Radio…Still Not Just For AM/FM Anymore

I had the chance to sit in on the Infinite Dial presentation by Arbitron and Edison Research. (Check out my post on last year’s presentation.) Of course I encourage you to take a peek at the presentation. In the meantime…the highlights!

First and foremost, a bit of perspective. Sponsored by Arbitron, who serves the broadcast industry, this webinar was designed to target terrestrial broadcasters, you know, AM/FM. So keep that in mind as you read this and as you look at the actual presentation. Hopefully it will continue to push them to adopt and take advantage of the online opportunities that are present today.

Second, the term “online radio” for the sake of this research, references the 11% who listen to the online stream of an AM/FM station plus the 9% that listen to an online only, or “pure-play” product (Pandora, Slacker, etc.)

Continuing to dispel the myth that only the “young” audience listens to radio online, of the now 42 million who listened to online radio in the past week, this years research noted strong use balanced nicely across all age demographics. In addition, the listener tended to be more “upscale” as it applies to income and education.

What is attracting listeners to online? The answer is really of no surprise to regular readers of this blog. It’s all about control and it’s step-sister choice. Note the nod to “variety” which I think really means choice. (Of course, to many of my colleagues in radio, will see this as justification to continue to totally overuse the word in station imaging and branding. Ick.)

Arbitron took the time to remind us that, as it applies to the PPM (Personal People Meter), internet only radio or podcasts are not encoded and are not reported. I think it’s kind of cool to point out the lack of efficacy of the Arbitron product in a world that is rapidly using other platforms to hear radio. To be fair, in answer to my question, “Will Arbitron be seeking to encode and track said online delivery?” they did answer yes! (Though, no timeline was given.)

The study did note that 27% of Americans have purchased digital audio online. BTW, online radio listeners who buy jumps that number to 43%. No numbers on pirated music was noted.

In the world of downloadable content, of particular interest to me and my involvement in the Association for Downloadable Media, the term Podcast (love it or hate it) has taken hold with 43% of Americans being aware of podcasts. Always the master of the understatement my friend Tom Webster of Edison pointed out that “podcasting is now mainstream!” Hey, 27 million Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month can’t be wrong!  One last podcast tidbit…podcast  use already eclipses satellite radio. There’s that “control” thing again!

Speaking of other content sources, here are some quick hits…

  • Satellite radio use…leveled off.
  • HD Radio…though 32% are interested in HD the presentation didn’t make mention of usage, which can’t be good. “HD Radio…Hello, is this thing on?”
  • Cell phone…has the biggest impact on on listener’s lives. Prompting Tom’s comment that the cell phone is the transistor radio of today. (For those of you who are saying “Transistor Radio? It’s what Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa carried before the boombox or iPod…groovy.)
  • Video…just plain blowing up online! (“America is literally looking outside the box.”)

So here’s the upshot, the big kahuna of take-aways, from this presentation for radio and any content producers: Consumers expect to find their desired content online and that includes them wanting expanded media options while in their cars. Can you say Wimax? That’s not to say the current mediums are dead. Clearly they still reach ears. However, if you can’t give it to them on multiple platforms through multiple channels, your chance of them hearing you is diminishing everyday.

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