The Continuing Growth of Streaming Audio

By Dave Perkins

The landscape in which radio consumers listen to their audio continues to change rapidly.  Back in the day, it was only standard AM and FM signals you had to choose from, but as technology evolved, those choices became more numerous and catered to the listener.  In fact, alternatives such as digital (or streaming) audio and podcasts are beginning to dominate.

While the overall radio listening universe remains stable, the options listeners have now redirected them to digital platforms to hear their content.  As of 2021, 1 hour and 34 minutes per day is now spent listening to digital audio, a 4.8% increase from 2020.   This is expected to continue to grow into 2022 at 1:37, another 3.6% increase.  (EMarketer, US Time Spent with Media 2021 Update, 2/4/2021)

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According to AudioGo, 74% of adults aged 25 to 54 are streaming music, news, and podcasts on a regular basis.  Streaming platforms that have experienced the largest increases include Pandora (+42%) and iHeart Radio (+11%), while Spotify has stayed relatively flat.  The increase in listening to radio on mobile apps and smart speakers has continued to help drive this growth.

Podcasts are experiencing the biggest boom for types of formats consumed.  55% of American have listened to a podcast and now, more than 1 in 3 listens monthly. The average listener now streams podcasts 6 hours and 39 minutes each month.  Since podcasting has become so popular, everybody is jumping in the game.  There are now over 850,000 active podcasts shows, up from 500,000 in 2018.   (AudioGo, Audio Advertising Tends You Can’t ignore in 2021, 1-28-2021)

So which age groups are listening to these podcasts?  Listeners from 12-34 are the most popular, making up 56% of the listenership, while 39% are aged 35-54.  (Business2Community, Numbers and Facts YouNeed to Know About Audio Content, 4-16-2021).

Expect these trends to increase as we continue into the 2020s.  Radio stations must continue to reinvent themselves by adjusting their formats to cater to specific audiences while also making their stations available with online streaming and mobile app opportunities (which many already have.)