Larry Rosin: Can Radio Station Simulcasts Compete on Smartphones?

larry rosin contributor logo canvasThis guest column is contributed by Larry Rosin, President of Edison Research. It was first published on The Infinite Dial blog.

Last month at the Radio Days Europe conference in Milan, Italy, I was privileged to present the findings of a unique research project along with Rüdiger Landgraf of KroneHit Radio in Austria and German radio consultant Christian Schalt. It was titled “Stream Battle” and a unique inquiry.

We gave 21 women in Krone’s target group a special smartphone that had only four apps available — Spotify (free version), Pandora (specially configured to work in Austria), the station app for KroneHit and for their main competitor Ö3. In addition we installed a data-tracking app with the participants’ knowledge so we could track their usage.

Kurt Hanson wrote a nice piece about our presentation here. At the end of the piece he quotes Christian Schalt saying: “Mere simulcasts will not save you.” This was indeed one of our main findings — even with some nice enhancements, the Ö3 app, which only provides a simulcast stream, came in last among the four possibilities.

And so I’m going to devote my next several posts to the question in the headline — how competitive are radio station simulcasts in the Smartphone environment? We can start by looking at Triton Digital’s data over time. As the graph below shows, if one just compares Pandora to the top five radio companies’ streams — the story is pretty clear.

larry rosin - pandora breakaway growth

It’s almost hard to remember at this point but a little over five years ago, simulcasts made up the majority of online radio usage. Then over the last several years Pandora has enjoyed consistent growth while the market for simulcasts is pretty much flat. As I argued in this post, one can clearly connect this growth to the adoption of smartphones. Of course if all pureplays were added to the Pandora line and all radio station simulcasts were added to the ‘radio’ line, the differences would be even more dramatic.

But the above graph includes both desktop and mobile. In my next post I’ll use other data to zoom in on the mobile environment.


Larry Rosin


  1. The study is flawed for two reasons.

    1. They used Pandora, everyone outside the US is chomping at the bit to have it if it ever gets to their country, noting also what happened in AU/NZ when they launched there.

    2. They used only two OTA stations, which do not represent the depth and breadth of the listening choices available via online streaming services such as TuneIn. TuneIn, or a similar service (there may be others besides iHeartRadio, but iHeart is still narrow on account of its limited OTA station feed catalog).

    If the study had used Spotify and another service available in Austria, TuneIn, and the other matters, that would have made the data much more believable. As it is, on account of that, the data is both skewed and flawed, and does not represent what the subjects of the study will do with an actual smartphone with apps of their choice installed on them. (ditto for tablets).

  2. It is difficult to know and easy to argue the results of the EU study. One reasonable conclusion from looking at the study and the latest Triton results. Listeners have voted and the terrestrial signal designed for the last century with its supposed “localism” is not winning the day. There are some great brands out there but they need to be tailored for online and the 21st century. Heres a hint start with the commercial load.

  3. It strikes me that this line graph may be missing a couple of other lines: 1) the # of “active sessions” listening to downloaded music; and 2) the # of “active sessions” listening to music on CDs, cassettes, etc. My guess is that those lines might show something approaching freefall, pointing to what could be the real horse race here — that is, listening to personal music via downloads, CDs etc. vs. listening to personalized music via Pandora, Spotify etc.

    Just because Pandora chooses to call itself “radio,” we should be careful to assume that means it displaces listening to live, local radio. Declining sales of physical and digital music suggest that there’s probably more at play here.

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