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Consumer Habits Are Pushing More Audio Listening To On-Demand.


In a boost for radio’s increasing focus on podcasting, a pair of longtime media research companies have released new data showing just how far on-demand media habits have come during the past few years. In an audio milestone, Edison Research says on-demand audio – including podcasts, paid streaming services, and owned music – surpassed linear consumption for the first time during the second quarter.


Edison’s Share of Ear data shows that on-demand audio had a 50.3 share of all daily audio time during the quarter among U.S. listeners aged 13 and older. That compared to a 49.7% share for linear platforms, like over-the-air radio, station webcasts, and satellite radio.


“The growth of podcast listening is part of the reason for this change,” says Edison in a blog post. “Podcasting has attuned hundreds of millions of listeners worldwide to the habit of choosing the right audio content at the right time and hitting play. The same goes for music – once people got used to the ability to choose a specific song or playlist, and of course, skip songs – it became hard for many to go back to the ‘lean back’ experience of listening to radio or linear streams.”


The speed of the audio consumption evolution is just as noteworthy as the tip toward on-demand. Edison’s Share of Ear data showed at the end of 2015 there was a 38% advantage for linear listening. But as each quarter passed, the gap closed, helped by the pandemic and the changing media habits of Gen Z.


Edison Research President Larry Rosin says he is very cautious about predicting the future, but one thing that he is certain about is that even if on-demand keeps climbing, live radio is still in the game. “No one should look at this and say it will eventually go to zero. I don't think that's likely at all, with news and live sports, there will always be some space for linear content,” he said. Yet Rosin also thinks it is unlikely that linear will reserve the trend, with it possible that the gap will grow just as large in on-demand’s favor in the coming years.


“Some people prefer linear listening, and even those who mostly prefer on-demand consume at least some linear content,” says Edison’s blog. “But it is about as safe a bet as one can make that the trendlines in the graph will continue well out into the future.”


The shift toward digital media formats is not unique to radio. Nielsen reported a similar television milestone this month when it said viewing of linear television – including broadcast and cable TV – slid to 49.6% in June. That is the first time it has been below 50% in terms of television viewing even as overall TV usage was up just slightly from June. Nielsen says the results were a result of increased streaming and “other” usage, which is primarily attributed to video game consoles. Among them is the king of on-demand TV, Netflix, which captured an 8.5% share of viewing last month according to Nielsen.


Also mirroring radio trends, Nielsen says live sports coverage drove some of the best results for linear television. Most would consider July a slow month for sports, given that broadcast sports viewing typically more than triples when September starts, it also notes. Overall, total broadcast TV viewing was down 3.6% to finish the month at a 20% share of television viewing, representing a new low. On a year-over-year basis, broadcast TV usage was down 5.4%. Cable TV viewing slipped as well, losing a full share point to capture 29.6% of TV in July.

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