According to the newly released Infinite Dial study, listening to Internet radio didn’t increase much from 2009 to 2010. Last year’s study pegged the audience at 69 million, this year it’s 70 million, both netting a 27 share of the population.
That’s because broadband is nearly ubiquitous, says the study. As organic growth of broadband has nearly stopped, growth for online mediums such as online radio, podcasting and online video have slowed.
The audience is 55% male, 45% female and tends to be employed, educated, and have higher incomes. They like the interactive options that online radio offers, along with variety and fewer commercials. When asked to name an online only station, Pandora was the clear winner. Pandora is has taken the brand position for online radio. (See my post here about Pandora becoming the Kleenex of Online radio).
The study found that more people listen to online only brands than AM/FM streams. This should be a clear impetus to AM/FM broadcasters to offer more and different options in their online streams. According to this information, listeners are turning online to find offerings that are different than what they can hear on their AM/FM radios. To compete, broadcasters must expand their offerings to include side channels and options that give listeners ways to control and interact with the streams.
On the topic of good news for Internet radio, there’s the recent announcement that the Federal Communications Commission has begun a year long process to evaluate the country’s access to broadband and create a plan to bring the entire country up to speed – with broadband Internet service that is. The FCC has been ordered by Congress to complete the plan by February 2010, and as a first step, on April 8th the FCC began by asking for comments from the public. The year long project will consider technologies, competing services and ways of doing business, and define best ways to make sure broadband access is affordable and accessable to everyone.
Equally compelling about this announcement is the fact that the Obama administration has set aside over $7 billion to build high speed networks. According to the Washington Post, there is some debate about what constitutes “high speed” with the FCC’s current definition of high speed not high enough for some experts. Part of the year long process will be to consider that definition.
The concept of blanket broadband access throughout the country would obviously benefit Internet radio in terms of audience growth. 59% of American households have broadband now – nearly 68 million US Homes. But 2008 saw a marked slowing in the growth rate of broadband subscribers, signifying that penetration of areas with access could be reaching its max.
In addition to building out the network of broadband access, the FCC aims to study ways to make broadband access more affordable. All of this is good – the concentrated effort by the FCC to plan and oversee buildout of a comprehensive broadband infrastructure, and the dedicated investment of $7.2 billion dollars are yet another reason the future looks bright for Internet radio.