How are people listening to audio in 2018?

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Last week, we saw two sets of brilliant research made available to radio people.

The first was from the UK – the audio measurement company RAJAR released their quarterly MIDAS research for Winter 2017. MIDAS stands for “Measurement of Internet Delivered Audio Services”, and this piece of additional research details how people are consuming audio, how, and where.

There are lots of positives for radio in here. Radio still accounts for 75% of all audio listened-to by the average Brit: a number that slides to 50% for 15-24s, but still an impressive figure. Those that claim that something – anything – killed the radio star are in for a surprise.

On-demand radio, in the form of “podcasts” and “listen again” – the difference is subtle and probably best left to a conversation over a pint – is also strong. Podcasts – strongest in the 25-34 age-group – are now reaching 6.1 million UK adults (11% of the population).

There are two interesting peaks for podcast use – the early evening at about 6pm is one, but the more surprising peak is at about 8.30am, around the peak time for radio use. The graph is a bit ugly, but it looks as though about a fifth of radio’s audience have chosen to listen to podcasts in the morning (and they could be doing both, to be clear).

The MIDAS data also does a good job of highlighting the difference between devices. You might remember that I’ve been blathering on about how I think loudspeakers and headphones lead to different types of listening. That data appears to be visible here (slide 10) – only 22% of audio listening is to live radio on a smartphone, yet on a laptop, desktop or tablet it’s the most popular audio consumed (at around 35%). Once more, it appears to be relatively obvious that live radio works best on loudspeakers in a room, not on headphones on a personal device.

There’s also some data on what audio people are listening to on their smart speakers. We’ll come back to that in a sec.

Smart speakers were also the highlight of research from NPR and Edison Research, which was announced at CES – alongside a slew of new voice-controlled speakers from all kinds of manufacturers.

This data highlights the high level of usage of these devices within US homes; lots of it. 7% of US homes got one at the end of last year, and 71% say they’re listening to more audio as a result.

The data also shows that people are listening to less AM/FM. Let’s be clear, though – they’re still listening to radio on these things – just not via AM/FM.

Which brings me back to the podcast stats.

RAJAR’s MIDAS research simply doesn’t give a figure for podcast use on smart-speakers. The number is just too small to appear in their charts.

The NPR and Edison Research data doesn’t even mention the word “podcast”, once. Now, some content will be being consumed with the ‘Daily Briefing’ feature; but otherwise, podcasting seems almost entirely absent.

Is this because smart speakers are normally in shared spaces, and podcasts are typically enjoyed one-on-one? Or is it that it’s really difficult to navigate podcasts on a voice-controlled speaker – particularly podcasts where you want to listen to specific episodes in order?

What’s clear from this research – and others like it – is that radio is a thing, not a platform. Audiences are increasingly enjoying radio on-demand and on new platforms. Our job is to make that as easy as possible for everyone.



About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland


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