AM/FM radio’s overwhelming dominance of the ad-supported audio world is documented in a four-part series of insights released by Edison Research in March based on its Share of Ear dataset, which provides insights into the entire audio landscape, including broadcast radio, streaming, podcasting, downloaded audio, and other sources of audio content. No matter how the data is sliced – by demographics, platforms, or listener location, broadcast radio’s supremacy is consistent in the audio outlets that connect audiences with advertisers.
“With an abundance of research on digital media recently, the series serves to remind the audio industry of the strengths of traditional radio, and the first data point focuses on ad-supported audio,” Edison says. “The Share of Ear service provides measurement of all audio sources in the U.S., but it’s important to remember that only a portion of them are available to advertisers.”
Here are the key findings from the four-part series:
Listeners age 13+ in the U.S. spend 59% of their daily, ad-supported audio time with AM/FM radio. That’s more time than with all other ad-supported audio sources combined, including YouTube, podcasts, and ad-supported streaming services.
AM/FM radio is the top ad-supported audio source for all ages in the U.S.
Americans aged 25-54 spend over half of their daily audio time (55%) with AM/FM radio (including over-the-air and streams), and Americans 55+ spend the overwhelming majority of their ad-supported audio time (78%) with AM/FM radio. Gen Z audio consumers, well-known to favor their mobile phones for audio consumption, spend 33% of their ad-supported audio time on a daily basis with AM/FM radio. When considering only ad-supported audio, the next closest platform for Gen Z is YouTube, which is where they spend 31% of their daily audio time. Streaming services represent 20% of their total ad-supported audio time, and podcasts account for 15%.
Adults in the U.S. allocated 71% of their audio time listening to AM/FM radio.
That’s more than double the time spent with streaming audio (29%). This is based on the share of daily audio time spent with AM/FM radio listening (including both over-the-air and streams) with non-AM/FM streaming audio from such services as Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music and Apple Music.
More than five times the amount of daily audio consumption among U.S. adults is spent with AM/FM radio.
Including radio station streams, this clocks in at 85% compared to 15% for ad-supported streaming audio. Keep in mind that listening to SiriusXM, YouTube, podcasts, music channels on TV, owned music such as CDs, and audiobooks are not included in these comparisons.
Broadcast radio captures seven times as much audio listening in the car as other audio options.
Comparing in-car AM/FM radio listening (including to broadcast and station streams) in the U.S. with streaming of other audio among persons 18+, the former accounts for 88% of in-car audio time spent, vs. 12% for the latter. The comparison remains impressive for listening in other locations aside from in vehicles, where for 18+, nearly twice the amount of time in the U.S. is spent with AM/FM radio compared to other streaming audio, 64% vs. 36%. “This might be a new way to think about radio consumption and how it stacks up against streaming in other locations besides the car,” Edison's report says.
In or out of cars, ad-supported AM/FM radio has a powerful 18+ story for advertisers.
While there's no contest inside the car, where AM/FM accounts for 95% of time spent compared to streaming's 5%, those aged 18+ spend nearly four times the amount of time with AM/FM (79%) as with ad-supported streaming audio (21%) outside cars.
Listeners aged 25-54 spend more time listening to AM/FM radio streams than to ad-supported streaming audio services.
The term “AM/FM radio” typically conjures up images of listening through a traditional radio receiver but it also includes the online streams of stations, which have a significant audience of their own. “When we think of radio, we have to think of it as a product, not just a device,” Edison points out. The research firm compared the audience of AM/FM radio streams (which are supported by ads) with listening to the ad-supported versions of streaming services. The comparison excludes listening to the paid subscription-based part of streaming audio services, since those do not connect listeners to advertiser messages. “The streams of AM/FM radio stations are incredibly competitive with ad-supported streaming services,” Edison notes. Among the marketer-coveted 25-54 demo, AM/FM radio streams capture 52% of listening to ad-supported audio, compared to 48% for ad-supported streaming services.
The quarterly Share of Ear reports are based on a rolling four-quarter national diary-based survey of 4,000 Americans aged 13 and older. Participants keep a detailed daily diary of audio usage, recording their listening throughout the day in 15-minute increments. The diary asks not only what platform they used, but the content consumed, and where they were located. Edison has conducted Share of Ear studies since 2014.