Streaming is Now the Mainstream: How Young Listeners are Driving Online Radio Usage

Infinite Dial_Online Radio Listening

We all know it to be true. The constant consuming of online media has become a shared cultural habit among Americans—one that seems to be even more prevalent among teens and millennials. But what we also keep hearing about teens and millennials is how hard their habits are to pin down. One minute they’re over Facebook and onto Instagram, then Snapchat and Vine are where it’s at, and then next they’re back on Facebook. While we know they are consuming online media at a ferocious rate, how and what seems to be ever changing.

We do know, however, that teens and millennials love their music and that music listening is one of this group’s favorite activities. Thanks to new findings from The Infinite Dial, a landmark annual study about online media usage from Edison Research, we can tell a lot about how 12-24 year olds are tuning in and engaging with online music content.

Internet radio in general crossed a major milestone in 2015 with the majority of Americans aged 12 and over listening to online radio in the month preceding the survey. When you zoom in on the 12-24 age group, a whopping 77% of them reported listening in the last month, and a startling 69% had listened in the past week.

Infinite Dial_Weekly vs. Monthly


The study makes it clear that the 12-24 segment is the driving force behind internet radio’s now massive adoption—but it’s also reflective of the expanding ways that consumers are accessing media in this era of mobile and connected devices. When we look at smartphone ownership among 12-24s, 86% reported owning a smartphone in 2015, the highest of all age groups measured by the study.

With so much content at their fingertips, the 12-24 demographic has multiple options for enjoying music on the go. These young listeners are turning to online and mobile media services to not only listen to music, but to also watch music content on video platforms like YouTube. But what is even more interesting is how this group is discovering new music, which according to the Infinite Dial, more than half of 12-24s consider “very” to “somewhat important”. When asked what sources they use to stay in the know about music, the 12-24 segment was more likely to discover the latest hits from Pandora, rather than more conventional services like AM/FM radio or even Apple’s iTunes.

Infinite Dial_Music Discovery


Despite some generational differences of media usage throughout the study, one stat was remarkably consistent across all age groups. The Infinite Dial found that among online radio services, Pandora was the overwhelming choice regardless of age. Among the 12-24 age group specifically, 55% cited Pandora as the “audio brand used most often,” compared to 54% among all listeners aged 12 and over. As a natural proponent of personalized, online music listening, we see this stat as validation that younger generations are drawn to Pandora’s brand of music discovery and enjoyment.

Infinite Dial_Brands


Researchers and marketers alike must pay attention to the predictive value of these young consumers. They are a generation without any meaningful memory of life before online media access, born and bred to find what they want online as comfortably as their parents use the TV remote. As this segment ages into commuting, wage-earning adults, we can only assume they’ll take their digital routines with them—something marketers should consider when seeking out the right platforms to connect with this audience.