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Podcast and Pure-Play

By the Project For Excellence In Journalism
Podcasts and Pure-Play


Downloading radio programs for later listening on a computer or mobile device – podcasting – continued to slowly gain ground in 2009. News programs, however, make up only a very small part of this listening.

An estimated 27 million Americans in 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available), reported listening to a podcast in the previous month. This is up 2% from 2007, according to survey data from Arbitron.1

Listenership of Online Radio vs. Podcasts
Design Your Own Chart
“The Infinite Dial 2009,” Arbitron, April 2009.

Awareness of podcasts also grew in 2008, to 43% of Americans aged 12 and older, up from 37% the year before.2

Top Podcast Topics, October 2009
Podcast Awareness
Design Your Own Chart
“The Infinite Dial 2009,” Arbitron, April 2009

Pure-Play Internet Radio

The Internet-only services, which tend to cater to very specific niche interests — jazz and classical music, for example – won a key battle with regulators in 2009.

The issue, which heated up in 2008, was whether pure-play Internet radio stations would have to pay substantially higher royalties than in the past to play music (for more information on the history of this issue see last years report). In July 2009, representatives from an Internet radio coalition from sites like Pandora and Slacker Radio reached an agreement with the Copyright Royalty Board to pay a lower royalty rate than had been proposed, a reduction that Pandora and other companies had said was necessary for their survival.

Internet broadcasters will pay 40% to 50% less per listener for each song than what was originally proposed.5 In the end, their rate will be 25% of their total yearly revenue, or a fixed per-song fee, whichever is larger.

While this rate is lower than the originally proposed, it is still far more than those paid by satellite or broadcast radio.  Satellite radio pays only 6.5% of its gross revenue to artists (and by proxy the record companies that own the copyright) as well as the composers.  Broadcast radio currently pays only composers and does not pay anything to recording companies or artists for playing their music; however, there is a bill in Congress that would change this.


1. “The Infinite Dial 2009,” Arbitron, April 2009

2. “The Infinite Dial 2009,” Arbitron, April 2009



5. MG Siegler, “Pandora (And Other Internet Radio) Has Officially Been Saved,” TechCrunch, July 7, 2009.