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Survey indicates Pandora listening not taking away from time with AM/FM

Friday, November 30, 2012 - 1:00pm

Vision Critical's new research indicates Pandora listeners spend more time listening to broadcast radio than non-Pandora listeners. What's more, on average, Pandora listeners' say their time spent with AM/FM radio has held steady over the last two years.

The charts from the research summary show that while non-Pandora users in the U.S. report spending just under 13 hours a week listening to broadcast, the average Pandora user tops 19 hours a week with terrestrial radio -- 50% more than the non-Pandora fan. The second chart shows that even over time, the average Pandora user reports spending slightly more time with AM/FM now than 2 years ago (or at least, is not spending significantly less time with AM/FM).

It's probably not controversial to say the typical Pandora listener is more comfortable with technology than the average person. So, perhaps it's not surprising the survey revealed Pandora listeners as much more likely to listen to AM/FM on digital devices than non-Pandora listeners.

A recent NPD Group study (here) seemed to show Net radio usage is cutting into music listening on more traditional media -- including AM/FM. Note that the Vision Critical study didn't ask about the format of respondents' on-air listening (music, news, talk, sports, etc.).

Pandora listeners in another recent survey (conducted on the webcaster's behalf) strongly favored the service over AM/FM regarding which was more "unique and different," "innovative," "engaging," and "connects me withe the music I love" (study here). But Pandora listeners told Vision Critical AM/FM has the edge in "easy," "convenient," and "helps me feel connected."

Vancouver-based Vision Critical surveyed more than one-thousand U.S. adults for the Canadian Association of Radio Broadcasters, "to better understand the potential impact on Canadian radio tuning in the event that Pandora, or a service like it, is launched in Canada."

See the Vision Critical summary report, "What Pandora Means for Radio," here.

RAIN Analysis: Naturally, we wanted to follow up on this with Vision Critical SVP Jeff Vidler. After all, the results of this study seem counterintuitive in light of Arbitron reports showing radio listening per capita declining -- declines that seem to correspond Pandora's gains.

Vidler suggested three hypotheses:

1. Interest in music is not a "zero sum" game. Flash back 100+ years ago and the consensus was that recorded music would kill live music performance. Then, radio was going to kill the recorded music industry. Then, in-car 8-tracks/cassettes/CDs were going to kill radio. But today, music is bigger than ever. Each new technology and platform simply provides a new way and a new reason for music fans to indulge in music — it’s additive. So it would seem to be for Pandora.

2. The enduring lure of broadcast radio is connection, not music. Pandora listeners, like most other folks, want to feel connected to other people, to what’s going on in their community and elsewhere. Broadcast radio does a great job at that. And, as music fans, they also want to feel connected to the music that other people like. Broadcast radio performs well there too. (The recent success of CHR radio may be the best evidence of this.) So, on this basis, it’s not that surprising that they might be above-average listeners to broadcast radio.

3. Arbitron isn’t capturing the full gamut of online AM/FM tuning. Do PPM meter-keepers, who listen through their headphones on their PC at work, or on the app on their smartphone, always remember to plug in their headphone insert? The study indicates that Pandora listeners are way above-average in listening to AM/FM on digital platforms, so it’s possible that Arbitron may not be capturing all their listening."

All three hypotheses make sense. The third is particularly interesting -- maybe apparent losses in per-capita AM/FM listening in recent years are really just an artifact of increases in headphone-based listening! -- KH

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