Radio Dead – Not So Fast

When I was growing up we did not have a TV in our house until I was about thirteen years old. If I wanted to be entertained I had to listen to the radio – AM radio. Radio has been around so long, almost 100 years, you may think it’s dead, but that is far from true. According to a survey by Arbitron, 93% of the respondents reported listening to, or at least owning a radio, in 2011. This is a decline of only 3% since 2001. The percentage of those surveyed doubled their use of online radio since 2001, 56% compared to 28%.
In 2011, one-third of all Americans (34%) said they listened to either streaming AM/FM versus internet-only services such as Pandora, or both, in the previous month.

Americans are a mobile people and we spend a lot of time in our cars, so lots of us spend a lot of time listening to radio while we are driving to work and for pleasure. In 2011, 11% of us listened to online-only radio while driving, compared to only 6% in 2010. This trend is especially popular among people aged 18 to 24. Today there are many mobile apps for listening to online-only services such as Spotify, Mogg, and Rdio. By 2015 about 75% of our population is estimated to be listening to music on their mobile devices. Of course many of them will not be listening to radio on their devices.

One of the latest trends in radio is HD, or high-definition, radio. In a survey conducted in 2010, Arbirton reported that only 7% of the respondents said they were very interested in HD radio. Clear Channel, which owns several hundred radio stations, and Cumulus Media are trying to bolster interest in this medium, but it’s too early to tell if they will be successful.

In 2011, mobile usage made up 70% of all usage of the Pandora service. The number of hours people listened to Pandora on mobile devices (164%) grew faster year by year than on laptop or desktop computers (12%). Three out of four people say they like or love satellite radio and that they like or love Pandora, but only 69% said they liked or loved traditional AM/FM radio. Pandora’s chief competitor is Spotify, a free European-based music-sharing company that was launched in 2008. Worldwide, Spotify has 10 million registered users; Pandora has 100 million in the United States alone, and 125 million total.

In 2011, Satellite radio had $2.7 billion in subscription revenue. This was up 7% over the previous year. The only company in the US satellite audio industry is SiriusXM, a service I use in my pickup. In 2011, Sirius reported nearly 21.9 million subscribers. In summary, current trends in radio point to the continued use of AM/FM radio, while the number of users decline due to increased use of radio on mobile devices, growth of services such as Pandora and Spotify, and increased growth of satellite radio, while HD radio faces an uncertain future.

(Source: Summary of article online by Laura Houston Santhanam, Amy Mitchell, and Tom Rosentiel or PEJ. Accessed at: http://stateofthemedia.org/2012/audio-how-far-will-digital-go/ ).

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