A couple of days ago the Wall Street Journal reported terrestrial radio is playing fewer hit songs more frequently (see Radio’s Answer to Spotify? Less Variety) driven by research showing that “listeners tend to stay tuned when they hear a familiar song, and tune out when they hear music they don’t recognize.” In the same article, the WSJ reports Mediabase data showing “the top 10 songs last year were played close to twice as much on the radio than they were 10 years ago.” This in contradiction to the fact that terrestrial radio remains the most frequent source of music in the U.S. and still the primary way consumers discover new music. A few thoughts on the impact digitization is having on radio listening:

  1. Digitization allows more granular audience measuring including the use of Portable People Meters
  2. Digitization allows for digital playlists that allow users to easily repeat play the same song. I’m going to refer to this as “binge repetition” – the act of listening to the same song or a series of songs over a short period of time.  This is an expansion of the original mix tape. Digital makes it easy and therefore exacerbates the practice.
  3. Digitization allows the use of algorithms to aid discovery. While this remains low relative to the national listening audience, it is certainly growing. Pandora for example reports 76.2 million active listeners with 1.58 million hours of listening a month and roughly an 8.6 percent share of the total U.S. radio listening. Spotify reports one billion playlists and 24 million active users.
  4. Digitization has moved the niche listeners to peripheral digital services like Pandora or Spotify where choice within those niches are deeper. As a result, terrestrial radio is left with a more well-defined audience.

Other thoughts? Leave them in the comments…