Audio listening in the U.S. is at an all-time high, driven by millennials and Gen Z music fans, who listen to more content than all others — more types, more often and from more sources.
A new study conducted in March by market research firm Ipsos, and commissioned by iHeartMedia, finds that American audio listeners aged 13 to 64 spend an average of 17.2 hours per week tuning in to radio stations, streaming services, podcasts and other audio providers. For millennials and Gen Z, groups the study terms "the audio generation," that number is 18 hours per week, and 2.6 hours or more per day.
The study also reflects a growth in podcast listening, similarly led — surprise, surprise — by younger generations. Recently, the Edison Infinite Dial 2019 study reported that podcast listening is up 48 percent among Americans aged 12-24 compared to two years ago. And according to the iHeartMedia study, podcasts now represent almost 10 percent of audio listening among millennials, with podcasts replacing online video as a daytime escape.
“Audio is hot right now and a must for marketers looking to reach increasingly elusive and fractured audiences," comments iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman. "If you look at the data, it’s undeniable that consumers are listening more and watching less and this study outlines when, where and why.
"Contrary to some misperceptions," he continues, "it shows we are living in an audio-first world by drilling down a more granular overview of audio listenership and showing what a day-in-the-life of the average listener is like when it comes to media consumption.”
Radio remains the most popular method of audio consumption, according to the study, reaching 85 percent of all American consumers each week (compared to 68 percent for audio channels on social media and 56 percent for live television audio). Notably, radio garners two times the daily listening power of streaming services, reaching 69 percent of consumers compared to streaming music’s 34 percent. (Even so, more younger consumers appear to be abandoning radio in favor of digital-only listening on their phones, as a separate Edison study recently reported.)
Most people get their audio fix on-the-go, with 65 percent of listening done outside the home and most often in the car — where radio accounts for 65 percent of in-vehicle audio listening.
The continued domination of radio is aided in part by the rise of smart speakers. According to that same Inifite Dial study, nearly a quarter of all Americans aged 12 or older now own a smart speaker, up from a mere 7 percent in 2017. And the new iHeartMedia research found that listeners who have smart speakers at home have spent 47 percent more time listening to radio during prime hours (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) than those who don't.
“Radio has long been a trusted companion for people of all ages, so it’s no surprise that it continues to be the premier destination when people want to connect with others and their community,” adds Gayle Troberman, CMO of iHeartMedia. “The only difference now versus decades ago is that today people can enjoy that connection anywhere they are across a variety of platforms.”
The new information forecasts tough competition — and the possibility of tremendous rewards — for the exploding podcast industry. Sony, Universal and Warner have all recently entered the original podcast sphere. Meanwhile, Spotify has acquired several podcasting firms (Gilmet, Parcast and Anchor) as part of an overall push into the podcast market, and just inked a partnership with none other than Barack and Michelle Obama to produce a new podcast series.