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Forget about Share-of-Ear


“Share-of-ear.” It’s a mantra among broadcasters nowadays. And I’m going to explain why you should forget about it.

You know what it means: We compare the time listened to radio with time devoted to other audio forms: Online radio, podcasting, mp3’s, whatever.

The theory holds that any platform’s “share-of-ear” comes largely at the expense of any other audio-centric platform. So when podcasting listenership grows, that means radio listening (for example) might shrink. I can only hear one thing at a time, naturally.

Assuming I’m listening to something to begin with.

You see, share-of-ear is seriously flawed in that it assumes audio consumption is and must be static. It assumes that consumers won’t listen to more audio even as more audio is available all while there remain huge gaps of audio silence in the average consumer’s day.

Recent research has shown that consumers are ingesting more content across more platforms than ever – and doing it concurrently. How else to explain why Americans are consuming almost an hour more media per day than they did in 2011?


While radio listening is down, audio is bigger than any distribution channel – and it’s the perfect compliment to any activity that doesn’t already have its own soundtrack.

Meanwhile anyone who has ever scanned a crowd has seen folks staring into their mobile phones, detached from their earbuds, listening to…nothing.

I call that an opportunity. And share-of-ear pretends it does not exist.

Instead of share-of-ear, we should be concerned with share-of-time and share-of-attention. Those metrics place audio where it belongs: On equal footing with every other delightful distraction consumers demand.

Share-of-ear places zero value on moments where consumers are not listening to audio but could be and might be. Is that fair?

Maybe there’s a reason folks aren’t listening. Or maybe there isn’t. Either way that empty audio white space is comprised of countless would-be listening occasions, tons of time that could be spent listening.

Remember, the absence of listening is not the absence of listening potential.

Maybe folks simply need to be reminded there’s something worth listening to and it’s there for the hearing right now.

Isn’t that why Spotify and others are building playlists around activities rather than genres?

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