Pew Project's 2010 Report Yields Mixed Signals for U.S. Digital Radio


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The non-profit Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has issued its annual 2010 "State Of the News Media Report" for 2010. The portion of that report dealing with audio services paints a mixed picture for digital radio's progress.

On the plus side, 236 million Americans continue to use radio on a weekly basis. That figure has remained essentially flat over a several-year period, though average time spent listening continues its gradual decline. That's better than expected news for radio in that neither iPods or satellite radio have taken as much of a bite as projected out of the total number of those who use terrestrial radio on at least an occasional basis.

While satellite radio actually lost a few subs in 2009, and HD Radio saw no large-scale increases in numbers listening, online listening increased significantly, with the bulk of that increase coming from those listening to terrestrial radio streams.

Podcast listening was also up in 2009, albeit at lower levels than online listening.

On a less upbeat note, the rate of stations converting to HD operation during 2009 remained virtually unchanged from 2008 at approximately 184, most of which were operating with news/talk/information formats. That annual rate is far below the peak of 2006, when over 500 stations converted. While more than 2,000 stations nationally are now operating in HD hybrid digital, that remains a relatively small percentage of the 14,355 AM and FM broadcasters licensed in the United States according to June 2009 FCC metrics.




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