Radio – the broadcast linear flow of curated, predominantly live, presenter-led music and speech based audio entertainment – is now part of a much wider audio ecology.

Before the audio revolution, there used to be two choices for listeners – live radio or your personally-owned music collection.

Now, with the rise of new audio formats such as podcasts and streamed music services, listeners have more options than ever before. The rise of multiple-function mobile devices (formally known as phones) and the fact that audio content is “device neutral” for the most part, means that people can listen to almost anything, anywhere, and at any time.

Why people listen

Unsurprisingly, more services and greater availability is leading to an increase in overall audio listening. As of Winter 2021, 96% of adults listen to some form of audio entertainment for an average of 25.3 hours per week. IPA’s Touchpoints research highlights how audio listening currently accounts for 18% of all time spent with media



Audio listening is growing

Total hours(000): All adults




Radiocentre’s research project Audio Now explored the position of different audio services in people’s lives today. The study established that the demand for audio is increasing due to the pressure of modern life, with people using audio to help them cope. But audio doesn’t just fulfil one need: the research identified six different need-states where audio played a role.


For more information on the need-states and an explanation of how and why audio helps satisfy them, see ‘Why people listen’.

The different characteristics of live radio and on-demand audio mean that they are suited to different need-states and play complementary roles in the listener’s life.

Live radio is unique because it offers human voice and human choice and retains the ability to surprise. Radio also connects us to the outside world – both by keeping us in the loop and by providing a reason to talk to the people around us. What makes on-demand audio services different is the potential to listen – at least in theory – to anything. It offers control and instant gratification and the ability for a more immersive, focused music experience. While radio can help people feel connected to the wider world, on-demand help connects them to their world: be it friends with similar tastes or people they share playlists with.

By serving different listener needs to on-demand services, live radio remains the dominant format accounting for around 70% of all time spent with audio.



Share of total weekly listening hours



For more on using digital audio advertising alongside radio, see Planning your campaign 

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