Despite a drop-off in the number of car trips for many Americans during the spring, broadcast radio continues to hold onto the largest share of any audio medium. Edison Research’s latest Share of Ear study shows 42% of all time spent listening to audio each day remains with AM/FM radio. The number, based on a rolling four quarter average, shows broadcasters have a share more than twice as large as streaming audio and more than four-times as much as owned music. One of the big gainers in recent years has been podcasting – its share jumped from 2% to 5% between 2014 and 2020 – but it still has a share that is just an eighth the size held by over-the-radio.
“AM-FM radio is still the plurality of our listening and a significant source of audio consumption for Americans,” said Edison Senior VP Tom Webster. During a webinar Thursday he noted that in 2014 the share held by AM/FM radio was a slight majority (51%) when the typical listener spent four hours a day with the medium. The big change in lifestyle many are now living may be partly to blame for the dip from then. “COVID-19 has had something to do with that, but these changes have been building over time,” said Webster. “But removing the commute from American lives has had a significant impact on all of these habits.”
Edison data shows that the coronavirus has also shifted the start of audio consumption to later in the day for many Americans. The Share of Ear study for years has shown half of Americans aged 13 and older reported they started their audio listening day by 7:15am. Since the COVID-19 disruptions, that start time has shifted to 8:30am – or 75 minutes later.
“That doesn’t mean we’re sleeping later, but it does mean that what we are looking for in the morning has changed a great deal,” said Webster. He said work-from-home means traffic reports and weather forecasts are a lot less important when the commute means walking from one room of the house to another. “It’s not that we need them shifted later, it’s that we don’t need them at all because we are not going anywhere,” he said. “What we’re looking for from audio has changed and all forms of audio media have to be responsive to that.” Webster expects the new habits to remain as long as work-from-home does. “If they are around for a year or more, many of them are going to stick even after the quarantine is over,” he predicted.
The Share of Ear data is compiled from participants who are given a diary which asks them to record their listening throughout the day in 15-minute increments, asking not only what platform they used, but the content consumed, and where they were located.