USA TouchPoints survey indicates AM/FM’s time-spent

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 1:05pm

Inside Radio reported new diary-based research indicating that AM/FM radio occupies at least two-thirds of audio minutes heard across generational divides. The study is branded by USA TouchPoints, a metered-behavior service launched in 2011 under the wing of the Media Behavior Institute (MBI).

The USA TouchPoints study could be framed as a counterpoint to the recently released Edison Research package, “The New MainStream.” The Edison survey focused on reach, revealing a data set in which 53 percent of online Americans listen to Internet radio to some extent. The USA TouchPoints focus is time spent, making two main assertions. First, that AM/FM represents about two-thirds of consumed audio minutes, while “Music Streaming Service” receives five to six percent of listening minutes. Second, that AM/FM occupies 23 percent of user engagement with all measured mediums. (The Internet as a whole got 18 percent, and television 57 percent.)

USA TouchPoints owns, or owned, mobile diary software derived in 2010 from the IPA TouchPoint study in the U.K. The measuring mandate extends beyond radio to the media landscape generally, intending to track consumer engagement with TV, radio, Internet, magazines and newspapers. USA TouchPoint’s original user panel was sized at 1,000 testers, each using an iPhone diary app. User effort was considerable, requiring each panelist to track location, social setting, and life activity along with specific media consumption, an average of 15 times a day for at least seven days, according to this documentation.

NOTE: According to the Media Behavior Institute’s website, the MBI discontinued operation in July of this year, with USA TouchPoints to follow. A brief notice states: “Unfortunately, the Media Behavior Institute will cease operations on July 31, 2013. Despite a growing client list, industry adoption of USA TouchPoints has not been sufficient and as a result, plans are underway to wind down the company.” Phone queries from RAIN have not been returned.


The key findings of this study comport pretty closely with what others have found — e.g., the split of consumers' music/audio listening time is about 80% radio (all forms) and 20% personal music collections, TV gets about twice as much usage as radio, and so forth.

Internet radio's share of total radio listening in this study seems to be 7.5% — i.e, 6% of radio's 80% of audio usage. This seems a bit lower than other studies suggest — especially among younger demos — which could be for one of two reasons:

(1) The iPhone-based diary was apparently hierarchical: When reporting what one was doing at the moment, it seems that first one had to pick "Radio" or "Internet Entertainment," then one picked either a radio format (e.g., country) or an streaming provider. It's possible that young people who consider Pandora, for example, to be "radio" would have gone down the former path, and if so their listening could have been counted in the wrong bucket.

(2) In both today's "Inside Radio" story and the firm's 22-page PDF that describes its methodology, we couldn't find the date the study was conducted. If the survey tracking was conducted more than a year ago, then the numbers would seem to be about right. --KH

FastCo Labs article reveals how Pandora continuously experiments and tweaks programming

Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Fast Company Labs has a fascinating article that reveals the extent to which Pandora experiments and researches how its audience reacts to different variables in the way it creates its playlists -- with the aim of increasing the rate at which users return to the service.

[By the way, if this sort of thing interests you, please our coverage of Rhapsody VP of product-content Jon Maples' on the importance of music curation here.]

We really want to encourage you to read the entire piece, but we've pulled out some bits we found particularly fascinating.

According to the article, by John Paul Titlow, Pandora's data scientists regularly divide and subdivide its audience into test groups, then continually tweak how music is delivered to listeners. For instance, they might vary how often songs are repeated, or the ratio of very familiar tunes to new music. Perhaps they'll vary the concentration of artists that are "local" to a listener, or how many "live" or "acoustic" versions of songs a listeners hears. They even monitor how listeners react to music given their geographical location, or the time of day.

Pandora has run thousands of these tests over the years, some months-long, some taking just a few weeks. And they've apparently resulted in some very interesting insights. For example, the webcaster has found that listeners are less tolerant of unfamiliar music while they're at work. So the webcaster has adjusted for this, and now your personal Pandora channel may seem more familiar between 9 and 5, and a little edgier at night or on the weekend.

Or, fans of instrumental music (like most Classical and Jazz) are generally more receptive to new music discovery -- fans of vocal pop music, the opposite. Titlow writes, "The distinction is so pronounced that stations based on instrumental hip-hop will yield more serendipitous moments of discovery than those based on lyric-heavy rap tracks."

Pandora has even tracked how the same listeners may interact with the music differently based on which type of device they're using at the time -- on the web, or a mobile phone, or a Blu-ray player in a home theater.

While much has been made about the origins of Pandora's Music Genome Project -- hundreds of trained music expers dissecting each track and scoring it on dozens of characterists -- it's user data (skips, "thumbs up/down," etc.) that are training the system now. In fact, Pandora listeners create data far faster than its staff of human experts can. And to be able to more quickly ingest new music, Pandora has developed its own "machine listening technology." It merges the computer analysis of music with input from human experts "to create a deeper understanding of the music its service spins."

The article ends with a short bit about applying this intelligence to the dynamics of group listening, and how new technology could enable that. Again, we'd like to encourage you to check out the article here.

Pandora previewing data tools for artists

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 11:25am

Leading webcaster Pandora has reportedly been giving artists a preview of new data tools so they can learn more about who's listening to their music.

Those tools include a "heat map" that shows where their songs are most widely played, and charts comparing demographics of an artist's listeners to Pandora's overall audience.

Billboard reports, "The tool is essentially a dashboard that tells artists such things as the spin counts of each of their songs, how many thumbs up (or down) their songs have received and their audience reach by age, gender and geography, among other things."

Various independent artists have seen the dashboard in recent weeks. New York singer-songwriter Ben Arthur, who got to preview the tool, told Billboard, "They showed me which of my songs were getting lots of thumbs up, and they were not the songs I would have guessed. I can imagine a time when I would upload tracks before they’re released to test which songs would be more popular, which songs to make videos for and which songs would get a label’s attention."

Read more in Billboard here.

Pandora plans to work with artists through an expansion into branded content and offline experiential marketing. Last week the Pandora announced it had brought on former record label exec and Billboard publisher Tommy Page as VP/Artist and Brand Partnerships, to "expand artist development programming through both branded content."

Page said, "My goal here is to help develop and grow those artists' careers and partnerships using personalized concert series and events."

Studies show Apple mobile device owners using far more data than others

Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 12:10pm

Among the top 10% of mobile data users, 80% of them are sucking up that bandwidth with an Apple iPhone, says a new report. Focusing on smartphone owners in the 70th percentile and above when it comes to data usage, it's more than three times as likely they own an iPhone than the next most "data-hungry" group of users, Android-on-HTC device owners.

Meanwhile, according to online ad network Chitika, Apple's share of all U.S. smartphone traffic is now 72%; its share of tablet traffic is a staggering 95%.

So, why is it Apple mobile users seem to be using so much more data? Not only are there far more Android devices out there than iPhones, many Android devices are now 4G-enabled (which would intuitively result in more data usage), while Apple's only 4G device is its new iPad in the U.S. (This study, by the way, was done by research firm Analysys Mason, which tracked mobile usage of smartphone users in the U.s. and several European countries.)

TheNextWeb writes, "it’s quite surprising that very heavy data users are sporting an iPhone, suggesting the rich media experience Apple has presented to users is proving to be a hit."

Analysys Mason's press release for its study, "Consumer smartphone usage: key findings from an on-device tracker," is here. TheNextWeb's coverage of the study is here. AllThingsDigital's coverage of the Chitika story is here.

Researcher warns carriers of risks in moving to tiered data plans

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 12:15pm

As wireless carriers in the U.S. shift their customers from unlimited data/fixed price plans to "usage-based plans" with capped data tiers, research firm Parks Associates warns mobile companies that their customers can be (a) price sensitive, and (b) unaccustomed to tracking their data usage.

Parks says their research reveals two-thirds of Americans who are planning on buying a smartphone say they won't pay more than $50/month for mobile data. Their new study ("Mobile Data and Applications: Market Update") also shows nearly half of smartphone owners aren't aware of how much mobile data they use on a monthly basis.

"Operators need to shift consumers' perception away from raw data to the experience created by their data services," said Harry Wang, Dir./Mobile Research for Parks.

Indeed, as we reported here, while more than two years have passed since mobile carriers began shifting customers away from unlimited data plans (and blamed Internet radio usage as a data-hog culprit!), mobile net radio listening continues to explode. Pandora recently reported that 70% of its listening is via mobile (here).  

Read the Parks Associates press release here.

Now more smartphones than feature phones in U.S. as AT&T tweaks "unlimited" data offering

Friday, March 2, 2012 - 11:15am

iPhoneThere are now more smartphone owners in the U.S. than feature phone owners, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. "Feature phones" are more basic than smartphones and usually don't support apps or other web-based features.

“Nearly every major demographic group — men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, the wealthy and the less well off — experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration," Pew noted. Boy Genius Report has more coverage here.

Meanwhile, AT&T yesterday responded to customer complaints regarding its "unlimited" data plan. Previously the company was throttling data speeds for "unlimited" data plan customers after they consumed 2GB of data in a billing period. AT&T has now upped that limit to 3GB.

Eliot Van Buskirk made some calculations about how much web radio or music one could listen to before hitting the 3GB throttle point. Find his analysis at here.

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