Radio still rules. Most audio consumption is passive listening done by people who value convenience, according to a new Nielsen study. Called the Audio Demand Landscape, the study breaks American consumers into six segments according to listening habits and favored formats.
Three groups of radio listeners are 54 percent of audio listeners and 45 percent of all audio listening. Convenience-Seeking Traditionalists, 17 percent of the population, prefer broadcast radio and listen in the car. Background Driving Defaulters, 14 percent of the population, listen to car radio in the background. The Music-Loving Personalizers, 23 percent of the population, play music in the background and prefer free services.
Nielsen's study presents a different look at audio listeners. Most research shows listening activity across a wide swatch of listeners. Numerous studies track how many Americans, and the number in young demographics, listen to various audio formats. Nielsen's approach recognizes that different consumer groups have different listening objectives and gravitate toward different audio formats.
But Nielsen's study also helps explain the interest in Internet radio. Why have Apple and Amazon ventured into Pandora's territory with radio or radio-like services built for the masses? Because the masses are passive listeners unlikely to invest time and money in on-demand music services that require active participation.
The most avid listeners account for the third-most listening time. The Discriminating Audiophiles group makes up 18% of both the population and listening time. Nielsen calls these consumers "highly engaged" music fans that enjoy a range of audio options and are willing to pay for specific content.
Only two of the six segments, Techie Audio Enthusiasts and Discriminating Audiophiles, are both highly engaged with music and seem likely to pay for content. Nielsen defines Techie Audio Enthusiasts as "avid consumers of many types of audio" and "early adopters of new platforms to meet their audio needs."
The latter two segments account for 31% of audio listeners, or somewhere around 75 million people, based on Nielsen's estimate of 244 million weekly radio listeners age 12 and over.