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Edison: Radio Has Its Biggest Hold Outside The Big Cities Where Podcasting Is Making Inroads.

Broadcasters have long complained that one of the reasons why they don’t get more national advertising dollars is the decision-makers live in big cities, and AM/FM use there doesn’t reflect the rest of America. Just-released Edison Research data show just how big the disparity between urban and rural listeners has become.

Edison’s latest Share of Ear data shows that in urban areas of the U.S., listeners aged 13 and older spend about a third (34%) of their daily audio time consuming AM/FM radio. That is nine percentage points lower than the 43% of listening that people living in rural areas give to over-the-air radio. Between them, both literally and figuratively, are suburban residents. Edison says among people living in the suburbs, 36% of their daily audio time goes to listening to AM/FM radio.

The listening habits are the opposite when it comes to podcast consumption. Edison says urban listeners aged 13 and older spend over twice as much of their daily audio time with podcasts as rural listeners. The Share of Ear data shows urbanites give 13% of their daily audio time to podcasts, compared to rural listeners who spend six percent of their daily time with podcasts. People in the suburbs once again sit in the middle. For podcasting, suburbanites spent 11% of their daily audio time with on-demand audio.

Yet the data also contains a bit of a twist. While location may be a contributing factor for listening behavior to some extent, Edison says its Share of Ear data reveals the combined listening of AM/FM and podcasts is nearly identical regardless of where someone is. In urban areas, the data shows they spent 47% of their time listening with the two mediums, while in rural areas Americans spend 49%.

“You’ll see that in combination these numbers are essentially the same – between 47% and 49%. It appears that the ‘time budget’ for radio and podcasting combined is consistent across locations – it is just the apportionment of that time that varies,” Edison says in a blog post with the new findings.

Overall, Edison says podcast listening reached a new high during the third quarter of 2023 when it captured 11% of audio listening time. In its just released update for Q4, Edison says podcast listening levels remained steady among Americans aged 13 and older.

The biggest share of audio listening time remains with AM/FM radio, which Edison says had a 36% share of listening time during the fourth quarter. That was one point lower than in the prior quarter. The AM/FM figure includes both over-the-air and streaming listening to broadcast radio stations.

Share of Ear is a quarterly subscriber-based audio listening diary survey that measures all audio respondents listen to during a 24-hour period. Edison tracks what Americans age 13+ are listening to, how much they listen and when, where they listen, and on what device they listen. It has been conducting the study since 2014.

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