Last week, Edison Research CEO Larry Rosin unveiled some significant data at the RAIN Conference that pretty clearly lays out the path for audio consumption over the next few years, but with so many conferences and other data flying around, it may not have received the attention it merits.

The good news is that audio consumption remains vigorous and strong and is still dominated with just over half (51%) of all listening coming from AM/FM radio. As with many numbers, however, the inverse is also true; just under half (49%) is not from radio.  

Looking at the devices used for listening to audio reveals a profound path of change. Today, 19% of audio listening is coming from the smartphone and as choices proliferate and the connected car becomes more of a thing, we will likely see this number rise.  

Today, one in every five minutes of total audio time is spent on a smartphone.  

Not surprisingly, the 13-34 age demographic has shifted fastest with 35% of audio listening  coming from smartphones.  That's a big and significant finding.  

There are two other numbers here which should be of concern to anyone in the radio business. 34% of smartphone users are listening to audio on their phones everyday. That number rockets to 68% or two-thirds among those aged 13-34. And not far behind, is the full-family demo of 25-54 at almost 4 out of 10 (38%) listening daily to audio on their smartphone.  

It is hardly surprising that smartphone listening patterns differ greatly from the overall.  One would imagine the percent of people listening to owned music will decrease as the trend continues from buying songs to subscribing to streaming services.  Also, you see a relatively low number for AM/FM.  One can suppose that those choosing to listen to audio on smartphones may be looking for an alternative to linear radio. And that may be true.  It is also true, however, that listening to AM/FM on a smartphone is hard.  Although there are radio centric apps including Tune-in, iHeart and many individual radio stations, it is much harder to listen to AM/FM on a smartphone. This is why Jeff Smulyan's Nextradio initiative may be important for linear radio. The shift to smartphones for audio also reveals a vulnerability for stations that have no real estate presence on smartphones.

If you aren't where the listeners are going ... well .... you pretty much know how that is going to turn out.  

The transition to smartphone audio listening should prove alarming and problematic even to the misguided "93% listen to radio, so everything is fine" people. 

The smartphone is rapidly becoming the personal entertainment hub.  That's good for podcasting and streaming.  Not so good for linear radio.  

So, ask yourself why AM/FM radio hasn't done a better job building its audio future beyond towers.  Less than 10% of streamed audio comes from commercial radio and a pitiful 1% of podcast listening comes from commercial radio content.  

Based on this latest Share of Ear data, the smartphone is quickly causing a tectonic shift in audio listening habits.  For many, it is the new portable radio. My neighbor friend who walks his dog with his earbuds and smartphone knows that.  Apparently, an awful lot of 13-34 year-olds know that too.

One in every five minutes of total audio time is from a smartphone. Today. 

Steven Goldstein, CEO, Amplifi Media

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