. So heavy usage of one medium does not appear to be impacting consumption of other mediums. Somehow, people find more hours in the day to do this and presumably must be sleeping less!    

The research shows that radio is more popular than ever, but if radio was no longer available, would people really care? Well, 83% of all people said they would be upset if their favourite radio station went away.  That increases to 88% among heavy users of radio. This indicates that radio is still
popular and desired in 2013, which clearly contradicts what some in other media are saying.

TV advertising is becoming less impactful because of ad skipping or ad avoidance as more consumers now record programs to watch at a later time. In 2013, 45% of all homes now have a PVR or DVR, which is up from 28% in 2008. This gives consumers more choice as to how and when they view their favourite television programs. About 1 in 5 people have downloaded or streamed television programs on TVs, laptops or tablets. This is even higher with younger consumers.

Digital platforms have expanded media consumption and usage. The digital platforms have expanded consumer options allowing them to consume more media and new times and places verses what they could do just ten years ago. This increased, greater consumption has not been at the cost of traditional electronic media, and people are spending more time each day with the combination of TV, radio and the internet in 2013 than they did in 2003.  TV and radio still reach over 90% of all people 12+ each week.

A clear app strategy will help ensure your brand does not get lost on mobile devices. With more than 50% of people using smart phones it is more important than ever that your brand be on the first screen if possible.

Facebook is hot, but Twitter is growing, especially among the younger audience. Therefore, it is vital that you engage audiences differently on Facebook and Twitter. For example, you should never post the same content on Facebook and then on Twitter. Also, saying, “follow us on Facebook and Twitter,” is meaningless because you are speaking to two largely different audiences who are using these social platforms for different purposes and in different ways. One tip is that great pictures and video are more likely to get shared on social media which creates an opportunity for radio.

Encourage your P1 listeners to wake up in the morning using your smart phone app. Create recording imaging around this and teach usage, especially in nights. Say to them, “If you are just about to go to bed be sure to set your app on your smart phone so you will wake up to (morning show name) and our great music tomorrow morning.” Think about the audio pre-roll marketing opportunities that advertisers are prepared to pay for to get that first audio impression.

AM/FM radio still rules the road with in-car entertainment. Nearly 60% of commuters listen to radio most of the time while driving in their cars, so now is the time to defend the in-car advantage and leverage this to advertisers, while at the same time educating listeners. Again, teach usage and encourage them to tune into your station when they are driving.

Overall, radio has never been stronger than in 2013 and the opportunities to grow both audience and revenue have never been stronger. But to do this we need to market our brands effectively and use all platforms to ensure our product is wherever the audience is – be it in the home, at work, in the car – and we need to make it easy for listeners to consume online, on smart phones and tablets and over the air. To download slides or listen to the audio presentation please go to or

About the research: 2,021 people were interviewed from January 15 to February 10, 2013 via telephone and cell phone with 45% of respondents coming from a random sample from Arbitron’s Fall 2012 survey and 55% coming from a random digital dialing. This is the 21st study which began back in 1998.