We are a society that loves lists. We love to condense information into smaller pieces because we live in a world where we are overwhelmed by information. Lists bring order to chaos. Plus, they help us focus and get things accomplished.
So with that in mind, I am pleased to present Edison Research’s Top 10 Findings from 2019 (so far).
On top of the custom research we do for clients’ internal usage, we at Edison are fortunate to do a number of studies designed for public consumption all about the worlds of media and audio. We have taken thousands of data points across hundreds of graphs generated from telephone interviews, listening diaries, online surveys, and videos from qualitative interviews, and curated for you what we think are the most worthwhile findings from our major studies so far in 2019.
You may have seen one or more of these findings before, but you have seen them in the context of their own studies. When we examine them together, suddenly a story of how Americans use audio clicks into focus.
So here we go, our Top 10 Findings –not in order of importance, but in an order that tells the story of Audio in 2019.
Number 10: The number of people listening to online audio, and their time spent listening to online audio continues to grow.
This finding is from the Infinite Dial U.S. study, a study we have been doing since 1998, for the last number of years with our wonderful partners at Triton Digital. Infinite Dial measures consumer audio behavior – the name The Infinite Dial conceptualizes a dial that starts on AM and FM but then stretches far beyond, with as many audio choices as can be invented. Graphs don’t get much more clear than this when it comes to tracking an upward trend. Sixty percent of Americans, about 169 million people age 12+, have listened to online audio in the past week. There is still room to grow here since at 60%, we are clearly not yet at a saturation point.
You can see that online listening was in single digits for the first several years we measured it, then grew but stayed pretty flat for a while, then 2007 saw the birth of the iPhone, and after users and developers figured out some of its capabilities, you can see how the number of listeners grew, and then just took off.
Not only are more people listening, but the TIME they are listening is also increasing. This year, among those who said they consume online audio, we see an average weekly reported time spent listening of 16 hours and 43 minutes. Compare that to what we saw ten years ago when a much smaller base of consumers also reported a lot less listening. This is for all online audio, so keep in mind this could be spoken word programming such as podcasts, as well as music, or streaming of radio stations.
Incidentally, we have found that there are differences in the online audio brand preferences of the 12-34 year-olds versus the 25-54s. Spotify is the audio brand that most 12-24 year-olds have listened to in the past month, while Pandora takes the top spot for 25-54s, but we see increases across all ages.
Number 9: Despite what you just saw, AM/FM Listening is almost exclusively over-the-air…still.
This finding is from our Share of Ear® study, which is a national study of the time Americans spend with various types of audio. Share of Ear is not a public study, but we do publish various findings from time to time.
Now is a good time for me to disclose my personal radio bias. My first job was in the late ’80s at my hometown radio station, WCRK. We used to joke that it stood for We Can’t Reach Knoxville, but radio was my first love, and I have been involved in some aspect of the radio industry or media measurement ever since, so I am always interested in how radio is moving forward.
Let’s take this back to 2014 when only 5% of AM/FM listening was done via streaming. In the past 5 and a half years we have growth in streaming services, the explosion of smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, the inexpensive access to unlimited data plans, and all of these changes have resulted in an increase of AM/FM listening done via streaming…by a whopping three percentage points.
Today, 92% of AM/FM listening is still done over the air, not online. And we have actually seen no growth at all in the portion of radio listening that happens online since the end of 2017.
This is also a great example of why we do research. Because logically, given no research, you would assume that more listeners have migrated to a streaming platform for radio. We look at this graph and we have to think why not? Why are we not moving listeners to stream radio content? Well, figuring out how to listen to favorite FM stations on a non-radio device can be difficult. Also, we know a great deal of listening is done in-car, and that radio listening is much more likely to be over-the-air instead of streamed. Does anyone think that listening via AM or FM will increase? We believe it will decrease unless people start choosing radio content on their phones or computers or smart speakers in bigger numbers.
The next finding can be compared to the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, if you will, and it comes to us from the Share of Ear study, which, remember, measures time spent listening.
Number 8: Looking forward to the ghost of Christmas future, our young listeners. Young people spend 27% of their audio time with AM/FM Radio.
Let’s work backward, with our ghost of Christmas past, if you will — what the world looked like when one could pretty much only listen to owned music like CDs or the radio. Americans age 55 and older represent this world — they spend 63% — nearly two-thirds — of their total audio time with radio.
What about our Christmas present? Those age 35-54 spend 47% of their time with radio. Today’s 35-54-year-olds are the transitional group — using some of the newer ways to listen to audio — but also giving nearly half their audio usage to AM/FM Radio.
And now let’s look to our ghosts of Christmas future, young listeners age 13-34, Let’s guess. What portion of their audio consumption goes to radio? 27% Despite the myriad ways teens can listen to audio, 27% of their time is spent with Radio.
You can see the very healthy time spent listening from adults and older adults. But you can see the decline when it comes to younger Americans. Edison VP Megan Lazovick will be presenting Thursday at the Radio Show specifically on TSL, and she is going to address this issue, so you won’t want to miss that. Regardless of radio’s amazing programming, music discovery and other benefits, we can’t ignore the role that DEVICE plays in this listening statistic for young people.
Which brings us to Finding Number 7: 26% of all audio listening is done on a smartphone. Another finding from Edison’s Share of Ear study.
In the last five years, that percentage has increased from 18% to 26%. That is just in the last five years.
But think about the devices we now have available to listen to audio. A radio receiver delivers only radio programming. And when was the last time you saw a plain, traditional radio receiver? The last hotel I stayed in had a clock radio that wasn’t even a radio, it was a clock with a USB port. A mobile device, though, can deliver radio, streaming services, owned music, audiobooks. Not to mention that the mobile device is almost always within arms’ reach. I know I am nostalgically connected to my radios. I have a 1959 Motorola transistor, my grandma’s Sears Silvertone, a 1942 Philco. My Panasonic I got for my birthday when I was eight. There’s no nostalgia about an iPhone. If I lose it, I just buy another one and restore the backup. But we have to get over our connection to radios as devices.
We have to recognize the separation of the radio audio product from the delivery mechanism of frequency modulation.
Let’s talk about how we divorce the media, the content, from the device. Last year, if you were here for Megan Lazovick’s presentation, she showed us an imaginary movie trailer that envisioned a world without traditional radio receivers. If this was a prediction last year, this year I bring you a snippet of what you could consider a documentary about some of those predictions coming true. The following video is from in-home interviews that we did for Country Radio Seminar with Parents who listen to Country Music and their teens. In this clip, our interviewer just asked what AM/FM Radio is. Pay attention to the reactions of the parents.
I relate. Clearly they aren’t “old” but they ARE surprised because their teens have very different audio habits in the car from what they imagined. When the teen son challenges his dad on the technology, the dad quickly replies that he knows how to use the tech, but he chooses radio. We have to ask ourselves if younger demographics understand what radio has to offer beyond being a perceived music delivery service (filled with commercials) so that they would choose a radio product. Also, the teen son was way off about “no high schooler in America” listening to radio, as we saw from the previous point. Casey Kasem (also someone who loved counting down lists) can rest in peace for now.
When we presented these findings at Country Radio Seminar, during the Q&A, a young woman stood up and she said, “I am a 22-year-old student. How would I learn about radio? I never see it advertised anywhere.” Future radio listeners, as with any audio service, streaming, podcasts, etc., need to be educated about the benefits if they are expected to choose your service.
So we know that teens stream. How might the habit spread?
Number 6: Parents with teens in the household are being influenced to stream audio, while parents influence the audio choices of their teens. Or, “They teach us to stream and we teach them to love Garth Brooks.” This is another finding from the Country Radio Seminar study.
Thirty-two percent of adults age 25-54 stream audio daily, while 39% of PARENTS stream audio. So parents age 25-54 are more likely to stream audio.
We intuitively know that teens are assisting their parents with new technology. In fact, almost 70% of parents agreed that their teens assist them with new technology.
As far as sharing music, Teens are more likely than parents to share music with friends and family and they are most likely to share music suggestions via text, followed by social media and then streaming apps. Those music suggestions help drive the habit of streaming. I know when my teenage sons send me the latest AJR song for example, I click on the link to hear the song, I don’t turn on the radio. We can’t underestimate how that information flow is going from child to parent.
There is a reciprocal influence, but it comes in the form of music. Sixty percent of teenagers agree that their parents got them to listen to more country music, while only 23% of parents agreed that their teens had the same influence. So the music education falls on the parents. Someone has to be there to explain to the next generation that Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You was a remake.
Speaking of parents, we have a group at Edison called The Research Moms, which is pretty self-explanatory. A group of researchers, all of us moms, doing research about a very influential group of listeners and consumers…also moms.
Which is where we get finding Number 5: The younger you are, the more likely you are to have been unfriended on social media, and to feel criticized or attacked.
This is data from a study that just came out of the field; none of the data has been presented. We will be releasing the study in the fourth quarter, and the entire study is about Moms and social media.
We found that younger moms are more likely to have been unfriended or blocked on social media because they did not agree with someone’s personal opinion. We also found that younger moms are more likely to feel criticized or attacked on social media for a number of reasons, from their political views to what they feed their children.
Now whether they are actually being attacked or whether this is just how they are reacting to social media content, we don’t know, but as broadcasters, podcasters, and creators of audio content, it’s important to understand how social media is evolving because surely social media is one of the ways you connect with listeners.
Number 4 on our list is from The Social Habit, a study we did using results from an online sample, combined with qualitative interviews conducted with young adults who are using Facebook less.
In the past two years we have seen a downward trend in the percentage of Americans 12+ using Facebook, from 67% to 61%. The story is told when you look in specific demos. We found through The Infinite Dial 2019 that overall, 15 million fewer people were using Facebook than in 2017. And really the losses are in the younger demos as Facebook has 17 million fewer users age 12-34. Facebook picked up 2 million users among those 55 and older.
This graph shows the trend of social media platform used most often among ALL American social media users,, and you can see the growth of Instagram and Snapchat in the past four years, at the expense of Facebook.
In the qualitative interviews our younger, former Facebook users, or those who use Facebook less, told us that they find the environment on Facebook to be toxic, including the way that the platform allows users to go on long rants about political and other topics. They know that some of their older family members are on the platform, so they try to avoid it. (advance) They also told us they are gravitating to photo-based platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, platforms without extended commentary, which you see in this graph. American social media users age 12-34 are split almost evenly between the Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat as the platform use most often.
For the audio community, if your listeners are under 55, they are losing interest in the long-form content that Facebook serves. And photo-driven content, at least for the moment, has tremendous appeal.
Facebook didn’t exist in the mainstream fifteen years ago, and neither did smart speakers, or the mainstream ability to access voice assistants.
Finding Number Three: The number of skills decreases the longer you own a smartspeaker, but loyalty grows over time. One of the most unexpected findings from 2019 is that the number of ways you use a smart speaker decreases the longer you own the device. The Smart Audio Report showed us that the newest smart speaker owners, those who have owned the device for three months or less, report using the most skills in the past week: almost twelve. Those who have owned the device for two years or more only use an average of seven skills in the past week. We are finding that smart speaker owners are honing their skills instead of adding to the number of skills.
AND the number of skills does not correlate directly to loyalty. Those who have had the device the longest are the most likely to say they would not want to go back to life without it. 30% of those who have owned a smart speaker for 2 years or more say they would not want to go back to life before it. We know they are the group using the fewest skills, but they have the most loyalty. Only 11% of newest smart speaker owners say they wouldn’t want to go back to life before their smart speaker.
We talked with some smart speaker owners in their homes as part of The Smart Audio Report about how they use the devices. Please meet Sean, a smart speaker owner who is also a pragmatist.
Notice how Sean says he has learned how not to use it. It is not the range of skills that builds loyalty. It’s how much you need and use the skills most important to you, and how ingrained the device is in your life.
Voice technology has already made its way to our cars through Siri and Apple CarPlay. Now Amazon is shipping Echo Autos as well, so recently I received my “invitation to buy” so I made the purchase, and when I received the device you can see that a small card was included with suggestions of “things to try.” Included on the two-sided card were suggestions for listening to news, podcasts, SiriusXM, Audible. No mention of the ability to play your favorite radio stations. Now we know that terrestrial radio is making an effort to direct listeners so they can find their stations on their favorite voice assistant — we hear it, stations directing their listeners to “Ask Alexa”, so an effort has to be maintained as we see voice technology encroaching in the car, which has traditionally been a radio-dominated space.
Through The Infinite Dial 2019, we also saw that (and this is a finding previously unreleased) that those who already own a smart speaker are much more likely to be interested in voice technology in-car than the general population. 48% of smart speaker owners said they would be interested in voice tech in their cars.
Finding #2 is on a topic I am sure you have been waiting for. Podcasting. It’s so big that we have divided it into two parts.
Number 2a: Podcasting passes the 50% reach mark. You know this isn’t a list of top Edison findings without podcasting. This finding is from The Podcast Consumer. Some of you might have thought it would take all 10 places on our list. Everyone’s either got a podcast or trying to convince you to listen to their favorite one.
At Edison, we even have a podcast club, like a book club, where we listen to a different series each month and then meet to discuss. Over half of Americans 12+ have now ever listened to a podcast. Approximately 144 million people, which means it has entered the mainstream.
For radio, are you repackaging previously aired content as catch-up radio, are your personalities creating show-based episodes, or are you crafting original, custom podcasts? As you develop a podcast strategy, think about what listeners even consider a podcast to BE. Which is the second part of finding 2.
Number 2b: Podcast listeners are encountering podcasts in places you might not anticipate. (which challenges the very definition of a podcast). Just a few weeks ago at Podcast Movement in Orlando, Edison SVP Tom Webster presented findings from a study we did especially for the conference –the topic was differences between Rookie Podcast listeners, those who have been listening less than six months, and Veteran podcast listeners, those who have been listening six months or more. The biggest finding was that both rookies and veterans are encountering podcasts in unexpected places.
Almost 70% of rookie listeners said they listened to a podcast on YouTube and over half said they listened to a video of a podcast on social media. I’m not sure we would have even used the phrase “listened to a video” a few months ago, but listeners are telling us how they consume podcasts, and part of that involves video. I was observing a qualitative interview with a podcast listener and he referred to “watching a sports radio podcast.” Watching. a sports Radio. Podcast. This consumption defies definition. Almost half of rookie listeners said they listened to audio clips of podcasts on social media as well. Veteran listeners were not as likely as rookies to consume podcasts through YouTube or through a video on social media. So this challenges our view of podcasting as purely an audio product and makes us realize that consumers of our audio products aren’t bound by definitions.
Finally, finding Number 1: Podcasting has worldwide impact.
Now that we have The Infinite Dial study in several countries, we are able to make comparisons – the inaugural studies in Germany and South Africa were just released in the past two weeks and you can see that although the U.S. and Canada have the highest percentage of the population that has ever listened to a podcast. A couple of the reasons we may see lower numbers in other countries besides the U.S. and Canada has to do with the amount of content available in certain languages – how much content is generated in a variety of languages for consumers besides English? Also, what are the limitations on inexpensive data plans in some of these areas, as well as good connectivity? We are excited to see how these numbers begin to trend around the world.
TAKEAWAYS: From the Top 10 Findings of 2019, certain threads emerged that tied these together into a complete audio story:
–The separation of radio as a product from radio as a device is becoming more apparent with each study and as online audio consumption and smart speaker usage continues to grow.
–Younger listeners today deserve our attention, having grown up with smartphones, and embracing technology so that we have to be one step ahead as we think about how to reach them.
–Social media can be a discouraging environment as younger users gravitate towards photo-based apps and away from text-driven platforms, and we must understand that environment if we want to connect with listeners there.
–A small but useful and important set of traits builds loyalty, as with our smart speaker owners.
–Consumers/listeners are showing us that they are in the driver’s seat as they defy definitions in the way they consume audio products and we must adapt accordingly.
Stay tuned in 2019, as we will be publishing significant fourth-quarter findings as we find them.