Has Pandora Peaked With Audio Streamers?


Of the many key takeaways presented Thursday by Edison Research and Triton Digital in their co-hosted Infinite Dial 2017 webinar on digital media consumer behavior, none stood out more than where Pandora stands today as a source for new music and how it is consumed on a weekly basis.

The trends aren’t good, whereas Spotify and traditional AM and FM radio stations are holding their own.

In its 19th year, the Infinite Dial study looks at the usage of online radio and podcasting, in addition to social media. The latest report was conducted in January and February 2017, with 2,000 respondents aged 12+ participating in either English or Spanish through a random-digit dialing outreach to both landlines and mobile phones.

With Edison Research VP/Strategy and Marketing Tom Webster and John Rosso, President of Market Development of Triton Digital, co-presenting, the latest Infinite Dial finds that online radio reaches 61% of the 12+ population, up from 57% in 2016.

The largest segment of consumers continue to be persons 12-24, with online radio consumed by 87% of respondents in this group in 2017, up from 79% in 2016.


It’s also growing among adults 25-54, to 70% from 65% in the first two months of 2016.

But the biggest takeaway with overall online radio consumption is that it is becoming a more regular habit for those 55+.

The biggest surprise? Time Spent Listening to online radio is way up.TritonDigital

Over the past two years, TSL eroded. But, it grew to 14:39 per week in 2017. That’s up from 12:08 in 2016, and sets a new peak, sailing ahead of the 13 minutes, 19 seconds mark set in 2014.

Where the trouble starts for Pandora comes in usage, and trends — in particular by demo.

Awareness is strong, with Pandora enjoying 86% brand awareness among all Infinite Dial respondents. This compares to 71% brand awareness for iHeart, and 62% for Spotify. There are also “lots of brands” that appear, something that Webster and Rosso note as important, for it shows a vibrant space for streaming audio services.

Yet, the data show it’s more competitive than ever. Pandora continues to be the usage leader, with 32% of respondents using the service. By comparison, Spotify is used by 18% of respondents, and iHeart is used by 13% of respondents. Interestingly, TuneIn is used by just 3% of Infinite Dial participants.

Spotify and iHeart are growing. Pandora is not: usage among respondents peaked in 2015, and dropped slightly in 2016. It is unchanged from 2016 to 2017.

If persons 12-24 are the key drivers of digital audio consumption, Pandora’s got problems. Among consumers in this age group, Pandora’s usage percentage has shrunk from 54% in 2015 to 39% in 2017.

Meanwhile, Spotify is gaining on Pandora among persons 25-54, with Pandora seeing flat year-over-year growth in 201.

Overall, listening in the last seven days among persons 12+ shows Pandora still dominant, at 23%. However, that’s down from 25% in January-February 2016. At the same time, Spotify is up to 15%, from 10%.

Listening in the last seven days in the key Persons 12-24 demo is particularly abysmal for Pandora, as Spotify grew from 25% to 38%, year-over-year, while Pandora dipped from 35% to 30% in the same time period.

This trend, as shown in the graph below, is being replicated among respondents aged 25-54.


Furthermore, when it comes to new music discovery among teens and young adults, minus family/friends, the top source is YouTube. Then comes Spotify, followed by traditional radio.

In fact, radio continues to be the top source for new music discovery. But, it has shrunk among respondents from 28% in 2016 to 19% in 2017.

Spotify surged from 4% to 10% year-over-year as a source of new music for Infinite Dial participants.


Among the other top findings from the latest Infinite Dial study:

  • ONLINE LISTENING IN THE CAR to streamed radio stations (not music stored on one’s smartphone) hit 40% of respondents in 2017, up from 37% in 2016.
  • Some 81% of respondents own a smartphone. Among respondents aged 55+, some 60% own a smartphone, a jump from 51% in 2016
  • Of persons aged 12-24, just 5% do not have a smartphone (up from 7%)
  • Tablet ownership is growing at a meager rate. In 2017 some 53% of respondents own a tablet. This is up 51% in 2016 and 49% in 2015.
  • Internet-connected TV ownership is on a steady climb, to 64% in 2017, up from 60% in 2016.


Looking at “Over-The-Top” video consumption, some 50% of respondents 12+ have access to a Netflix account.

This compares to 29% for Amazon Prime (up from 22% in 2016) and 14% for Hulu (a healthy jump from 9% in ’16).

“Original content is surely a part of it,” Webster said.


On the subject of smart speaker awareness, it seems familiarity is not equal to ownership. When asked if they were familiar with the Amazon Alexa brand, 57% of all respondents said yes. For Google Home, it was 45%.

But, just 5% of respondents 12+ own an Alexa-enabled device. Google Home? Only 2% of respondents said they owned one.