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Alexa Listening Takes Off According to NPR Data

NPR revealed in an interview with MediaPost that its streaming listening through Amazon Alexa devices grew 242% between November and February. Alexa now accounts for 13.3% of all NPR’s live streaming, up from just 3.9% in late 2017. When listening on any device triples over a 3-4 month period, every general manager and program director is going to take note.

Capturing Young Listeners Through Alexa

In addition, this rapid rise is helping NPR grow listening among a key target demographic that everyone in radio is targeting, younger listeners. Young consumers clearly listen to radio, but they are the least loyal demographic and trail every other age group in terms of time spent listening. The 2018 Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Triton showed that 50% of 18-34 year olds do not even own a radio. That is an eight-fold decrease over the past decade. It is getting harder to reach these young listeners.


However, smart speakers put radios back into the home. Every device can access a radio station with just a few spoken words. Alexa’s presence is helping NPR make inroads with the youth demographic that has flocked to music streaming services, but more recently has increased radio listening through smart speakers. Meg Goldthwaite, NPR’s chief marketing officer, said:

“The largest gains have been in the younger segment.”

Radio is Getting Onboard with Alexa and Listener Habits Are Forming

Over 1,000 radio stations now have an Alexa skill of their own. XAPPmedia alone has helped broadcasters launch more than 750 radio stations on Alexa. These range from single stations like The Journey that have used our Voice Cast for Radio online solution to leading radio groups such as Cumulus and Scripps. Our data also show a strong rise in Alexa listening between the beginning of Q4 2017 and the end of Q1 2018. At least one of our station groups grew their listenership more than five times faster than even NPR’s impressive accomplishment.

Nearly 70% of smart speaker owners try radio listening on their devices and about 26% go on to make it a daily habit according to a recent Voicebot study. Edison Research found that 25% of smart speaker owners received their first device in the fourth quarter of 2017. These consumers are just now forming habits around how they will use their smart speakers in the coming years. Forty-two percent say they are using their smart speakers to listen to streaming music services daily. As more radio stations develop an Alexa presence, the expectation is that daily user gap between 26% and 42% will shrink.

However, this will only happen if radio stations establish a presence to compete with streaming music services which have all fully committed to Alexa. Radio, as an industry, was slow to recognize the rise the mobile listening and consumer habits quickly formed around listening to streaming services while on the go. This made it harder for radio to gain attention on mobile because habits were already established. Now is the time for broadcasters to stake a claim on the fastest growing media distribution platform today to ensure radio listening habits take hold.

Go Live on Alexa, Promote and Monetize

Nearly 20% of U.S. adults now own smart speakers and they are increasingly consuming radio on the devices. The question for radio stations is how to proceed. After doing this more than 750 times and accumulating far more experience and data than anyone else in the industry, we recommend a three step process.

  • Go Live on Alexa with a Custom Skill: This is your own branded presence on Alexa so your listeners ask for your station by the name they already know. It is the fastest way to create a direct and lasting connection with listeners on smart speakers. XAPP developed the Voice Cast portal to make this process surprisingly fast and easy for stations to get started. It is far less involved than launching a mobile app.
  • Promote Your Alexa Skill: The MediaPost article indicates part of NPR’s success has been driven by promotion. “On the air, NPR announcers now encourage listeners to ask Alexa or Siri to tune in NPR stations, and to ask for it either by using call letters or simply NPR.” Our data show a strong correlation between on-air, online and social media promotions and growing listenership. For example, one radio group had steadily grown its Alexa listenership over its first month. It then was able to accelerate that growth and increase listenership by four-times after using on-air promotions in the second month.
  • Monetize Your Alexa Presence: Radio stations are using Alexa to tap into a new source of revenue. Amazon restricts advertising through Alexa-enabled devices, but has an exemption for radio and other media. XAPP is working with several stations that have seized this opportunity to get on the platform and monetize from the start.


If you would like to learn more about how to get your station on Alexa, you can check out our Voice CastTM for Radio page where most people can take just five minutes to fill out a form with details about their station and be live within a week. You can also contact us directly to ask questions and learn more. We look forward to hearing your station on Alexa.

Go to Voice Cast for Radio


Also, you can learn even more about radio listening data on Alexa and best practices for broadcasters, by signing up for our webinar on May 1st: How Radio Can Succeed on Alexa.

Sign Up for Webinar

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