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Has Online Radio Growth Stagnated?

From the new Edison/Arbitron study on media platforms comes this headline:

Weekly Online Radio Audience Increases from 11 percent to 13 percent of Americans In Last Year.

What that headline doesn’t say is that this number was evidently 12% in 2006. Thus the statistical fact of the matter is that online radio listening - according to these data - are utterly unchanged over the past two years.

Does that seem odd to you? It sure seems weird to me.


Now granted, this is a specialized subset of listeners - the folks who participate with Arbitron. But still.

It’s not clear how this question was asked (What, exactly, is “online radio”? Do listeners know what we’re talking about here?). Laying out that definition might clear things up.

Whether or not the numbers are correct, the headline is abjectly misleading.

But it still puzzles me that in an environment where access to home broadband (as noted in this study) is skyrocketing, where penetration of portable music players - driven by the Internet - is increasing, where radio station streaming grows annually, where online is catching up to radio in terms of its influence on music discovery, in this environment…

…”online radio” listening remains unchanged since 2006?

If true, what does this say about the taste for “radio” online in what is otherwise a growing market for online audio?

Is “radio” what I use primarily when I choose to turn off the PC and the iPod?

Let me ask the most provocative question of all: Why should we stream our stations if the market for online radio is stagnating?

Unless it’s not.

Reader Comments (5)

People go to work and the radio is on
I get in cabs and the radio is on
People on building sites have the radio blasting
People listen to the radio on their mobiles
I listen to the radio every morning to wake me up
I listen to the radio via stream as I work sometimes

You know what, I actually listen to more radio now than I ever have done too, across a broader variety of stations

Our local commercial stations SUCK - and that's why I always end up back flicking through BBC stations in the car

You know when you're alone in the house and you put the tv on for 'company'? That's what radio does. Podcasts don't do that, and neither do playlists. Music and DJs that you know are happening now, like live TV, is engaging in a very human way. Programming like this will always remain relevant however it is transmitted.

I would say that 'the kids' have probably tuned out but no one else has much.

April 9 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Moore

I'm very curious how they asked the question. Did they count listening to sites like Last.FM and Pandora as online radio or not?

Both sites are still growing like crazy.

April 10 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Shelter

Could it be - just like Mark's comment on his last post - that it's total-listening-time that really matters? Perhaps the quantity of hours spent listening to Internet radio is what should be reported and measured?

Or, is it that 12% of 100,000,000 is 12,000,000 and 13% of 253,846,153 is 33,000,000 - in other words, the size of the pie is growing, and the rate of growth - expressed as a percentage - is relatively steady?

April 10 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

You load the question a lot by framing this as "stagnation."

I don't think that runaway growth is the only sign of a healthy market -- the friends and co-workers of mine who use online radio are very, very loyal to their favorite stations and constantly make up mix CDs of great material they heard online first. I think from a musician and a label perspective, people like that are definitely worth catering to -- they move a lot of .mp3 in front of new ears.

I do agree there's an invisible cultural barrier with online radio -- it's very strange that it's not more ubiquitous these days. Commercial, traditional radio is still on most restaurants and job sites I go to in 2008. Yet there's millions of hours of uninterrupted and great music just floating around online for free...perhaps hooking up a computer to the stereo is too much of a cost and/or time investment. More likely it's just people not know what the options were and sticking with tradition.

April 11 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Mark Ramsey, President of Mark Ramsey Media, a company aimed at merging traditional radio with digital media, talks about the purpose of his business and their goals, as well as the radio-analogue/digital-radio debate, the advantages of radio in consuming content, how to engage audiences effectively in an ever-changing world, and what traditional radio offers that music subscription services don’t.

Watch an exclusive video interview here:

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