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Monday Memo: Infinite Dial 2019

| March 11, 2019

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Launched by Edison Research in 1998, “The Infinite Dial” is the longest-running survey of digital media consumer behavior in the USA, tracking internet audio, podcasting, and audio consumption via smartphones and smart speakers.  1500 Americans were polled, and the data was weighted to emulate the USA population.

If you weren’t on last week’s webinar call, it’s well worth your time to download the study and watch the video at Edison  Highlights from the presentation by Edison’s Tom Webster and Triton Digital’s John Rosso:

“Social Media usage appears to have stalled.”

79% of us, some 223 million participate, but Facebook and Twitter have declined, especially with younger users.


  • Still #1 in usage, estimated 172M, but…
  • That 61-percent-of-us is down from 62% in 2018, 67% in 2017. “There are an estimated 15 million fewer Facebook users in the USA today than in 2017.”
  • It’s older-than-younger: 82 million 12-34s Facebooked in 2017, 65M today.

#2 Instagram is the comer: 34% in 2017, 36% in 2018, now 39%

Next, virtual tie: Pinterest and Twitter, both steady lately around 30%

LinkedIn: 22% – 22% – 22%

Twitter: 23% – 21% – 19%

WhatsApp debuts at 18%


84% — 237 million of us 12+ – own one.  This product has never a down year since it was introduced. More on smartphones in a minute.

Smart Speakers:

  • 23% — 65 million – own at least one, triple the 2017 number.
  • #1 is Alexa, now in 16% of USA homes. Google Home: 7%, Sonos One with Alexa: 3%, Apple HomePod 2%
  • “The average smart speaker user possesses two.” And 28% of us have three or more. We’ll come back to that too.

“Online audio has reached a new high in weekly time spent listening, potentially driven by podcasting and smart speakers.”

  • Listening to AM/FM stations online and/or streamed audio content available only on the Internet us up, monthly and weekly, for the 9th year in a row:
  • The younger the consumer the more consumed.
  • Weekly TSL: 16 hours 43 minutes (13:40 in 2018)

When I say audiobook DON’T think audiocassette.

Heck, Don Draper might’ve worked the old “Books on Tape” account.

Back to the future: See that data above?  All the ways we now consume audio have us consuming all kinds of audio: “Along with the increases in podcast listening, audiobook consumption also surged, indicating a trend toward increased spoken-word audio consumption.”  Audible is big on smartphones, and…


  • AM/FM still used most there, though barely now; and it’s trending down.
  • “Used Most Often” slides from 57% in 2017 to 56% in 2018 to 52% now.
  • One reason why: As we replace our cars, new infotainment systems offer more options. Among them, teaser subscriptions to SiriusXM which is up 2% since last year.
  • Unsurprisingly, as listening via new in-dash arrays has ticked-up steadily since 2013, in-car listening via cell phone has leveled-off.

Audio Brands Used Most Often

Music FMs: In addition to owned music, these are your competitors:

  • Pandora 30%
  • Spotify 25% — #1 12-34s
  • Apple Music 11%
  • iHeartRadio 8%
  • Amazon Music 9% — 16% among smart speaker owners
  • Google Play 4%
  • Other 13%

And YouTube Music, steady growth since 2014.  50 million 12+ listen weekly, heaviest users are 12-34s.

“Podcasting has reached a milestone, with the majority of Americans now saying they have ever listened to one.”

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Monthly 12% 15% 17% 21% 24% 26% 32% = 90M
Weekly 7% 8% 10% 13% 15% 17% 22% = 62M

Weekly podcast listeners average 7 podcasts per week.

Consultant surmise for radio broadcasters:

  • The station smartphone app is now table stakes. iHeart or iTunes exposure is nice, but asks an extra step.
  • The 2-smart speakers-per-home average brings station streams back into two rooms where, once upon a time, there were AM/FM receivers. Smart stations are making money selling smart speaker pre-roll sponsorships; and airing promos that train listeners to enable the Skill.  And, of course, offering programming that compels choice, which will also help stations machete-through the in-dash audio jungle.
  • This audiobook and podcasting data make it crystal clear that if you’re only feeding a transmitter, you could starve. Tell advertisers’ stories longer-form online, and lift bites for spots that invite consumption.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; he is the author of the acclaimed, witty “Holland Cooke Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books; and he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show on RT America.  Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice