The convenience of having your favorite local radio station in your pocket is resonating with listeners, according to our latest research. Over the past 12 months, use of radio-based mobile apps grew 33%. By instantly turning any iPhone, iPad or Android device into a “radio”, users can listen virtually anytime and anywhere. The accessibility and convenience of mobile both increases listening hours and extends reach beyond traditional broadcasting ranges.
“Our recently completed Techsurvey8 says a lot about the voracious appetite for all things mobile – especially apps,” said Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media/jacAPPS. “We surveyed 57,300+ radio listeners across North America, more than half of whom now own a smartphone. Of those who download apps, over 70% download radio apps. When we asked our respondents which type of radio app they prefer, more than half opted for individually branded apps which allow for more features and customization. This is where radio is going.”
Indeed, turning a smartphone or tablet into a radio is a simple as downloading an app and streaming audio over either WiFi or a mobile data network. Which of those network options is being used provides additional insight into listening patterns. One feature of the mobile app analytics offered by Localytics is reporting on which data networks apps are used. Reviewing aggregate radio app usage in the US for about 500 apps measured by Localytics, we found that 42% of sessions were over non-mobile internet providers. In these cases, listeners were most likely using a WiFi network at home, work or at the local Starbucks.
The other 58% of radio app sessions were over mobile (cellular) data networks. Mobile network streaming can be and is still done at home, but it also provides the ability to listen “on the go,” whether the listener is walking, biking, driving or commuting. Supporting these results, Arbitron recently reported that 17% of mobile phone owners have listened to streaming radio in their cars by connecting their phones to the car stereo.
“We’re always looking for new ways to engage our listeners, and apps provide us with a great one,” says Tim Murphy of Entercom, one of the five largest radio broadcasting companies in the United States. “The convenience of being able to listen to us in the car, on the train, at home or in the office on a device you’re already carrying is great, both for us and for our listeners.”
While there are data caps to be wary of, at a streaming quality of 64 kbps a listener can stream 70 hours of radio before hitting the 2 GB monthly data plans now common in the US. By comparison, Pandora reported average listening time of 18 hours per month.
According to a survey by Mark Kassof and Company, most radio listeners are satisfied with their primary station. Taking away the limiting factor of a transmitter by introducing a smartphone or tablet app provides listeners with the station they are most satisfied and connected with no matter where they go, and provides stations with broader access to listeners who already have a relationship with them. Another Localytics app analytics feature that is valuable to such providers is location analysis, providing real-time metrics on where their apps are being used. Looking at aggregate radio streaming data over WiFi which can be used to more accurately determine metro area location, we found that 46% of users listened in areas that are outside terrestrial broadcast range.
This also means that more than half of terrestrial radio app listening is taking place in locations within the radio stations’ traditional broadcast reach. Even within a station’s range, offering a smartphone app gives listeners the convenience of listening when signal coverage is spotty, or where a standalone radio might be inconvenient. Radio stations with associated smartphone apps can give their listeners a more varied and flexible experience both within and outside of their normal broadcasting region.
The nature of mobile apps also gives radio stations unprecedented insight into listening preferences and what content is driving engagement. With proper app analytics, broadcasting companies can take best practices from their top apps – design elements, content, ad placement, etc. – and apply them to the rest of their radio stations. With Localytics’ app analytics platform implemented, station management can see exactly how long users are listening, what they’re listening to most often, and how loyal they are. This understanding of what users are doing and the ability to quickly pivot their strategy has the radio industry excited about mobile apps as another way to engage with their listeners.
“Radio listenership is stronger than ever, and with streaming apps we can give our listeners another level of convenience and access to their favorite stations,” says Murphy. “Both we as broadcasters and our listeners benefit from mobile radio apps. We will continue to take advantage of this new medium, and we’re very excited about what we can do.”