Nielsen: 10% Of All Radio Listening Now takes Place Online.


In a milestone, the portion of AM/FM radio listening among persons 12+ that occurs online has jumped to 10%, according to new audience data from Nielsen’s PPM markets. That marks a doubling of streaming as a percentage of total listening in just over one year. While the largest propeller was Nielsen’s headphone listening adjustment implemented with the October 2020 survey, the pandemic’s impact was also a factor as consumers tuned in online from home during the lockdowns and some of those new behaviors stuck.


Before the pandemic, streaming represented 5% of AM/FM radio listening among persons 12+, new analysis from Westwood One shows. It quickly soared to 8% during the shelter-at-home months of April and May 2020 before tapering off to around 6% last summer and fall, lower than during the lockdowns but slightly above pre-COVID levels.


“When Nielsen introduced the new headphone adjustment methodology enhancement in October 2020, the share of listening to encoded streams jumped to 10% and has held ever since,” Doug Hyde, Senior Director, National & Local Insights, Westwood One, writes in the latest post on the radio network’s Everyone’s Listening blog.


The new numbers are in line with Q1 2021 Share of Ear findings from Edison Research, which show 11.3% of total listening among persons 13+ occurs via stream. But the percentage jumps to 14.6% among adults 25-54. That’s 29% greater than for persons 13+, which Hyde attributes to the fact that most streaming occurs while people are at work and the 25-54 demo includes a higher concentration of working Americans.


According to “Share of Ear,” 13% of AM/FM radio listening among adults 18-34 and 11.5% among adults 35-64 occurs via stream.


That the Nielsen figures are more in synch with those of Edison suggests the headphone adjustment hit the mark. As Inside Radio reported in early September Nielsen began to adjust upward quarter hour estimates for encoded station streams in the October survey to compensate for headphone listening uncaptured by the PPM. The adjustment is based on data from a survey of 5,000 former PPM panelists.


The impact on overall listening figures was first seen in the October PPM survey results when Nielsen reported a 6% jump in Average Quarter Hours when compared to September. In an Oct. 27, 2020 Audio Client Update, the company said two-thirds of the increase (or 4%) came from the implementation of the “headphone adjustment factor.” The remaining 2% was organic or what Nielsen called the “fall growth period,” marked by a return to school for many, more cars on the road and the re-emergence of more typical fall lifestyles.


The Everyone’s Listening blog is targeted at ad buyers and the new post is intended to motivate more agencies and advertisers to include the online streams of broadcast stations in their media buys. “For advertisers, the implication is clear, AM/FM radio streaming needs to part of every ‘AM/FM radio’ buy,” Hyde says in the piece. “AM/FM radio streaming can no longer be ignored.”


Among other research cited is a study of 202,774 people who provided their age, gender, and home zip in a registration process to listen Cumulus Media AM/FM radio stations from around the country. The data shows the median age of broadcast radio streamers (41) is six years younger than the total audience (47). More than two-thirds (68%) of the streaming audience is 25-54 versus 49% for the over-the-air audience. And just under two-thirds (65%) is female versus 48% of the total audience.


Hyde attributes the female skew to the large amount of AM/FM radio listening done at work. Another factoid: The vast majority (83%) of people listening to a stream live in their home market.


Helping complete the portrait of radio’s online audience is a Cumulus-commissioned study of 1,687 AM/FM radio listeners conducted in October 2020 by MARU/Matchbox. It found 55% of all adults 25-54 say they have listened to an AM/FM radio stream in the past week. Among heavy AM/FM radio listeners, that jumps to 71%.


According to MARU/Matchbox, 13% of AM/FM radio listeners devote more than 75% of their total AM/FM radio time spent to the stream. These “power streamers” represent half of all time spent with AM/FM radio streaming. And the “frequent/power streamers” represent 73% of all streaming time spent with an AM/FM radio station and only generate 9% of the over-the-air time spent.


“The “frequent/power” streaming segments are about a quarter of the listeners (24%) who are difficult to reach over the air but very easy to reach via the stream, another reason AM/FM streaming should be in every media plan,” says Hyde.

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