ACMA reports shows an increase of streaming, decrease in radios and time spent listening steady

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have released two reports based on information gathered last year, one about how we access news, and the other how we watch and listen to content. Very broadly speaking, for audio, music streaming has overtaken radio listening for the first time, podcast listening remained unchanged and the ABC is people’s first choice for radio news. But there’s more to this data.

If we start with radio ownership at home, you will see that 44% still own one, down from 70% in 2017. Metro areas is lower still, 41%, with just over 50% of regional homes still possessing a radio. I wondered if this included devices like a smart speaker, which has indeed replaced the radio in my kitchen.

I would also like to know how this question was phrased. Was it, do you own a radio? Or, do you use a radio in your house? Currently I don’t ‘use’ a radio, in the traditional sense in my home, but I ‘own’ at least twenty of them. That’s excessive I know, but relevant to the industry I work in, and a penchant for collecting antiques. Two are functional battery-operated ones on standby with additional batteries, candles, lighters and torches in case of emergency. Considering recent wild weather, telco power outages and Meta starting to deny us access to news, I would hope that those who no longer own one, might seriously consider rectifying that.

In the how we access news report, radio and podcasts are well behind television and social media. Every single news consumption platform dropped between 2022 and 2023. Is is because post Covid we are accessing it less? Or because we are less interested in news in general? Like with a physical radio, honest and reliable news services have never been more important.

The breakdown of what news we listen to was even more fascinating with the ABC, from triple j to News Radio ALL ahead of every other option of commercial and community radio. And applause to community radio as, in most relied upon, they were 1% behind 3AW and 2GB. I realise that many hundreds of stations are included under the community radio (and ABC) umbrella, but for some regions their news may be a lifeline.

It would be easy to say, when looking at the type of audio we are listening to, that AM and FM radio consumption has dropped. It has. DAB+ listening hasn’t grown either according to this report, and most striking is the huge drop off in online listening to radio, again probably attributable to working from home and post pandemic side effects.

Finally in time spent listening there’s some better news. From the report:

Base: average hours among listeners of the relevant audio media service, in the previous 7 days to June 2023.

  • Time spent listening across audio media services remained steady (9.3 hours compared with 9.2 in 2022).
  • Users of online music streaming services spent more time listening (9.0 hours) than users of all other services.
  • Of those who listened to digital radio (DAB+), younger Australians spent less time compared with all older age groups. On average, those aged 18–24 listened for 1.4 hours and those aged 25–34 listened for 3.5 hours.
  • Of those who listened to FM radio, people who lived in regional areas spent more time listening (7.5 hours) than those who live in metropolitan areas (5.5 hours)

Within these two reports are pearls of wisdom. Firstly, trust is still so important for a news outlet. Secondly, there remains a love of listening to audio outside of times when we are physically (the car) and socially (pandemic) trapped and in regional Australia. Lastly, we have returned to “business as usual”, and if anything, are showing that they would rather seek out an outlet of release (stream a movie / listen to music) than an additional stressor (the national news / keep a radio operational in case of emergency). There’s value for networks in this subtext.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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