December ratings report card good for Pandora, tough on most others

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 1:10pm

While the year-end holiday season can be a boon to broadcasters who switch to an "all-Christmas" format, seasonal changes to work habits tend to take a toll on Internet radio in December. The just-released Triton Digital Webcast Metrics ratings bear that out.

Most Top 20 webcasters saw their domestic AQH fall from November to December, some quite significantly: broadcaster groups Cox, Radio One, Cumulus, Salem, and Hubbard were off 18%-22% compared to November 2012. [note: All the numbers quoted here are from the U.S.-only M-Su 6a-12M ranking.] December exceptions included Pandora (ever the juggernaut, the 800lb. webcast gorilla grew AQH 8%), Slacker and EMF Corporate (both flat), and AccuRadio (up 12% on the strength of specialty holiday programming). [AccuRadio is a sister company of RAIN Publications.]

The holidays were especially hard on AM/FM streams. As Triton Digital explains, this year saw broadcasters' Total Listening Hours (TLH) during the holiday week slip 42% when compared to an average week during the year. Pureplay streams fell a less drastic 15%.

This holiday week "turn off" was especially exaggerated when isolating listening via desktop computer: a 48% drop for broadcasters and 41% for pureplays. On mobile devices, the effect was less pronounced (a 28% slip for broadcasters, and just 1% down for pureplays).

"The data displayed supports two conclusions, the first being that 'in-office' desktop listening does not necessarily translate to 'in-home' listening," Triton wrote in its rankings press release. "The second conclusion is that the holiday season trend softens as mobile becomes a more typical listening method. Mobile listening remains the most consistent throughout the week with the lightest drop in all instances."

It can be noted that while the holiday drop is traditional, many of those webcasters that slipped had a bigger drop than in 2011; and those few with postive Decembers had less growth than in the previous year.

But there is some good news here. With the new ratings, we can look at the whole of 2012 from January to December. In those twelve months, the Webcast Metrics Top 20 panel's aggregate AQH grew 36% (1.45 million to 1.97 million). However, that was nearly-solely powered by Pandora, which added half a million to its AQH and grew listening 50% (1.01 million to 1.52 million). Clear Channel ended 2012 with its AQH 29% in the black, and the NPR Member stations group also added to the panel's growth (it only first began reporting in June, and in December ranked 6th).

Some for which 2012 was not a streaming AQH growth year: CBS's AQH has fallen 34% from 63,028 to 41,846, Cumulus (down 18%), and ESPN Radio (down 19%). True, these losses are slightly exaggerated by December's traditional slippage. But these new ratings show that things are clearly not headed in the right direction for some major webcasters.

You can see Triton Digital's December 2012 Online Audio Top 20 Ranker here. Our coverage of November's Webcast Metrics ranking is here.

Most b'dcastrs slip in Nov. Webcast Metrics, non-comms up, and a new pureplay hits Top 20

Thursday, January 3, 2013 - 11:55am

In October, it was broadcasters who saw their streamimg audience grow while most pureplay webcasters were flat. In the November 2012 Triton Digital Webcast Metrics Internet radio ratings released yesterday, most commercial broadcasters saw online listening slip, while pureplays showed a hint of growth. You can see our coverage of October Webcast Metrics ratings here.

The average online audiences of the top streaming broadcasters (Clear Channel, Cumulus, CBS, and Cox) all dipped month-to-month -- as much as 13% for Cumulus. Other commercial broadcasters like ESPN Radio, Entercom, Greater Media, Univision, Townsquare, Salem, and Hubbard also saw listening slip.

The lack of election news for most of the month, plus the Thanksgiving and Veterans Day holidays, likely contributed to smaller average audiences for November (traditionally a tough month).

Yet, non-comms EMF and WNYC, while still smaller players in the Top 20, continued their recent growth trends in November, adding 19% and 20% to their October Average Active Sessions (AAS). The NPR Member Stations group is now ranked #7, with a 23% higher AAS than October -- though it's likely the group is still adding stations to the measurement panel.

Pandora, far and away the largest webcaster, was up just 3% over October, but continued to pad its 2012 growth to 39% (its average audience now tops 1.4 million; it was just over a million in January).

Also contributing to pureplay webcasters' overall growth was the appearance of a new webcaster in the Top 20, Idobi Radio Corp. Idobi is a modern rock webcaster based in Washington, D.C. See Triton's full Webcast Metrics ratings report for November 2012 here.

Nielsen's planned integrated media platform may drive ad volume for webcasters

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 1:15pm

Nielsen president of global media products Steve Hasker told Bloomberg that among Nielsen's intentions in acquiring Arbitron is to begin measuring online radio services like Pandora.

Bloomberg writes Nielsen "wants to offer its advertisers a unified system that measures audiences across multiple forms of media, making it easier for them to make ad-buying decisions -- whether on TV, radio or the Web."

StreetInsider credited the news for a Pandora stock price bump after speaking to analyst Rich Tullo. Tullo thinks the webcaster could likely profit from rising ad volume as large media buying agencies adopt this new Nielsen integrated media platform.

Arbitron's history with webcasting, and Pandora in particular, hasn't been entirely smooth. Since the dawn of Internet radio, Arbitron has repeatedly entered, then exited, net radio audience measurement. Pandora last year (with Edison Research, here) began releasing its own listening stats, using Arbitron's common broadcast radio metrics (Pandora is also measured by Triton Digital's Webcast Metrics, using Internet radio's slightly different metrics). Arbitron (more in RAIN here) and many of its broadcast clients (from Inside Radio via NPR Digital Services here) criticized the stats, calling them unreliable and nonsensical.

Arbitron meanwhile has long had ready -- but never released -- a cross-platform radio ratings service (more here), and as recently as its Q3 conference call told shareholders the service "would use online logs to measure Internet radio listenership and include all types of Web radio, from terrestrial stations' streams to services such as Pandora" (more here). Presumably for this service, Arbitron partnered with AdsWizz (here). It's been suspected that pressure from its broadcast radio clients, who likely wouldn't welcome competition from webcasters and broadcasters around the world, has prevented Arbitron from launching the service. 

But it may not be too late for Arbitron to get back into the Internet radio ratings game. Pandodaily's Erin Griffith wrote yesterday, "It’s a market that’s still young enough to be figuring things out. With a new owner and possibly new attitude, Arbitron could be there on the ground floor."

Read Bloomberg here. Read StreetInsider.com here. Read Pandodaily here. H/T to The Verge here.

Most major webcasters flat in September online ratings

Monday, October 29, 2012 - 1:20pm

Triton Digital's September Internet Audio Top 20 ratings reflect some pretty significant growth for the aggregation of NPR Member Stations. The group has taken the #10 spot for Average Active Sessions (AAS) 6a-12M Monday-Sunday in the September Domestic Ranker (see chart below). The 12,236 AAS for NPR Member Stations is 58% higher than its August number. (While Triton's press release gives no indication, we'd guess it likely that at least some of this growth reflects the addition of more stations to this group.)

Religious/conservative broadcaster Salem Communications, #14 for the same ranker, saw its AAS rise 24% since last month.

The largest webcasters saw little to now growth month-to-month. Pandora's AAS was up 3%; CBS's continued to slide, down 11% since August (CBS online listening in this particular ranker is down 54% in the past 12 months. Compare that to Clear Channel, which is up 94% over the same time period).

Finally, something seems to have changed for Digitally Imported some time in August. Traditionally leader among Internet-only webcasters, DI dropped 57% in this ranker in the past month alone. It's likely a change like this reflects a measurement error of some sort. [UPDATE: Digitally Imported has indeed informed us that not all of its streams were counted in these most recent ratings periods. -- PM]

See all of Triton Digital's Internet Audio Top 20 Rankers here.

EMF, ESPN, Cumulus post gains in Triton's August Webcast Metrics ratings

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 10:55am

Like the melting of the snow, the falling of the leaves, and "lambs and lions coming and going," Internet radio listening tends to slip in the warm weather months every year (see last month's ratings coverage here), and just as quickly start ramping back up as we near fall and then the holidays.

We'll likely see this trend soften as mobile and in-car become more typical listening methods, but even the mature broadcast radio medium generally sees its listeners looking to disconnect a little bit when on vacation or enjoying the outdoors.

Most every broadcaster and webcaster saw AAS (Average Active Sessions) improve in the just-released August Internet Audio Top 20 from Triton Digital. Non-commercial Christian broadcaster EMF's AAS grew 17% over July, while ESPN went up 13%, and Cumulus stations collectively added about four-thousand active sessions (in the Domestic Ranker, M-Su 6a-12M).

The rankings themselves remained mostly static. Pandora remains the monster of the industry, with an August AAS (1,282,444 U.S. only, M-Su 6a-12M) seven times that of the nearest competitor, Clear Channel (183,452). Pandora added 68-thousand average sessions over last month; its AAS is up 89% so far in 2012.

The distant-yet-solid second-place Clear Channel has actually more than doubled its AAS over the past 12 months (up 122%). We'll be looking for a bump following this weekend's iHeartRadio Music Festival in next month's report.

For months now, battling it out over slots 3, 4, and 5 have been Cumulus, CBS Radio, and Internet-only webcast service Slacker. (For perspective, the 46-48-thousand AAS each pulled in August is merely a quarter of Clear Channel's online figure.) Cumulus' (including the former Citadel stations) strong month was powered, it seems, by a remarkable 1.13 average time-spent-listening. That gave it the #3 slot over CBS and Slacker for the first time.

(The chart above shows the growth of Pandora, CBS, Clear Channel, the top 5 terrestrial radio groups and Slacker from September 2009 through August 2012. Note that Pandora's AAS numbers from December 2010 through mid-August 2011 were affected by the omission of tracking code in some of its mobile apps. Click to view in full size.)

The Triton Digital Webcast Metrics Top 20 Domestic M-Su 6a-12M ranking is below. Find out more from Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics report here (PDF) and find our coverage of July 2012’s ratings here.

Traditional summer slowdown hampers audience growth, but not as much as past years

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 11:00am

Metrics rankingsAs in years past, the "summer doldrums" took their toll on webcasters' audiences in July. Minus one exception, all the webcasters and broadcasters tracked in Triton Digital's Top 20 Webcast Metrics for July 2012 were flat or down month-to-month. 

The Internet radio industry typically sees audience numbers flat-line or drop slightly in the summer months. Listeners spend relatively less time in the office -- where, at least in the past, a majority of Internet radio usage took place -- due to holidays (like the Fourth of July), vacations, and other activities (like the Summer Olympics which began on July 27 and, this reporter seems to think, were a huge drain on productivity). We refer to this traditional decline as "summer doldrums." 

All told, the combined AAS (Average Active Sessions, essentially equivalent to AQH) of the Top 20 webcasters declined a little over 1% month-to-month. That's actually an improvement over 2011, when webcasters' combined AAS dropped nearly 7% from June to July 2011. Could this be in part due to Internet radio's growing mobile and out-of-office listening

Top-ranked Pandora was roughly flat month-to-month in July, according to Triton's Domestic Mon-Sun 6a-12m daypart ranker. The webcaster stands at an AAS of 1,214,119 -- up 151% year-over-year.

The #2-ranked Clear Channel, backed by its iHeartRadio platform, declined 4% month-to-month to reach an AAS of 174,333. Clear Channel's AAS has grown 140% year-over-year.

The race for the #3 spot became more heated in July: CBS Radio, currently holding the #3 spot, declined 12% month-to-month. Slacker (at #4) dropped 6% month-to-month but is now within nearly 300 AAS of overtaking CBS Radio. Slacker has grown 60% year-over-year while CBS Radio has dropped 45%. The change is in part due to AOL Radio's migration from CBS to Slacker.

The one exception to all this declining and flat-lining is NPR Member Services, ranked at #11. Its AAS, as measured by Triton, increased 37% month-to-month. June was the first month NPR Member Services appeared in the Top 20 ranker.

ESPN Radio saw the largest month-to-month decline with a 14% drop (though Radio One and Hubbard weren't far behind with 13% declines). Most others saw month-to-month drops of 3-9%.

(The chart above shows the growth of Pandora, CBS, Clear Channel, the top 5 terrestrial radio groups and Slacker from September 2009 through July 2012. Note that Pandora's AAS numbers from December 2010 through mid-August 2011 were affected by the omission of tracking code in some of its mobile apps. Click to view in full size.)

You can find the Domestic Mon-Sun 6a-12m ranking below. Find out more from Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics report here (PDF) and find our coverage of June 2012’s ratings here.

July Webcast Metrics

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