The Infinite Dial in the Car: Miles DIfferent

Here are some excerpts from the speech I gave at the RAIN Summit in Las Vegas on Sunday April 12, 2105 on the subject of how things are changing in the in-car environment:

The concept behind the Infinite Dial is the notion of radio expanding past the bounds of the AM and FM dials to a world of incredible, boundless choices.  These newer, expanded choices were once mostly accessible on desktops.  Then the smartphone came along and reconnected the notion of audio to mobility.  And that has been revolutionary.

But to date, one location, one key location, has remained pretty resistant to change, and that’s the in-car experience.  The challenges of bringing new options into the in-car experience, and especially the slowness with which the car market turns over, have made the in-car environment the most resistant to change.

But as Sam Cooke said, A Change is Gonna Come.

And so I decided to go through the 2015 Infinite Dial data set and give people a taste of the change that is gonna come. 

In our survey we asked people the model year of the primary car they drive or ride in.  I decided to split things out between those whose cars came from before 2010 and those whose cars are from the 2010 or later model years.

About three in five people are mostly in cars more than five years old; and about two in five have newer models. 

So let’s look at what each of these two groups told us they use in their cars.  In the graph below you can see that the 'currently ever' listen to AM/FM is the same regardless of the age of one's car. When it comes to reach – AM/FM is as strong as ever.  In fact we got the exact same number for listening to AM/FM in older cars and newer cars.

But look at what else they use.  Newer car owners are a bit less likely to use a CD player.  But they’re way more likely to use their smartphone for audio in their car, way way more likely to use internet radio in their car, and way way way more likely to use SiriusXM.  So take a second to add the numbers down the columns.  The right hand column is way bigger.  People have more options in their newer cars, and they use more options.

Then we asked about frequency of listening.  Here the picture starts to change a bit.  The graph below shows what percentage said they use that device “almost all the times they’re in their car” or “most of the times” they are in their car.  A couple of things to note.  First – people with newer cars are 11 percentage points lower for frequent listening to AM/FM.  With regard to other items – the same pattern emerges.  They are less likely to use a CD and more likely to use other things – and in the case of SiriusXM – WAY more likely – FOUR TIMES more likely.  


The world of automobiles turns over slowly.  But when people have access to more ways to consume audio in the car -- they take advantage of these options.  The evidence to date is that they don't stop using things -- they simply change the amount of time they spend with the different platforms as they become available.  


The Little Machines that Built Pandora

Our Infinite Dial studies have been tracking usage of online radio since 1998, and we have asked about 'monthly usage' since 2000.  In a recent meeting I made the comment that if one superimposes the graph showing growth of smartphone ownership over the monthly online radio usage one can see a strong correlation.  That graph is below.  The blue bars show our tracking of smartphones and the yellow line is "monthly online radio usage."  (These graphs are among all respondents ages 12 and older.  For the full Infinite Dial report including methodology, click here.)

One will note the strong correlation between the slopes of the two growth patterns since the widespread adoption of the smartphone.  Online Radio started with usage on desktops, but that clearly only could get things so far.  The real growth came when listening became portable, and when apps built for the mobile environment became a 'must-have' on iPhones and Androids.

A further look at our data turned up a 'more perfect' correlation.  Take a look at the somewhat amazing graph below which tracks monthly use of Pandora against the growth of smartphones:

This is the kind of graph that will get a survey researcher a bit choked up.  Note that the two data sets are in near-perfect correlation.  In each case, monthly usage of Pandora is almost exactly half that of smartphone ownership.  

And while someone out there is thinking: "Correlation does not necessarily imply causation," in this case there is little doubt of causation.  We know that Pandora is the second most downloaded app in the history of the iTunes App stores after a little company called Facebook.  The story is similar in Android. The growth of Pandora can be attributed to many things, but clearly one of the biggest is their successful adaptation to mobile as the smartphone emerged.

As this graph shows, every time two people acquire a smartphone for the first time, one of them will become a monthly user (at least) of Pandora.  These amazing little machines that people carry in pocket or purse have irrevocably altered so many businesses, and Pandora is clearly one of them.   Pandora can attack the challenges of pushing past this 50% conversion rate and of course getting their already enormous user base to use even more.  But in the meantime if you want to project Pandora's future growth, just find projections of smartphone adoption.  

Room for Tidal? What's one more online audio brand?

This past week saw the launch of the latest entrant to the streaming audio space, Tidal from Jay-Z.  The media coverage was all over the place, but a lot centered on if there is room for another player in the space.

We have been tracking online audio in our Infinite Dial studies since 1998.  It's so hard to consider that this space has gone from "What does listening to audio on the Internet even mean?" to "Is it over-crowded" in that span is amazing.

In our 2015 study we asked about awareness of 17 different online audio brands.  The full list of brands can be found on page 19 of our Infinite Dial report if you click here

What struck me was just how many brands people did say they knew.  As the graph below shows -- 85% of respondents knew at least one online brand (and if it was only one -- that brand was usually Pandora).  On average, people knew 4.7 brands.  The peak age group is 18-24 year-olds, who know 6.1 brands on average.  Exactly one respondent out of our 2000 person national sample knew all 17 brand names.  

So is there room for Tidal?  Who knows.  But there's clearly room for a lot of brands so far in this space.  As it continues to change and inevitably shake out -- Edison and Triton will continue to track it.

 

 

Podcasting: Maturing Quickly with Lots More Growth to Come

I’m a huge fan of Alex Blumberg’s podcast series “StartUp.”  It’s a narrative podcast about his efforts to start a podcasting company.  Anyone interested in podcasting, or in starting a business, or just in an enjoyable story to pass the time with should check it out.

There is one moment in the series that especially sticks with me.  In one episode he mentioned the success of the podcast “Serial” and then said something along the lines of: “If you haven’t heard of ‘Serial’ you really should check it out – but I can’t imagine anyone listening to this show who doesn’t know ‘Serial.’”

Then on the next episode Alex mentions that he was inundated with responses from people telling him that they hadn’t been aware of “Serial.”  It makes sense – once you enter the podcasting world – it almost seems like podcasts are everywhere.  Saturday Night Live did a take on “Serial.”  The ultra-middle-brow sitcom “The Middle” did a whole episode where their youngest child started a podcast.

How could it be that only half of everyone even recognizes the term ‘podcasting’?  How could it be that only 10% of the American population has heard of ‘Serial’?

Well of course -- the other way to look at both of those stats is: "Wow! Half of all Americans have now heard of Podcasts!" and "Wow! One-in-Ten Americans have heard of a single Podcast that was promoted on 'This American Life' and otherwise grew virally!"

Of course, even within the world of podcasting there are lots of podcasts and lots of different kinds of people listening to them.  Not everyone is taking their podcasting sustenance from the Public Radio cup of “This American Life,” “RadioLab,” and their various offshoots and cousins.

To further emphasize the point – I looked at awareness of Serial by different groups.  As the graph below shows – even among the most avid podcast consumers, not even 1-in-3 has heard of “Serial.” 

Podcasting is a growing, diverse platform that still has a long road to full maturity. It has been fun to watch it develop over the years and we look forward to tracking the exciting world of podcasting going forward.       

Age Composition of Podcast Users

Certain people didn't understand my previous post about podcasting users (which can be found by clicking here).  That previous post was showing what portion of each age group said they had listened to a podcast in the last month.

While that seems pretty clear -- they 'disagreed' with the information by saying that they had done research of their own users and found 'way more age 25-54 users than 12-24 users.'

Rest assured -- we found the same thing.  There are a lot more 25-54 year-olds in America than there are 12-24s.  So, even though a slightly higher portion of 12-24s are monthly podcast users -- our survey also shows way more 25-54s than 12-24s.  The pie chart, below, shows the composition by age of Podcast users.


Podcasting is Strongest Among Millennials

The statistics about podcasting from our Infinite Dial survey (link to the full study and methods statement is here) have gotten an enormous amount of attention.  Clearly, podcasting continues to be having its moment in the sun and there is enormous desire for more information about them.

So over the next several weeks we will keep supplying more findings.  A lot of people have asked for the information below -- the age of podcast users.  This graph is among those who told us they had listened to a podcast in the month before we called them (in January of 2015):

As you can see, podcasting skews young.  However, it's a bit more balanced by age than, for instance, online radio, where usage among 12-24s is vastly higher than that among 55+.  This might possibly be in part due to the regular promotion of podcasting on America's older-skewing public radio system.

So -- while the total reported monthly podcast usage is 17% among all ages, as can be seen if we eliminate those 55 and older, more than 20% of the 12-54 age group is now regularly consuming on-demand audio programming.  

Newspapers are the "Most Least Essential" Major Medium

One of the great joys of our Infinite Dial series is we can track items from so far back.  This year we brought back some questions about media in general that we had asked in the past.  We showed some of that data in our initial public presentation, which you can find here.  

Here's one we didn't show: We asked "Among the Internet, newspapers, radio and television which one is the least essential to your life?"

Below are the results from the first time we asked in 2002, and from this year's study:

Thirteen years ago, still one-third of Americans ages 12 and over (who now of course would be 25 and older) said the Internet was the least essential to their lives.  Of course, at that time only 57% of households had Internet access in their homes (compared to 85% today).   

The obvious point is the dwindling influence of 'The Newspaper' on people's lives, as nearly half our sample says it is their 'least essential' of the four.  But as we know, so much of what the Newspaper provided (and provides still) has been subsumed by the Internet.  It's impossible to know how much the very content that newspaper companies provide to the Internet contributes to the 'essential-ness' of the Internet.  Of course when a guy named Craig decided to start a List, and give it away for free, he helped set print into what's likely an unrecoverable spiral.

Equally interesting to me is the near three-way tie for the 'least-least' essential medium among the four. The Internet now has the fewest people saying it is least essential -- but it's about tied with Radio and Television, with less than one-in-five choosing any of these.  Which is just another way of showing that while the Internet has surely 'changed everything', it's print that has been hit by far the hardest.  

A Potential Breakthrough for Podcasting Among Hispanics

A story of great potential significance appeared in today's radio/audio trades.  Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, one of the most popular morning talents in America and leader of the once top-rated show in Los Angeles, signed to do a daily podcast show with PodcastOne.

While this is likely not quite the kind of turning point that the hiring of Howard Stern was for Sirius Satellite Radio, it has the possibility to greatly raise the profile of podcasting among  Hispanics.  

Until now, podcasting is much better known among Whites and African-Americans than among the Hispanic population.  Witness the graph below from our Infinite Dial 2015 report:

Awareness of Podcasting is being significantly held back by the low number among Hispanics.  And while Hispanics are slightly less likely to be online or to have smartphones, this does not explain nearly all of the difference in the graph above.  The better explanation is a lack of compelling programming, especially in Spanish.  The hiring of a Spanish Radio superstar might change things.

The Online Audio Habit

Yesterday was a great day for Edison Research, as we unveiled the 2015 Infinite Dial survey. Over the next many weeks we will be bringing out a raft of additional data and insights from the study that we couldn't cram into our premiere presentation.  But today I want to highlight something that WAS shown, but is a little more subtle.

The presentation made very clear how much online audio usage (defined as listening to the streams of AM/FM stations or listening to pureplays) has grown.  Both monthly and weekly usage were up significantly.  

What might not have been as clear is that weekly usage is growing faster than monthly usage.  Note this table showing those results from the last six reports:

There is a significant story here. Note the numbers in the rightmost column growing. Over time, the weekly percentage is getting closer and closer to the monthly number.  This means that users of the technology are getting more habituated to it and that it is becoming a more regular part of people's lives.

Today, even as the number of people who use online audio at all continues to rise, about five in every six monthly users also use online radio regularly.  This is the mark of a rapidly diffusing technology that is becoming every day more and more a part of Americans' lives.

 

What Wakes You Up?

At last week's Country Radio Seminar, we debuted the results of our "Wake Me Up!" research study about behaviors and media habits of online 18-54 year-olds in America.  There were many surprise findings; today I'd like to focus on what happens in the very first moments of one's day.

As the first graph here shows -- only about half of people are actually awakened by an alarm of any kind.  One third of 18-54s just 'get up' on their own, and another one-sixth are awakened by another person or a pet.  

We then went on to ask the half of the sample that does awaken to an alarm what kind of an alarm it was:

As you can see, the mobile revolution has really hit here.  While 47% seem to awaken to something like the classic 'clock-radio' that we envision next to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day -- most of them use the beep or buzz feature instead of the radio.  This means that only 6% of our sample wakes up to the radio on a clock radio.  

 

What Hath Technology Wrought?

Over the course of the next several weeks Edison Research and Triton Digital will be unveiling the results of our annual Infinite Dial survey.  The Infinite Dial results are based on "gold standard" sampling techniques that truly represent the population of America ages 12 and older.

This study, which has been tracked since 1998, has become one of the most looked-to sources of information on how technology is changing.  So this year, we inserted a question about how Americans feel about these changes.  The results are below:

As you can see, well more than half of respondents say the changes are at least 'somewhat positive' and only 14% say they have been negative.  There is a sizable group (25%) that feels the impact has been equally positive and negative.  Interestingly, there are few differences by demographic groups -- although there is a bit more negativity among older Americans and among the less-educated.

There is endless ink spilled on how technology is destroying creativity, or eliminating our ability to think for ourselves, or (most bizarrely) hurting productivity by creating so many distractions.  These were things said, of course, about every previous change in technology, such as television or even the advent of books.  All in all, most Americans think the technology innovations of the last ten years, which would include such things as smartphones, podcasts, social media and streaming audio, have been a good thing.

How have these items grown in the last year?  Watch the Webcast on March 4 at 2pm eastern.  To register for this event click here.

 

What's Playing on those Earbuds

It is hard to believe that it was only eight years ago that Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in his famous speech.  The revolution that seems to be changing everything is of course rapidly changing audio usage as well.  It seems that almost anywhere one goes one will see someone with earbuds on; tuned out from the world.

Edison's "Share of Ear (SM)" study allows us to understand just what kind of audio is being consumed.  The graph below shows what platform of audio is being consumed on mobile devices (which would also include tablets or iPods/MP3 players).

audio consumption movile.jpg

It's important to note that this is the platform of audio -- listening to AM/FM means listening to AM/FM content via streams or 'over-the-air'.  It makes a certain amount of sense that 'owned music' would be the biggest portion of audio consumption on mobile devices.  Streaming pure-plays like Pandora and Spotify, which are in so many ways 'built' for mobile, account for over one-third of all audio consumption on mobile. 

The Monster: AM/FM Reach

Imagine you are a national advertiser and you need to get a message out TODAY.  In one day.  To as many people as possible. 

Well, if you want to use audio, no matter what  broad age group you are targeting Broadcast will get you the most people by far (the only age group that is close is 13-17s).  Fully 75% of respondents in our Fall 2014 Share of Ear (SM)  study recorded at least some listening to AM/FM Radio in their one-day listening diary. (Note -- this is for reach.  Previously I reported on time spent with forms of audio with regard to teens only).


Even among 13-24 year-olds, broadcast provides the most daily reach by a large margin.  But one can see how this is changing.  While broadcast reaches 62% of 13-24s in a day, Pandora all by itself reaches 23% (or put another way -- Pandora has more than one-third the reach of Broadcast all by itself).  Fast-growing Spotify -- which is increasingly being consumed on its ad-supported tier, reaches 14% of 13-24s.

The classic radio "money demo" of 25-54s sees almost 80% listening to Broadcast Radio each day -- no doubt in part because most radio stations target this group.  Pandora now reaches more than one-in-six of all 25-54s itself as well.

What's a Podcast Again?

One of the most exciting developments of 2014 in the audio space was what seems to be a ‘tipping point’ for Podcasting.  Pushed forward by the enormous and deserved attention paid to “Serial,” there have been endless articles written about Podcasting in just the last few months.  Most of these articles, I’m happy to say, quote Edison’s research.

At the same time, I’ve been consistently surprised as to how many people still say they don’t even know what a Podcast is.  At a recent social event, I listened in as my wife attempted to evangelize “Serial” to a variety of people in our suburban New Jersey circle.  Most everyone didn’t just not know what “Serial” is, they didn’t know what Podcasting is.

The numbers back this up.  In January of last year, we asked our Infinite Dial sample the simple question: “Are you familiar with the term Podcasting?”  At that time only 48% of our nationally representative sample said they were.  The highest awareness was among 25-34 year-olds, at 61%.

Meanwhile, our other research series, the newer "Share of Ear"  (SM) study, has already produced information that shows the growth of Podcasting -- read Tom Webster's post about it here.

Infinite Dial 2015 is in the field, sponsored again by our generous friends at Triton Digital.  The results will be presented in a Webinar on Wednesday, March 4 at 2pm eastern.   Of course we will be asking all manner of questions about Podcasting - including our simple awareness question.  I can't wait for Edison to report its updated Podcasting numbers.

One Big Reason Teens are Streaming

Earlier this week Edison released the first finding from our Fall 2014 "Share of Ear" (SM) report -- that teens are now spending more time listening to pureplay Internet audio services like Pandora and Spotify than they do with AM/FM Radio.  You can see that release here.

A couple of points based on the many questions I have received on this.  First, as is noted in the release, listening to AM/FM via the Internet, in this case, counts towards AM/FM.  This analysis is talking about the content platform, not the delivery system.  Second, the 'reach' or 'cume' of AM/FM exceeds that of pureplays (not by a lot); it's the time spent with Pandora and Spotify that puts them ahead of AM/FM.  Third, as is stressed in the release, AM/FM is well ahead of Streaming among all other age groups, including the adjacent 18-24 year-old age group.

As some of the media coverage has pointed out, today's teens are 'Digital Natives' who have lived most of their lives with laptops, smartphones and tablets.  Except perhaps when they are in their parents' cars, they may well never encounter a traditional AM/FM receiver as part of their media day.

And I don't mean to ignore the fact that today, as has been the case now for decades, there are teenagers all over America who absolutely love their local Top 40 or Country (or whatever) radio stations.  One could look at this finding and easily spin it to point out how resilient AM/FM Radio is among this most-connected demographic. 

 

But as the president of a research company that does a lot of work in radio, I have to note that there is one other big reason: The 'Reap what you Sow' effect.  In all my years of doing radio research, virtually none of the research in the US is done against teenagers.  Virtually no radio stations perform formal research  for their music among teens nor target teens directly in their marketing or strategy.  Even for Top 40s, the target is 18-34 and the teens are expected to come along for the ride.

The situation is very different in many international markets where we work.  Elsewhere stations are targeting teens -- and while there are many variables at play here, they are keeping more teens on AM/FM content.  James Cridland in the UK touches on these points in his blog post here.

Now, I truly don't think it's out of the question that even some of these teens who mostly listen to Pandora or Spotify or other streaming services will 'grow into radio' as they finish their educations and enter the workforce.  But the marketing challenge of getting them to do so will be the likes that America's AM/FM Radio operators have never before faced.

 

NPR One has Changed My Life

Every now and again – and perhaps more frequently these days – one encounters a technological change that immediately speaks to you and says: “You will never go back.” 

I often mention as my example the button in the car that makes the locks go up and down.  I’m old enough to remember the first time I saw one and I instantly understood I would never lean across the car again.  Small, but life-changing.  I could go back – but why would I?

After several weeks with the NPR One app – I have the same feeling.  As long as this app exists, I can’t imagine ever listening to my local public radio station – WNYC – on a radio again.

If you haven’t tried it yet – NPR One is, in essence, the Pandora-itization of NPR content.  Each session starts with the most recent top-of-the-hour newscast.  After that – stories are presented in some kind of order – and one can skip the story or mark it ‘interesting’ (their version of ‘thumbs-up’).

Edison’s research has shown that song-skipping is one of the most compelling parts of the appeal of Pandora and similar music services.  Well story-skipping is utterly revelatory.  It allows me to listen to an hour of public radio content in maybe 35 minutes.  If the promise of technology is making one’s life more efficient, well NPR One is an efficiency machine.  At the same time, the app is clearly learning about my likes and dislikes and thus it’s not necessary for me to skip as much.    

The app does a great job of reminding the user that there is a local public radio station – one that needs financial support – connected to the deal (full disclosure – I donate to WNYC – and NPR One makes me MORE likely to give going forward).

NPR One cannot replace all of one's listening -- but it takes us one step closer to the mind-meld app that knows your tastes and preferences so well that it gives you the content  you seek -- whether music, news, podcasts, comedy -- at the moment you want it.  

Here Comes Hollywood

In November, as the media frenzy over "Serial" was catching steam, I was interviewed by CNBC about the phenomenon.  You can read this excellent article here.  

Down at the bottom you'll find a comment I made to the reporter:  "For Edison Research's Rosin, what was 'hugely significant' about 'Serial' was the interest from 'Hollywood and the creative classes.' That, he said, is where the innovation - and money - was."

Sure enough -- this week brought the announcement from Discovery Networks that it is planning its own crime-related podcast for its Investigation Discovery network.  You can read about this announcement in this article from Adweek.  

Humorously, the Discovery exec who announced it, Henry Schleiff said: "I think we were all surprised by the amount of press and attention -- and indeed some of the viewership or 'soundship' -- that the podcast got."  Let me help you out there Mr. Schleiff -- maybe go with "listenership."

While their plans aren't yet fully baked, there is an intriguing mention of television or web-based tie-ins. The podcast roll continues -- and it will be fascinating to see if video-based story tellers can successfully master the audio medium.  

Yell Like Hell

There is a famous saying in the legal profession: “If the facts are against you, argue the law.  If the law is against you, argue the facts.  If the facts and the law are against you, yell like hell.” 

On Monday I posted an entirely fact-based statement about iHeart’s streaming data as supplied by Triton Digital (a company whose information has received accreditation from the Media Ratings Council and is widely considered accurate).  You can read that post here.

On Tuesday the article got picked up by the radio trades, and predictably the people at iHeart felt the need to ‘respond’ via their Public Relations team.  Their statement in its entirety is:

The blog you posted today about Edison’s take on iHeartRadio’s growth shows one thing in particular: That Edison simply doesn’t understand consumers. For consumers, digital listening isn’t a discrete or different activity; the smartphone is just a portable radio to be used along with the car radio, the kitchen radio, the clock radio and the office radio. We don’t think of the office radio as its own unique listening – and nor should we for the smartphone. What makes more sense to discuss is ‘total listening,’ which would combine total digital listening with broadcast radio listening to represent all platforms consumers are using. 

And on the digital front, objective third-party measurement makes clear that iHeartMedia continues to expand its strong digital presence. Digital monthly uniques for the iHeartMedia Digital Network grew 61% year to date, which is even more impressive given that 92% of listening in America happens on AM/FM broadcast radio – and digital listening is additive for us. And in reality, a metric like ‘Average Active Sessions’ is not useful -- for the simple reason that nobody knows whether the length of the session is 5 seconds or 5 minutes, or the reasons behind starting a new session. More station starts could simply mean less consumer satisfaction -- or lower quality due to technical problems.

When discussing consumer listening, it’s helpful to have a full understanding of consumers’ actual audio behavior.

Normally I would take the ‘high road’ and just let this absurd statement go.  But iHeart has chosen to resort to insults.  While the stuff in the middle of this statement is just a bunch of change-the-subject nonsense that does not even address the points in my article, the beginning and end are what is characterized as an “ad hominem” argument.  Meaning – if you can’t argue the position, attack the arguer. 

So here is my response to the PR folks at iHeart, or whoever directed them to write this: You know that you have neither the ‘facts nor the law’ on your side.     

Some facts:

The shares of iHeart stations in PPM markets are down.  The sum of the publicly reported 6+ shares for all iHeart stations in PPM markets were DOWN 3% when comparing stations between Spring of 2012 and Spring of 2014.     

As my original post stated and the response does not refute, iHeart’s online listening is flat.  (The response doesn’t even dispute the Triton numbers – it changes the topic to ‘uniques’ and 'session starts' -- two things that don't mean listening and that I didn't even mention).  So let me quote iHeart back to itself.  “What makes more sense to discuss is ‘total listening,’ which would combine total digital listening with broadcast radio listening to represent all platforms consumers are using”. 

Agreed.  Let's discuss 'total listening.'  If iHeart's 'over the air' numbers are down, and their online listening is flat...what is iHeart's 'total listening' trend? Prediction: Any response will change the subject to a growing 'cume' -- the number that grows on account of US population growth, and not expanded radio 'listening' as measured by time spent (ratings). 

I also suggest that anyone interested rereads the original post.  There is not a single insulting word about iHeart as a company or its products.  I didn't attack iHeart, I merely stated a fact about their reported online listening from a highly credible 'objective, third-party measurement' source.  And then asked "Why?"  Because iHeart doesn’t have the facts on its side, it chooses to resort to insults. iHeart has to ‘yell like hell’ because someone has dared to shine the light on the truth.

Why is iHeart Radio not growing?

I look forward each month to the release of Triton Digital’s streaming audio statistics.  I started to notice something a while ago and for whatever reason seems not to have gotten attention – iHeartRadio has simply stopped growing. 

You can find the underlying data that is tracked so well by the RAIN news site as seen below:

In May of 2011 iHeart was about to enter a year of explosive growth and by May of 2012 the “Average Active Sessions” increased an astounding 127% to 183,000 sessions.  Another good year of growth followed and by May of 2013 iHeart hit what stands as its all-time peak of 245,463 AAS. 

And then – no read of the data can argue for anything other than flatness (at best) since then.  For May of 2014 iHeart recorded 242,079 average sessions (down 1% from May 2013).  The most recently reported month of September 2014 is nearly identical at 242,638. 

So the question is: “Why?” 

It can’t be a lack of advertising.  Even the briefest listen to any iHeartRadio station contains multiple mentions of the brand and the app.  Add in the various concerts and television specials and goodness knows the brand name is getting an enormous number of GRPs. 

Nor can it be that there’s no growth to be had – Pandora has grown 32% in the 16 months since iHeart’s peak (from 1.485million AAS to 1.900million). 

The closest thing to a possible clue is that most all of the sites that are geared (or mostly geared) to the streams of AM/FM Radio stations are flat or down since May of 2013.  Cumulus is down 22% from that time in the September Triton numbers.  CBS is down 14%.  ESPN and Greater Media show modest gains.  In general – it is more than fair to say the business of streaming the content of American radio stations is stagnant at best.

To its credit, iHeart is more than just the streams of radio stations.  But regardless, it is not achieving growth, even as every day more and more people have a smartphone in their pockets or purses.