Digital radio listening just surpassed FM, and the Amazon Echo is to blame

More radio was listened to through digital sources than via traditional analogue FM and AM broadcasts in the first quarter of 2018 − the first time this has ever happened. And Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speaker is to blame for the shift. 

The amount of listening done through digital devices (as measured by total hours listened rather than number of devices) reached 50.9%, the Guardian reports.

Related: Best DAB radio

However, in addition to Alexa-enabled speakers, digital listening also includes digital or DAB radios in homes and cars, as well as listening through smart TV apps. Within digital listening, DAB radios continue to dominate.

App-based and online listening was the fastest growing of all segments, with a growth rate of 17% in the first quarter of 2018, compared to 8.9% of growth through DAB radios.

Internet radio with the convenience of analogue

Given that internet radio is easily accessible through smartphone apps, you would have expected its popularity to have surged much earlier.

But with radio often being used as background noise at home or in the office, having to go to the trouble of opening an app on a phone still isn’t as convenient as being able to quickly turn on a speaker.

The move has us hoping that we might see an increase in the audio quality of radio broadcasts. At the moment, the BBC’s internet radio streams top out at just 320kbs, while on-demand music streaming services are now widely offering music at CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz. The BBC trailed such a resolution for last year’s Proms, but hasn’t since rolled out the technology more widely.

But with internet streams and apps being able to upgrade their tech much more easily than traditional broadcasts, that could be about to change if digital listeners continues to increase.

Do you listen to the radio? What’s your medium of choice? Get in touch with us @TrustedReviews.