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

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Issue Date: 
Jan 29 2013 - 1:10pm

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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.

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