The amount of time Americans spend with streaming audio skyrocketed in the past year, especially on mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads. There are even bigger gains among Hispanics and African-Americans. At the same time, Nielsen’s latest Total Audience Report shows the amount of time spent tuning into over-the-air broadcasts also inched higher.
“With all the challenges and the new places for people to listen to music, the fact that radio usage is flat or even a little up is pretty significant,” Nielsen VP of audience insights, Jon Miller, says. “I think it speaks to the power of the medium.”
The data showcases just how important radio’s mobility will be to consumers in the coming years. According to Nielsen, smartphone streaming audio consumption doubled in the past year with the typical adult spending 34 minutes per week listening to audio programming on their smartphone. That’s twice the 17 minutes of listening reported a year earlier.
There’s an even larger increase in tablet-based listening. Nielsen says the typical adult listened to streaming audio on their tablet for 14 minutes per week during the first quarter, more than three times as much as the 4 minutes reported last year.
Some of the gain of listening on mobile devices may come at the expense of desktop computer listening. Nielsen says the average adult spent 7 minutes per week listening to streaming audio on their desktop, down a minute from the first quarter of 2015.
“This is more evidence that we are not seeing a decline in analog AM/FM,” says Stacey Schulman, executive VP of analytics at Katz Media Group. Schulman thinks broadcasters aren’t currently getting enough credit on the streaming side of the ledger. “Agency people think radio is dead because it’s all being taken over by streaming, but radio stations are streaming,” Schulman says. “That’s our content too.”
Yet streaming audio’s gains aren’t cannibalizing broadcast radio listening according to Nielsen. The report reveals the typical adult (18+) listened to broadcast radio for 13 hours and 1 minute during the first quarter of this year. That’s an increase of 0.3% compared to the 12 hours and 58 minutes they spent listening to over-the-air programming a year earlier. In an increasingly crowded media universe where the pull toward digital has never been stronger, even a small increase for traditional radio listening is noteworthy.
The report also reveals the growth rate of streaming listening hours is even stronger among Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Nielsen says Hispanic adults average 53 minutes per week listening to audio on their smartphone. That’s a 48% increase from last year and that makes the demographic group the most smartphone audio-focused. At the same time, Hispanics continue to spend more time listening to AM/FM radio than any other group—an average of 13 hours and 42 minutes per week.
Among African-Americans, listening to over-the-air radio held steady during the past year at 13 hours and 29 minutes per week. That’s nearly a half-hour more than radio listeners overall. Black’s time spent listening to audio on their smartphone jumped 46% year-over-year while tablet-based listening increased more than five-fold.
Nielsen VP of audience insights Jon Miller says it shouldn’t be surprising. “When we look at radio usage overall we see Hispanics and African-Americans are generally the biggest users and spend the most time with the medium, so they’re predisposed to being big radio users and now they’re also leading the way toward streaming,” he says.
Nielsen’s data is more limited in the Asian-American segment, but it too shows sizeable increases in the amount of time this demo spends listening to audio on their phone.
“Overall, the numbers point to the health of the audio market and are indicative of its long-term capability of reaching an incredible number of people each day,” says Maribeth Papuga, a veteran Madison Avenue media executive and now a local media consultant for BIA/Kelsey. She has been studying the audio usage data for years and says the patterns—not the exact rankings of each media channel—are where she puts the most focus. “The AM/FM channels will continue to hold higher share but they are also available across new distribution channels, which help sencourage more listening across a wider audience,” Papuga says.
Download the full Nielsen report HERE.