As the audio industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, it's essential to stay abreast of the latest trends and challenges that shape its landscape. To this end, we present this comprehensive report that analyses the current state of the audio industry, based on data collected from a survey conducted in partnership with Radio.co.
The data was collected by an online survey, composed of 19 questions and arranged into 4 topics - Listening Habits, Industry Changes, Revenue and Advertisement and The Future of Audio, made available to the public and distributed to via Radio.co’s social media channels and mailing lists. The survey was available for 3 weeks and received 3,330 responses*.
Bespoke content is king
Radio has diverged into two paths, seemingly at odds with each other. On one hand, national networks are buying up regional licenses. They push out centralized, syndicated content across regions. And they still have listeners. 40% of radio listeners are mainly tuning in to this kind of radio.
On the other hand, independent, online radio has been growing for over 15 years. These online stations often serve a demand that regional networks don't meet. They offer content that is one or more of the below:
Online broadcasting has freed radio from the constraints of licensing. And opened up millions to the possibilities of radio. So, radio stations are changing. They're no longer just about the news, traffic and music.
And it’s proving popular…60% of radio listeners favour independent, decentralised broadcasters.
In times of change, demand is constant.
In the war-for-attention and a world with abundant content, radio pulls in a steady audience. Over 60% of adults listen to radio for more than 6+ hours a week. And nearly a third of this are listening to radio for more than 21 hours a week!
But how we’re listening to radio is changing…
Radio sets are collecting dust.
Now the world is increasingly online so are our listening habits. Just 13% adults listen mainly through traditional - including DAB - radio sets. Only 9% listen mainly in their car.
Most listeners are tuning in mainly via the internet…70% of adults in fact. With 37% of adults using their smart phone.
To drive listenership, accessibility across devices is a no brainer. But there are some quick wins stations can use for an edge:
- Make their stations playable on smart speakers.
- Create their own apps.
- Optimize their mobile and desktop sites.
This is essential to stay in the game vs live radio’s main competitor…
Radio leads, but streaming services are a close second.
41% of people listen predominantly to live radio over other audio. But 35% are mainly listening to streaming services. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are introducing features to imitate radio, like AI DJs and genre playlists. And listeners are aware of this…
Nearly half of all people surveyed said audience is the biggest risk to the future of radio.
The availability and quantity of audio content is ballooning. To compete, radio needs to innovate and adapt or it will stagnate. By doubling down on its own strengths, radio stays ahead….
Radio builds connections and brings people together.
In a hyper individualized world, radio creates connections between individuals and groups. These connections happen locally and globally. It’s something we see in radio chat rooms, and platforms like Discord and Twitch.
This is its advantage over music streaming services. 34% of adults say radio is important because it helps them to connect with their community. It’s important to a further 20% because it keeps them company.
Together, this makes over 50% using radio for connection.
This figure could be beat.
Meanwhile, it’s not just listeners benefitting from radio…
Audio gets brands heard. Literally.
Nearly 70% think radio is important for brands to get their product or service known about.
As smart speaker ownership grows, and we use them to do more for us, the need for a brand to be across audio is ever important.
What matters to customers in 2023, is easy to get across with audio. Authenticity, transparency, personality.
But is all audio created equal?
Podcasting & Radio are friends, not enemies.
70% think podcasting has changed the audio landscape for the better.
Podcasting was born from radio. And while it’s seen phenomenal growth, we don’t need to choose one over the other. Podcasting and Radio complement each other.
Content can be symbiotic across a radio show and podcast.
Both provide more opportunities to repurpose content in a bespoke way. Creating different listening experiences.
And radio can learn from podcasting when it comes to revenue…
Revenue and Advertising
Adverts divide listeners down the middle.
Listeners are split when it comes to adverts.
47% say adverts put them off listening while listening to radio/podcasts. But the other 53% didn’t mind.
It turns out the devil might be in the details. Some types of advertising are favoured over others, especially those that are reflective of the content.
44% think radio and podcasts should opt for sponsorships (aka soft promotions) during shows. Like the product endorsements on Huberman Lab or The Joe Rogan Experience. Compared to only 14% for hard promotion, or traditional radio adverts.
Successful monetisation is diverse.
But there’s plenty of other revenue options that listeners think radio AND podcasts should do more of:
- 14% think radio/podcasts should do more events.
- 13% think radio/podcasts should adopt more crowdfunding.
- 8% think radio/podcasts should use more paywalls.
- 8% think radio/podcasts should do more merchandising.
- 5% think radio/podcasts should use more affiliate sales.
So, it’s best to give listeners choices in how they support audio.
The Future of Audio
The jury is out on AI
The adults surveyed have mixed feelings about how AI will impact the audio industry. Some regard it as a useful tool to help with production. Others think AI technologies are still behind the curve.
- 43% are unsure about how AI will impact the audio industry.
- 32% think it’ll be positive.
- 19% think it’ll be negative.
- 6% think it’ll have no effect.
Either way, the common thread is many adults note AI can’t replace the human touch.
The acceleration of AI does give audio content an opportunity though…
Ways to cut through the noise
Amongst the acceleration of AI and an abundance of content, broadcasters need to double-down on their efforts. But there are clear strategies to implement.
Nothing beats quality content. 38% think broadcasters/podcasters should develop more novel and engaging content. Ultimately, it’s the quality of content that keeps an audience listening.
Don’t be a stranger. 21% think broadcasters/podcasters should develop networks of partners and or collaborators in their space. A well known strategy of podcast growth is cross-pollination: podcast hosts getting guest spots on other podcasts.
27% think broadcasters/podcasters should leverage newer technologies and practices. Newer platforms and technologies shouldn’t always be dismissed. Experimentation is good, and it’s the only way to find out what sticks.
Radio hasn’t stopped innovating in over 100 years.
Plenty of people have predicted the demise of radio. None have been proven right. With each challenge, radio rises to the occasion. And it’s set to continue. 66% of adults surveyed think radio will continue to grow and gain traction in the next 5 years.
Here’s what they said…
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