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Online Radio: Weekly Audience Jumps More Than 30%, Boosted By Smart Phones

Published on April 11, 2012

The weekly audience of all forms of online radio is now at an estimated 76 million Americans age 12 and older, reaching 29% of the population and representing an increase of more than 30% from one year ago according to the new national survey from Arbitron Inc. and Edison Research, “The Infinite Dial 2012: Navigating Digital Platforms.” The study, released yesterday, is the 20th in a series of studies dating back to 1998, and has few surprises that Nielsen, comScore and SNL Kagan have not already told us; but it offers a more comprehensive understanding of online radio.

"We've been tracking the usage of online radio in this series since 1998, and this year's increase in weekly usage is the largest year-over-year jump we've ever recorded. The increased demand for online audio content, and the ever-expanding variety of that content, shows that online radio continues to be a resilient, adaptive media for the changing needs of today's consumer," said Bill Rose, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Arbitron Inc.

"The jump in weekly online radio usage is remarkable, but really a trailing variable to the rise in smartphone penetration, which has enabled much of that growth," said Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing, Edison Research. "The increasing ubiquity of the mobile web is profoundly altering the quantity, nature and context of media consumption in America."
Seventeen percent of all cell phone owners have listened to online radio streamed in their cars by connecting their phones to their car stereo system; this is an increase of more than 50% in the past year when only 11% had ever done so.

Among other findings about online listening habits:

  • Of those who listen to online radio at work, about 1/3 listen digitally, with 18% do so over the Internet, and 13% over smart phones; 68% listen on AM/FM radios
  • Twenty two percent listened to Pandora in the past month when surveyed, up from 16% in 2011
  • Fully 87% of respondents listened to both online and AM/FM radio, while 13% listened exclusively to online radio
  • Those listening spent 9 hours 46 minutes on online radio, up about 150% since 2008

A total of 2,020 persons were interviewed to investigate Americans' use of digital platforms and new media. From January 20 to February 19, 2012, telephone interviews were conducted with respondents age 12 and older chosen at random from a national sample of Arbitron's Fall 2011 survey diarykeepers and through random digit dialing (RDD) sampling in geographic areas where Arbitron diarykeepers were not available for the survey. Diarykeepers represent 45% of the completed interviews and RDD sampled respondents represent 55% of the completed interviews. The study includes a total of 500 cell phone interviews.

The other findings in the “Infinite Digital” survey are in line with Neilsen, comScore and other research outlets, and include these:

  • Forty-four percent of all Americans age 12 and over own a smartphone, representing half of all cell phone owners
  • Six in ten (61%) own a portable digital media device such as a smartphone, portable MP3 player or tablet; 40% own an Apple device (iPod/iPhone/iPad)
  • Americans age 45 and older represent the largest percentage increase in social media usage in the past year, now up to 38% (from 31% in 2011)
  • Fifteen percent are registered users of daily deals services such as Groupon and LivingSocial