Format Profiles

As programmers strategize how – and where – to connect with their most loyal listeners, new data illuminates the differences in the devices they use, social media they favor, how much they listen on headphones and other behaviors across 11 top formats. “Radio Listener Profiles,” a new Infinite Dial study from Edison Research, breaks out behaviors from a national online survey of more than 3,000 Americans 12+ that listened to AM/FM radio in the past week, either over the air or online.

The survey was conducted in January and February, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With stations using social media to engage with listeners, the study shows where P1 listeners and potential listeners are more likely to be. Top 40 and hip-hop P1s over-index with almost every social media brand. Female-leaning formats over-index on Pinterest, while P1s for sports, alternative and hip-hop prefer Twitter. Instagram is hot with hip-hop, R&B, alternative and top 40. Yet for all the talk about it losing ground, “Facebook is still the social media brand used most often for the biggest percentage of every format,” Edison Director of Research Laura Ivey said during a webinar Thursday, even among younger leaning formats.

The study also looked at format P1s who consume at least some audio on headphones or earbuds. This is especially timely with Nielsen adjusting its AQH audience estimates upward, starting with the PPM October survey, to better account for headphone listening. The Edison data shows almost all hip-hop radio P1s (93%) listen to some audio through headphones or earbuds, followed by R&B (86%) and sports (83%). Formats with fewer P1 listeners using headphones are classic rock (63%), news/talk (60%) and contemporary Christian (59%). “Earbuds and headphones are generally connected to computers or mobile devices,” Ivey noted, providing motivation for radio to encourage audiences to listen to their online streams.

The study sheds a light on where listeners to various formats discover new music. AM/FM radio was one of the top three sources for new music discovery for all of the music formats with the exception of hip hop. Broadcast radio ranked No. 1 for music discovery in six of the nine formats: country, classic rock, top 40, classic hits, contemporary Christian and hard rock/heavy metal and ranked second for R&B and third for alternative. The study shows the rise of YouTube for music discovery – it’s one of the top three sources for P1s of all of the music formats and ranked first in hip-hop, R&B and alternative rock.

Device Ownership

Formats whose P1 listeners are more likely to own an in-home radio include classic hits, classic rock, country, hard rock/heavy metal, news/talk, and sports. Formats less likely to own one include alternative rock and contemporary Christian while hip hop and top 40 index the lowest for in-home radio ownership. The radio ownership data doesn’t include in-car radios, where most listening takes place.

For every format among the top 11 in the study, at least 58% of their P1 listeners have at least one radio in their household. “Radio faces a hardware challenge but we still have large majorities of people with radios in their homes,” Ivey said. “So the objective for radio is to convince more of those who don’t have radios to listen to radio content via stream.”

One of the easiest ways to do that in the home is streaming the station on a smart speaker and the results show which formats have the largest smart speaker opportunity. Leading the league, by far, are sports P1s listeners, who are 50% more likely to own a smart speaker than the total U.S. population, and top 40 (30% more likely). Hard rock/heavy metal, R&B, alternative rock and hip-hop P1s all over-index above the national average for smart speaker ownership. Classic formats, news/talk, contemporary Christian and country index lower.

The study found respondents are also listening to online audio with five formats where at least 75% of their P1s listened to online audio in the last week: sports, top 40, alternative, hard rock and hip-hop. When looking specifically at AM/FM radio online listening in the last week, the percentages are markedly lower: Sports (45%), R&B (28%), news/talk (26%), alternative rock (26%), hard rock/heavy metal (26%). These numbers reinforce earlier research that the vast majority of time spent listening to AM/FM radio occurs over the air.

Looking at format P1 listeners segmented by ethnicity shows the impact of the nation’s rising Hispanic/Latino population. While Spanish-language formats were not included in the findings, hip-hop at 25% had the highest concentration of Latino P1 listeners, followed by top 40 at 21%, and R&B at 19%. All three formats over-index the 16% of the total U.S. population that is Hispanic. R&B had the highest concentration of African-American P1s (55%), followed by hip-hop (25%) and contemporary Christian (19%) over-indexing the 13% national average. Eight of the 11 formats over-index for white P1s, led by country where 87% of its P1s are white, far exceeding the 66% of the U.S. population.

Download the study HERE.