Infinite Dial Shows Pandemic Impact On Consumer Media Behaviors.


Edison Media’s Infinite Dial 2022, the research firm’s 24th annual study of digital media consumption, turned up some behavioral changes as more Americans returned to offices and schools. According to the latest data, collected in late January and early February of this year, 75% of Americans aged 18+ who are employed are working primarily outside the home, up from 70% in early 2021 when many Americans were still feeling the impacts of the 2020 lockdowns. “About 5% of the working population has shifted to go back into the office and that percentage of the population has certainly changed their behaviors,” Edison Research Senior VP Tom Webster said Thursday in a presentation of the findings at Podcast Movement: Evolutions in Los Angeles.


Online audio in particular experienced what Webster called “some dramatic shifts” due to the pandemic. But even as people get back to somewhat more normal routines, listening to AM/FM streams and streamed audio content available only on the internet has remained hot. In fact, online audio consumption in the U.S. showed significant gains year-over-year. Seventy-three percent of the U.S. 12+ population, roughly 209 million people, say they have listened to online audio in the last month, up from 68% in 2021. Edison says the jump was primarily driven by listeners age 35+, who increased their monthly online audio listening by 13% year over year. Weekly online audio listening also rose to 67% of the U.S. 12+ population, up from 62% in 2021.


That means online audio listening rose a full five percentage points in one year among both monthly and weekly users. That the two numbers are tracking so close shows more monthly online listeners are converting into weekly listeners.


Among 12–34-year-olds, online audio is nearing the saturation point with 87% of the demo listening monthly. But both 35–54-year-olds and persons 55+ showed major year-over-year gains with 81% of the former and 52% of the latter now listening to online audio monthly. “We haven't hit the cap on it yet, by any means. But we're going to get there at some point,” Webster predicted.


Of 10 online audio brands surveyed by Edison, six have achieved consumer awareness of 69% or better: Spotify (82%), Pandora (79%), Apple Music 72%, and iHeartRadio, Amazon Music and YouTube Music (each at 69%). SoundCloud is next at 43%, followed by NPR One (21%), TuneIn Radio (18%) and Audacy (17%).


AM/FM radio continues to lead all other audio sources in the car – and by a large margin. Nearly three in four (73%) of 18+ Americans who drove or rode in a car within the last month say they tuned into broadcast radio in the car, in line with 75% in 2021 but down a bit from 81% in 2020. “I know it's very tempting for people, especially those who see themselves on the forward edge of audio, to think that's just because it's default, but many millions of Americans choose it,” Webster told the podcast convention about AM/FM radio.


Listening to digital music in the car rose from 48% to 53% year-over -year, while CD players hung in at 35%, online audio was steady at 32%, podcast registered another year of growth rising to 32% and SiriusXM clocked in at 22%.


Apart from a hiccup caused by the lockdowns of 2020, in-dash infotainment systems continued their slow but steady growth in 2022. “It's never going to rocket up because new car sales turn over slowly,” Webster explained. “Many people have certainly been hanging on to their cars for as long as a decade. But it is continuing to grow.” Infinite Dial 2022 shows 22% of motorists currently own an in-dash infotainment system, up from 20% in 2021 and 15% in 2018. Apple CarPlay (17%) leads Android Auto (11%). And about half of motorists say they have ever listened to online audio in a car through their cell phone – either via Bluetooth, a USB connection or just plugging the device into an aux jack. “That number is fairly static at the moment,” said Webster. “As technology becomes more and more integrated into new cars to enable content to be obtained, searched for, and consumed frictionless, we're going to see all forms of digital audio really explode in the car.”


The 2022 Infinite Dial, sponsored by Wondery and Art19, is based on a national telephone survey of 1,502 people aged 12 and older using random digit dialing techniques to both cell phones and landlines. The survey was offered in both English and Spanish with data weighted to national 12+ population figures.


Download the study HERE.

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