Weekly Insights · September 13, 2023

Weekly Insights 9.13.2023 Linear Audio Still Rules In Car

By Edison Research

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Two weeks ago, we talked about how the percent of daily audio time Americans spend with linear audio just was passed by the time spent with on-demand audio. That is true when looking at total listening, and we recognize that finding as a milestone in the story of audio in the U.S.

But what about listening in various locations?

In the graphic below, you can see that for listening in locations except for in-car, the majority of daily audio time is spent with on-demand platforms (60%) compared with 40% to linear platforms. This would include listening at home, at work, and other places such as taking walks, or when at the grocery store or gym. There is a very different proportion of linear to on-demand listening in the car, however.

In the car, 76% of the time spent with audio by Americans age 13+ is with linear platforms, which include AM/FM radio, radio streams, SiriusXM Radio, and other radio services. On-demand platforms, such as paid streaming services, podcasts, or owned music such as CDs, garner 24% of the total in-car listening time. Clearly, a very different picture than what is seen in other listening locations.

What is it about the car that makes the linear audio experience that much more appealing? Listening to on-demand audio means more time navigating phone menus and making choices, when the road demands one’s attention. Linear audio is, for many people, just easier in-car. The hardware is simple and making an audio choice requires fewer decisions. AM/FM and SiriusXM offer listening experiences where there is no pausing or rewinding, and the content choices are made by program directors – all positives in a linear environment. As for AM/FM, there may be the added element in some cases of actual, live people, speaking to listeners in real time, which could provide companionship while driving.

As in-car audio systems make on-demand listening more streamlined and accessible, we are likely to continue to see on-demand listening grow in cars. For now, though, linear audio takes the lion’s share of audio time among those age 13+ in the car.

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