Hand-Held Audio: The New Wave For Non-Video Consumption


We all do it. In fact, our editor is doing it right now.

Music, and spoken word content such as a news report, is more than ever being consumed by U.S. consumers over a smartphone.

New data from Edison Research only confirms the trend.

Listening on a mobile device now accounts for 30% of all time spent listening to audio by those age 13+ in the U.S.

That’s an impressive 67% increase from 2014, the latest Share of Ear report from Edison Research finds.

As Edison notes, the gap between listening on a traditional radio receiver and a mobile device among those ages 13 and higher has narrowed remarkably quickly since 2014. In fact, 31 percentage points separated the two in 2014 and only five percentage points separate the two today, it says.

Nevertheless, the traditional AM/FM radio receiver — largely in the automobile — still accounts for the largest share of audio consumed.

Of course, that percentage has decreased the most since the survey began, and now accounts for a mere 35% of all audio consumption, compared to 49% in 2014. 
Mobile devices have already surpassed traditional radio receivers in the younger age groups.

Among those age 13-34, 46% of total daily audio consumption is done on a mobile device; 20% is done on a traditional AM/FM radio receiver, possibly because younger drivers tend to have older automobiles without today’s connected car accessories such as Bluetooth and USB connectors.  
Edison stresses that these statistics speak to device only, and not the audio product that is delivered by the device.

Mobile devices can deliver a wide range of audio products, including radio station programming. 
“Mobile devices, particularly of course the phone, have been gaining on the traditional radio receiver as the primary listening device for as long as we have been measuring Share of Ear, but with the disruptions of the last year the gap has narrowed dramatically,” said Edison Research President Larry Rosin. “As fewer people have a standard radio receiver in their homes these days, naturally more listening comes through digital devices.”  
COVID-19 disruptions meant Americans spent more time consuming audio at home in 2020 and less time consuming audio in-car, the prime location for listening to a traditional AM/FM receiver. This, Rosin added, could explain some of the change in the past year.

“Further data analysis in the coming year will be needed to see if these audio habits remain post-quarantine,” he said.

How the Share of Ear® study is conducted: Edison Research conducts a nationally representative study of Americans ages 13 and older to measure their time spent listening to audio sources. Respondents complete a 24-hour diary of their audio listening on an assigned day. Diaries are completed both online and by-mail using a paper diary. Diaries are offered in both English and Spanish. The Share of Ear study is released quarterly and is available on a subscription basis.