The Flavors of Streaming Audio

On the heels of Thanksgiving, and with Christmas and Hanukkah right around the corner, we can’t help but embrace all the flavors of the holiday season. We’re already daydreaming of cinnamon and cloves, the earthy smell of a fresh-cut Douglas Fir and—dare we say—the rich satisfaction of indulging in a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

At Pandora, we nerd out on all things audio. So all this holiday-talk got us thinking about the many different “flavors” of streaming. Where audio consumption was once relegated to a transistor radio set, today’s listeners have so many choices for indulging in their favorite music, podcasts and radio programs.

But is having too many choices a bad thing? Research shows us that more audio choices actually results in more listening time. Streaming, for example, is projected to double between 2015-2020, lifting overall audio time along with it.1

The Listening “Pie” Expands

Listeners particularly love to take advantage of newer audio formats that get delivered digitally to their smartphones, cars and homes. Young Adults between the ages of 18-24 were the first demo ever to spend as much of their listening time with streaming as with AM/FM radio, pushing the activity mainstream.2

But when it comes to streaming, there are several different categories to think about—from free simulcasts of broadcast radio to paid, on-demand listening experiences. These services broadly fit into three buckets (you can read more about each type in our Definitive Guide to Audio):

  • Linear: Pre-programmed content where the listener has little or no control. Includes simulcasts of AM/FM commercial and public stations in the U.S. and abroad, and preprogrammed celebrity music playlists. Most of these services, such as iHeartRadio, are both free and ad-supported.
  • Custom: Personalized stations that listeners create around a song, artist or genre. The stations can be further customized based on user interactions like song skips, thumbs, human curation or data-driven recommendations. Many of these services offer both free and ad-supported products. Several companies have introduced “mid-tier” options to offer additional features and commercial-free listening for a monthly fee.
  • On-Demand: Offers listeners near-complete control over their experience, including the ability to play specific songs, build custom playlists and download music for offline playback. Most on-demand services are ad-free with a paid subscription—although Spotify does offer an ad-supported, on-demand product for desktop computer users only.

Choice Gives Control Back to Consumers

With an unprecedented number of options for listening to audio, consumers get to also rethink their expectations of the services that provide it. Streaming audio, in particular, has opened the door to a personalized media revolution where consumers now expect to get what they want, when they want, on all of their connected devices.

Chad Stoller, Executive Vice President & Global Information Director at IPG Mediabrands summed this up nicely when he said:

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented era of consumer control. With every trip to the app store, consumers discover new ways to connect with friends, content and services.”
Ready to learn more about the current state of streaming audio? Pick up a free copy of our Definitive Guide to Audio here: CLICK HERE Sources: 1 Magna Global, Media Economy Report: Capturing Consumer Attention in an On Demand World, June 2016 2 Edison Research, Infinite Dial Study, 2016