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Radio is Still Tops, But…

In a November survey by Morgan Stanley (released this week and reported in Quartz), more than 2,000 American adults were asked what audio platforms they used. Their answers:


Now this question is roughly analogous to what broadcasters would call “reach.” It does not really address frequency of usage or “time spent listening.”

Radio tops the list with 86% of respondents saying it’s part of their usage routine. That’s by far the highest number (although not as high as Nielsen wants us to believe).

YouTube ranks next, but YouTube is a lean forward experience for music – you’re looking for something specific when you use YouTube. Radio is much more “lean back,” and so is Pandora.

Pandora, at 33%, is used by almost 40% as many folks as use traditional radio. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

And it’s ahead of iHeartRadio and SiriusXM by a wide margin, not to mention iTunes Radio, which is clearly struggling (and, I would argue, not likely to be struggling less once Beats is fully absorbed).

Podcasts rank next – showing up lower here than the hyperventilated buzz in the technology press would have us believe, but very much in line with recent estimates and on par with Spotify.

After that the long tail gets long indeed. And where is TuneIn? Probably mid-ranked (had they asked about it), I’m guessing. And quite possibly ahead of iHeartRadio.

The Quartz piece seems almost befuddled by radio’s continuing success:

The enduring strength of radio is probably best explained by the automobile. About half of all radio listening takes place in the car, where radio remains dominant relative to satellite and internet services.

One would hope that radio’s enduring strength is also explained by the fact that audiences like it, and its success cannot simply be dismissed because in cars it’s the only girl on the proverbial dance floor.

So what’s interesting about this chart is not that radio tops it. I would have expected that. It’s that radio’s score is far from universal, and radio’s lead over Pandora in particular is not as overwhelming as we might have imagined.

I wonder what this chart would look like if it were filtered only on folks under age 35?

And do you know what it means about the future of the radio industry? It means that every player on this list is in it. Plan accordingly.

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