AM/FM Radio Leads the Pack, Digital Pureplays Lose Steam

by Reggie Shah 

Edison Research’s most recent “Share of Ear” study offers a fresh look at the audio market, and it’s clear that AM/FM radio wears the crown in the ad-supported realm. Even as we see digital platforms popping up and evolving, AM/FM continues to dominate with a steady 66% share of the listener market—impressive consistency from quarter to quarter.

AM/FM’s Stronghold: Dominating in the Car and Beyond

Where AM/FM really shines is in car listening, capturing an overwhelming 86% of listening. This isn’t just a habit; it shows that when people are on the move, they prefer the reliability and companionship of radio. In contrast, ad-supported versions of digital pureplays like Pandora and Spotify only snag a small slice of the pie, with 5% and 4% respectively. This stark difference highlights how, despite the buzz around digital, traditional radio holds a special place in listeners’ routines.

The Rise of Podcasts

Podcasts now account for 19% of all ad-supported listening – showing a YOY lift of +20%. Podcasts are definitely making waves, offering tailored, on-demand content that appeals to a diverse audience looking for something a bit more personalized.

Digital Trends

Smart Speakers and Connected TVs

In the digital space, smart speakers are the new go-to for extending radio into the smart home, showing a 15% growth in listening time YOY. In addition, connected TVs have marked a 20% increase year over year in audio usage, opening up new avenues for engaging audiences.

Smart Speakers: A Deeper Look

The Competitive Landscape

The competitive field in digital listening is reshaping. When we look at digital listening, AM/FM streaming has surged by 25% YOY, significantly overshadowing the 18% YOY decline in pureplay listening. This brings AM/FM radio streaming to #1, and podcasts neck-and-neck with pureplays, both at 26% of the digital listening share. And the pureplay decline has been going on for a while: Since Q4 2018, AM/FM has seen a 34% increase, while pureplays have suffered a steep 51% drop.

Share of Smart Speaker Listening- Q1 2024

Note: AM/FM reflects over-the-air and streaming. Pureplays= Pandora, Spotify, etc.

The Young Listener’s Choice

Zooming in on the younger crowd, Gen Z and Millennials are showing a clear preference for podcasts (40% of listening) and AM/FM (35% of listening), which now lead as their top platforms. This time shift away from pure plays, which have fallen to 21%, underscores a broader trend towards more dynamic and curated audio options.

Share of Smart Speaker Listening- Q1 2024 (Gen Z & Millennial)

Note: AM/FM reflects over-the-air and streaming. Pureplays= Pandora, Spotify, etc.

Wrapping Up

Edison’s “Share of Ear” study clearly shows that AM/FM radio continues to adapt and thrive, maintaining a significant presence in our daily lives and beyond. The growing influence of podcasts and the extension of radio into smart speakers are setting the stage for an exciting future in audio. As we look ahead, these trends will likely shape not just how we listen, but also how brands and creators engage with audiences.

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Source: Edison Share of Ear Q1 2024, Q4 2023, Q1 2023, Q4 2018, 13+, Ad-Supported excluding music videos on TV or YouTube, GenZ & Millennial = P13-39

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