Online Radio Grows by Leaps

Online Radio replacing Old Style Radio

Online Radio replacing Old Style RadioTHUNDER BAY – Commentary – Online radio is growing. In the United States, according to the latest survey one in three Americans aged 12 and older now listen to all forms of online radio on a weekly basis. There is a paradigm shift happening in the industry. Like print media and television, changing technology is offering consumers far greater choices. 

When I first moved to Thunder Bay, radio icon Rick Smith was the morning radio host. On the Rick Smith Show, there was news, talk, and information. Smith’s open line talk show ran both mornings and in the early afternoon. From 11-12 after the news, it was the top-ten songs. It was classic Thunder Bay radio from a local giant in the industry. People tuned in, some loving it, others disagreeing, but it was what thousands of people in our city talked about.

Radio is in a state of change today. Often the iconic radio voices of the past are being replaced by far more ‘generic’ radio styles. Between voice tracking, and new technology, and CRTC regulatory oversight, the more freestyle voices of radio are starting to sound very similar. Perhaps that is why many people are tuning in to radio and listening to alternatives online.

Confederation College has launched, to great local fanfare a new online radio station. Likely a trailblazer moment in radio.

Back in the day, if you wanted to listen to stations from far away you had to wait until night time.

If you still have an AM radio, in Thunder Bay, at night using that radio you can often tune in to stations as far away as New York. It is like Lake Superior is a giant dish antenna. WLS from Chicago and WABC from New York are stations that often can be tuned in at night. 

Itunes Radio
Itunes offers the wide world of radio listening

However today, with iTunes, or with your computer, tablet, smart phone, or portable device you can listen to music from around the world, all day everyday. 

The study is done by Arbitron and Edison Research it is the 21stin a series dating back to 1998.  The results are not a flash in the pan.

Among the many findings:

  • 53% of all Americans aged 12 and over (an estimated 139 million people) own a smartphone; three-quarters of those aged 18-to-34 own these devices
  • Weekly online radio listeners listened for an average of 11 hours 56 minutes per week, up by more than two hours over last year’s listening levels, and nearly double that reported in 2008. During the same time span, the report says that AM/FM Radio has grown to 243 million weekly listeners listening approximately two hours a day
  • 27% of Americans check their social network several times per day, estimated at 71 million people
  • AM/FM radio is an “almost all of the time” or “most of the time” in-car choice for 58% of adults aged 18 and over; dashboard AM/FM radio far outpaces frequent in-car use of CD players at 15%, portable digital audio/MP3 players (11%) and satellite radio (10%)
  • AM/FM Radio delivers far more consumers (49%) than other media during the half hour before they arrive to shop, more than twice the number reached by the next closest medium (Billboards at 21%)
  • 29% own a tablet, up more than 70% in the last year, compared to 17% ownership in 2012
  • Among 45% of Americans who say it is important to learn about and keep up-to-date with new music, AM/FM Radio is the top source for new music discovery at 78%

Bill Rose, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Arbitron, concludes that “We are seeing the highest levels of weekly online radio listening, with the strength of AM/FM streams… and the near ubiquity of devices in which consumers can listen.“

The one place traditional radio is strongest is for the drive periods. Especially in large cities, tuning into the radio driving to work or driving home offers traffic reports. In Thunder Bay the traditional “rush hour” is not really a factor. In our city, waiting for two stop lights is a rarity. By contrast in Calgary, a worker headed to their downtown office might have an hour of car time where keeping abreast of the traffic conditions is important.

Itunes and other smart devices are impacting the market too. By offering almost unlimited choices to listeners, in addition to being able to simply play the music they like, the change in technology is likely to continue to see growth.

Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing, Edison Research, says “The majority of Americans now have powerful computers in their pockets (Smartphones), which has irrevocably altered out-of-home listening behaviour.“

Technology is impacting many parts of our lives. The increasing speeds of Internet are making online video and radio increasingly popular. It is changing the world as we know it. 

James Murray


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