By Paul Heine, Radio and Records

There is good news in the radio industry: online radio is gaining in popularity. The number of Americans that tune in weekly to online radio grew to 42 million, up from 33 million in 2008. Stuck in the 11 percent to 13 percent range for the past three years, weekly online listening now reaches 17 percent of the population, according to Arbitron and Edison Research, which released their 17th annual Infinity Dial study Thursday (April 16).

The number of monthly online listeners is 69 million or 27 percent of the population. And nearly half of the population, or 49 percent, an astounding 125 million, have ever listened to online radio.

The Arbitron/Edison survey, conducted this year from January 16 to February 15 with 1,858 participants, also showed the demographics of online radio listeners don’t skew as young as they once did, more closely resembling the audience composition of traditional radio. Twenty percent of adults 25-54 said they listened to Web radio in the last week, up from 15 percent a year earlier.

"The sharp growth in weekly usage of online radio in this year's study provides compelling evidence that radio's digital platforms may be reaching critical mass," said Bill Rose, senior vp of marketing for Arbitron. "The growth of online radio is reinforced with what we are seeing in the portable people meter. We are beginning to see encoded streams of AM/FM broadcasts with significant audience in local markets."

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