Infinite Dial 2023: Online audio, in-car listening, podcasting growth stories (25th anniversary)

Welcome to RAIN News industry-leading coverage of The Infinite Dial 2023, the celebratory 25th anniversary of the longest-running and most authoritative survey of digital media consumer behavior in America.

Since 1998, this survey of American listening, device usage, and social media trends has built epochal timelines charting American consumption and preferences.

We thank the leadership of Edison Research for their assistance in producing this coverage.

70% adoption of online audio

One of the foundational statistics in the measurement of American listening is the percentage of Americans who listen to online audio. When this survey started (in 1998), that key number was 6%. In 2023 in it 70% — and that is not a “have ever listened” percentage — it is listening in the last week.

The long timeline below shows growth of monthly online listening to online audio; it tracks the emergence of an historical epoch:

In the smart speaker department, we learn that 36% of respondents own at least one of them; that’s an estimated 103-million. The percentage of households owning three or smore of the devices has grown to 38% from last year’s 33%.

Audiobook listening is covered in The Infinite Dial, where we learn usage reaches a new high in 2023: it is 53 percent of respondents, translating to an estimated 152-million people who have ever consumed an audiobook.

Getting back to online audio consumption, Edison’s survey asked about brand awareness of streaming platforms. Pandora is the most recognized brand at 84%, followed by Spotify (82%) and iHeartRadio (78%).

Despite Pandora’s leading position in brand awareness, it is Spotify which leads in brand usage for listening to online audio brands (34%) … and YouTube Music is in second place (23%). Pandora takes the #3 spot with 17%. This question is about listening in the last month. The same order is in place for weekly listening.

In-car Listening

Eighty-seven percent of respondents have ridden in a car within a month of being surveyed. Additionally, car use has risen as Covid restrictions have waned; 78% of respondents work primarily outside the home (up from 75% last year and 70% in 2021 when Covid really locked the doors).

So, what are people listening to on the road? The radio industry’s claim of supremacy is borne out, with 73% of respondents listening to AM/FM, the same figure as last year. “Owned digital music” is next, at 53%. From there it is a fairly steep drop to podcasts at 38%, and online audio just below.

Mobile operating systems (mainly Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) are used by an estimated 65-million people, or 26% of respondents. Listening straight through a cell phone is sometimes the choice for 53% of the survey group.


The headline points in this attention-getting category:
  • An estimated 237-million people (83%) are familiar with podcasting
  • An estimated 183-million people (64%) have ever listened to a podcast
  • Monthly podcast listening: 42%, 120-million people
  • Weekly podcast listening: 31%, 89-million
That monthly podcast listening metric above solves a worry in last year’s Infinite Dial, in which monthly listening dropped a few percentage points, disrupting a 14-year upward trendline:
Men listen a little more than women in an average month (46% to 39%). Most of the listening is in a broad 12-54 group. The 55+ cohort is less involved in monthly podcast listening.

Weekly listening? We watch this trend carefully; to our thinking, a weekly listener is more committed to the category, perhaps aligned with at least one show which produces weekly episodes. Last year that number dropped (as did monthlies above), but the metric is repaired for 2023, at 31% (estimated 89-million).

Following this, how many podcasts do weekly listeners consume? The following graphic illustrates a story of enthusiastic listening:

Edison’s Observations

  • Data appears to reflect “post-pandemic”: on pattern from previous years
  • Online audio hits new highs
  • Advertisers need to move more of their budgets to audio in all its forms
  • Podcast is “back,” reaching the highest numbers ever, with 90-million listeners each week.

The Infinite Dial 2023 is available from Edison Research HERE

Brad Hill