3 Trends to Watch During the 2019 Infinite Dial

 

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Is it that time already?

Spring is so close we can smell it, but March will also bring us a fresh look at the audio universe. After some 20 plus years, the team bringing us the Infinite Dial continues to gift us with a reliable snapshot of America’s audio consumption and behavior (some delightful dad jokes can always be expected too). It’s the longest-running and highly-cited research that will continue to support the hype around audio.

Let’s take a look at where we stand, where we’re heading, and what we’d like to see.

The Audience

It’s a moment of truth for podcasts: will last year’s headlines pay off in listener growth? Rattling off a few moments from 2018:

  • Google announced it’s massive investments in podcasts, releases an Android native app
  • Spotify beefs up its own podcast presence and doubles down on celebrity content
  • Hollywood adaptations of hit shows like Homecoming make their debut

The 2018 Infinite Dial cited that 4 in 10 Americans 12+ have listened to a podcast. What we are hoping to see is the gap between awareness and regular listening begin to close. Out of those 124 million who have ever listened to a podcast, 73 million are monthly listeners. After a massive 24% increase from 2016 to 2017, monthly podcast audience growth has leveled off. At this point, further growth is only going to come from podcast newbies and there’s a huge opportunity to turn first-timers into fans. That’s 50 million chances to get someone hooked.

The podcast audience has always been pegged as high-brow, very educated, and wealthy. But as the podcast audience grows, the more it starts to like the U.S. population, especially in terms of race and gender. If you think you’re seeing double in the image below — you’re right. The monthly podcast consumer mirrors the U.S. population beautifully. In 2018, the share of female monthly podcast listeners grew from 21% to 24%, while male listeners stayed flat at 27%. Thanks to greater diversity in content that caters to audiences across all walks of life, we’d like to see these trends continue.

 

Consumer Habits

Thanks to its ease of use, AM/FM will remain a mainstay in the car for years to come. But 23% of car riding/driving adults 18+ listened to podcasts in the car last year, overtaking satellite radio for the first time. At the same time, 22% of podcast listeners say they listen to podcasts the most in the car. Why is this notable? For most, taking your podcasts on the road requires a bit of set-up — either through Bluetooth or a USB cable. These listeners are going the extra mile to catch-up on their favorite shows. We expect to see passengers’ in-car podcast use to look more like online radio in 2019.

For the first time in a few iterations, the number of podcasts consumed by weekly listeners jumped from 5 to 7. This was a big deal because not only were there more listeners engaging with more content, podcast fans were making it known that they really can’t get enough of them. It’s also worth noting that in 2017, 41% consumed 4 or more podcasts a week, but in 2018, over half consumed 4 or more. An increase in the average number of podcasts is probably unlikely (we’re happy to be proved wrong though), but it will be interesting to see if this trend continues as heavy listeners find more content to consume.

Tech

Tech has long been ubiquitous in driving audio listening. In-car dashes are evolving to give consumers greater choice for entertainment. Smart speakers are becoming the new home radio. Then there’s the smartphone, which has made consuming content possible anywhere and everywhere. 83%, or 233 million, of the 12+ population reported owning a smartphone in 2018. Smartphone ownership exploded between 2010 and 2015 but has plateaued since as it approaches critical mass.

Smart speakers are still a fairly new trend Edison has been tracking (this will be the 3rd year now), so another great tech story is still unfolding, while there’s no doubt that smartphone use will continue to creep up towards 90%. Smart speaker adoption has already accelerated at a much greater rate from 2017 to 2018 then smartphone adoption from 2009 to 2010 (when the Infinite Dial first started to report). Smart speaker ownership more than doubled from 7% of homes in 2017 to 18% of homes in 2018. Edison’s latest Smart Audio Report put ownership at 21% at the end of 2018, so we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this number closer to a quarter in American homes.

Bottom line: screens are getting smaller, or becoming non-existent. It’s a world where listening to music, the news, or a podcast is a tap or voice command away. How your brand sounds will be crucial for connecting with consumers in the future.

These findings will be a must for anyone who wants to better understand the broader audio consumption trends in the U.S. We hope this year’s presentation will offer up new insights into the smart speaker and podcast craze in particular. See you there!

The 2019 Infinite Dial will be revealed Wednesday, March 6 at 2 pm Eastern. Register HERE.

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