The data vacuum that exists no longer

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Bob McCurdyThere’s been an open debate within the Streaming Audio, Advertising and Radio community for some time now as to what kind of impact Streaming Music Services would have on the popularity and listening levels of broadcast Radio. Some within the “Streaming” camp have been predicting a large scale audience migration from broadcast Radio to Streaming Music Services. The Radio camp disagreed with this thinking, highlighting the complimentary aspects of each but there was a data vacuum that served as a breeding ground for various opinions and theories. Thankfully this vacuum no longer exists. The data used in this analysis is the most current provided by USA TouchPoints and provides an initial glimpse into the ebb and flow of the audio ecosystem.


The Radio industry’s belief has long been that growth in Streaming Audio usage would largely “supplement” broadcast Radio usage, not necessarily “substitute” for it.  Radio’s position was that the listening experiences and programming offerings were vastly different and that each was being used at different times, for different reasons. When people want to be connected to the world they’d tune to Radio and when they wanted to retreat into their own world, they’d tune to a Streaming Music Service.

The consensus within the broadcast industry was that any Streaming Audio growth would primarily impact CD and MP3 usage. The logic was simple, CD’s and MP3’s comprise people’s personal music collection and the juke box-like Streaming Audio listening experience is far more similar to the CD and MP3 than to broadcast Radio.

Some light can now be shed on this debate. USA TouchPoints enables the user to conduct an unprecedented, deep dive into U.S. listening habits across all audio listening options.  The data used for this analysis is quite robust in that it is extracted from approximately 270,000 eDiary entries spanning almost 250,000 hours of American life.

For this analysis, “Broadcast Radio” was defined as listening to over-the-air AM/FM only, while “Streaming Audio” includes listening to all Streaming Music Services as well as listening to AM/FM streams. When comparing the most recent batch of USA Touchpoints data (January-June 2013) with the same period to the previous year, we see:

  • CD/MP3/iPod share of daily audio minutes fell from 22% of all audio usage to 17% of all audio usage, a loss of 23%.
  • Streaming Audio’s share of daily minutes grew from 7% of all audio usage to 10% of all audio usage, a gain of 43%.
  • Satellite’s share of daily audio minutes was steady at 10%.
  • Broadcast Radio’s share of daily audio minutes was up slightly to 63% of all audio usage from 61%, a gain of 3%.

Updated data should become available and there will likely be twists and turns in the coming months and years ahead but the only single-source audio data that’s currently available, indicates that broadcast Radio has been maintaining its dominance and audience within the audio ecosystem, while Streaming Audio’s growth appears to be coming largely at the expense of CD’s and MP3’s.

–Bob McCurdy, Former President Katz Marketing Solutions

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