Radio’s Latest ‘Share Of Ear’: 50 Percent


Edison Research has released its third-quarter 2016 “Share of Ear” study, and there’s some good news for radio.

Among all U.S. persons aged 13 and older, some 50% spend their audio time with traditional AM and FM stations.

That’s substantially higher than nearly every other choice presented to respondents, with the second choice — “owned music” — nabbing 14% of their time spent listening to audio.

This “authoritative and definitive view of how Americans consume audio content” also happens to paint a bleak picture for digital choices and satellite radio.

Here are some of the key findings in the latest “Share of Ear” report:

  • American time spent with personally owned music is down 8.6% year-over-year. This confirms that many Americans are now “renting” their music from services such as Spotify and Netflix, rather than purchasing it via CDs and DVDs. With music purchases down, the share of American audio time spent to owned music dropped from 15.1% in Q3 2015 to 13.8% in the just-completed quarter.


  • YouTube is the No. 1 streaming audio service. The audience share of consumers who listen to YouTube music videos surged by 28% year-over-year, from a 5.9 share in Q3 ’15 to a 7.6 share in Q3 ’16.


  • Pandora audience shares are stagnant. Over the last year, Pandora’s audience share has been stuck in the mid-6s. “Their growth has stalled,” Edison finds. Meanwhile, on-demand services such as YouTube and Spotify have soared.


Meanwhile, Spotify has seen its growth tempered, while listening to Apple Music is steady shrinking.

“The takeaway: Apple is not a media company and is struggling to compete in the already crowded digital audio space,” says Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer of Cumulus|Westwood One, who distributed the “Share of Ear” analysis conducted by his team of the Edison data.


Meanwhile, Sirius XM continues to receive a sliver of audio time among respondents, with podcasts even smaller in total share.

Every quarter, 2,000 respondents keep a 24-hour log to record audio usage.

Each quarterly “Share of Ear” study reflects 8,000 respondents, representing a rolling four-quarter average.

RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Wow! Look at radio! I guess every single one of my friends who listens to music every day didn’t get the call to participate in the Edison Research survey, because I know so many people in their 20s, 30s and 40s that listen to the radio every day — but not for music. They listen to Bobby Bones. They listen to Elvis Duran. They enjoy The Woody Show, or NPR’s Morning Edition, or tune to WCBS-AM for traffic reports while driving in to the City. That’s why we’re going into the RBR + TVBR P.E. Department and throwing a Red Card out at this “authoritative and definitive view of how Americans consume audio content” for obfuscation. We don’t debate that radio’s “share of ear” is 50%. But, we strongly contend that these respondents aren’t coming to the radio for music. If so, then how do you explain the proliferation of Sirius XM, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Amazon Music, Apple Music and all of those internet-only streams and podcasts? We want radio to win, but we don’t want to be cheerleaders, and understanding the “Share of Ear” survey requires the understanding that people coming to AM and FM radio are coming for different reasons than if they were to go to YouTube or Pandora or Sirius XM. AM/FM wins because of unique talent, top personalities and unrivaled consumer connectivity. To take a cue from Randy Michaels, that ain’t done from playing Timmy Thomas records. Or Justin Bieber. If for any minute music stations think they’re getting more “share of ear” than all of those digital choices, I have to go edit Street Talk as I prepare the next edition of R&R TODAY because you’re living in the past.

Adam R Jacobson