A new study funded by three leaders in music streaming says Internet radio -- including on-demand services -- is used by 53% of online adults age 12 and over. "The New Mainstream," the study was presented Tuesday at Advertising Week by Larry Rosin, the president of Edison Research.
The main takeaway: For the first time, over half of online Americans 12 and over listen to Internet radio. (This doesn't include any impact from Apple's just-launched iTunes Radio.) That threshold is mostly symbolic, but the market changes have real implications to music companies. Growth in Internet radio shifts promotional power away from broadcast radio. It also shifts listening hours to platforms that pay performance royalties to artists and labels.
"The New Mainstream" was carried out by Edison Research and funded by the Streaming Audio Task Force, a new coalition of Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn. Billboard has been told the Task Force was created to release market research related to Internet radio and has no political aspirations.  
There are three other noteworthy items in this study: how Internet radio was defined, the fast growth of Internet radio and where people listen to Internet radio. All three add to an understanding of the survey's results.
First, Edison defines Internet radio as personalized radio (think Pandora), live streaming (think iHeartRadio or TuneIn) and on-demand streaming (think Spotify). While the first two typically fall under the definition of Internet radio, on-demand streaming is a different type of service in both practical and legal senses. So, it's common to classify services like Pandora as Internet radio and on-demand services like Spotify as subscription services. But they're similar in one important way: advertising. It makes sense to group the three segments together when pitching these numbers to potential advertisers.
Second, adoption of Internet radio usage appears to have grown quickly in 2013. Edison says Internet radio is used by 53% of Americans over the age of 11 (90% listen to AM/FM radio). That's up from 45% in an Edison and Arbitron survey conducted in January and February and released as the "Infinite Dial" report in April.
Part of that increase could stem from small differences in the surveys. The "Infinite Dial" survey covers both online and offline Americans age 12 and over, according to Edison Research's Tom Webster. "The New Mainstream" did not survey offline Americans. It stands to reason that the exclusion of offline radio listeners in "The New Mainstream" survey would produce different results than the "Infinite Dial" survey. In addition, the two surveys used different language to measure adoption. "The New Mainstream" survey asks if people if they "currently ever" listen to Internet radio. Webster says that language equates to people identifying themselves as Internet radio listeners. The resulting figure, he adds, is roughly equivalent to monthly Internet radio listeners.
Regardless of the differences in surveys, Webster emphasizes that Edison is comfortable saying that for the first time a majority of online Americans use Internet radio.
Third, Internet radio has huge growth opportunity in the car. In the home, 57% of people listen to AM/FM and 42% listen to Internet radio. But AM/FM dominates in the car with 83% usage compared to Internet radio's 17%. The two are nearly equal at work: 24% listen to AM/FM and 23% listen to Internet radio.
While broadcast radio continues to have a powerful place in the market, Internet radio has momentum. Two-thirds of people surveyed said they are listening to more Internet radio than a year ago. Just 6% are listening to it less. The arrival of iTunes Radio could give Internet radio even more momentum.