The smartphone is one of the most influential consumer electronics categories of the last 20 years. It certainly influences how Americans listen to radio and internet-delivered audio. At RAIN Summit West, Edison Research President Larry Rosin brought new metrics about smartphone listening from Edison’s ongoing Share of Ear and Infinite Dial consumer surveys.
Edison Research estimates that 207-million American teens and adults own a smartphone — that’s 76% percent of the non-child population. As the listening metrics unfold, it’s worth keeping that “reach” in mind, juxtaposed against the much-publicized 93% overall reach of AM/FM reported by Nielsen. In the 12-24 age group, that already high smartphone reach soars to … exactly 93%.
Smartphones and online radio
Infinite Dial also documents how growth of online radio listening correlates to smartphone ownership:
In the Share of Ear work, which canvasses for all sources of listening according to various filters, 19% of time spent listening to all audio is spent on a smartphone. This compares to 51% of time spent listening to all audio is spent on radio receivers. (The Infinite Dial asserts that radio receiver ownership is on the decline — and that is before connected cars become a majority part of the American fleet.)
Move the demographic downward to the 13-34 group, and smartphone listening grows: 35% of time spent listening to all audio is spent on a smartphone.
At the RAIN Summit, Larry Rosin explained how dramatic is the demographic influence: when surveyed about listening to audio on smartphones, 11% of the 55+ age group listened to audio on a smartphone on the day they were surveyed, whereas in the 13-24 age group, 68% listened with a smartphone on the day they were surveyed.
This demographic shift is too tectonic to disregard. Over two-thirds of the youngest group, representing the future of mainstream listening, used the phone for listening on the day they were surveyed. The smartphone is overwhelmingly the emergent audio device.
“The smartphone is rapidly becoming the personal entertainment hub,” said Steve Goldstein, Founder & CEO of Amplifi Media. “That’s good for podcasting and streaming. Not so good for linear radio.” Goldstein’s full commentary on the Edison work is here.
Steve Goldstein particularly notes what it is that consumers listen to on the phone. It’s not a lot of traditional radio — only 9% of smartphone audio listening time is with AM/FM. In the 13-34 age group, that number drops to 6%. Most of the rest is owned music (downloads) and streaming music.
This is where “reach” is threatened, from two directions: device shift, and age shift. The trend logic is unassailable. Smartphone ownership is deeply penetrated. Listening to online radio grows with smartphone ownership. Both these trends are accelerated in younger consumers, who represent the future mainstream.
That’s why, two years ago, at RAIN Summit West 2014, keynote speaker Jason Calacanis held up his phone and intoned, “This is the only thing that matters. This is the only thing that matters. This is the only thing that matters.”
The shift is on.