Edison Research

Think Gen Z, the 65 million Americans born from 1996-2012, doesn’t listen to radio? Think again.

The latest Share Of Ear Study from Edison Research finds the portion of Gen Z aged 13-24, which accounts for 16% of the total U.S. 13+ population, likes and listens to radio, although their habits are quite different from the other 84% of the 25+ population. “Radio’s Roadmap To Gen Z Listenership," streamed as an on-demand presentation for NAB Show Express, examined Gen Z audio consumption across devices and locations and compared it to those for Americans 25+.

For starters the study looked at the devices both groups use to listen to audio. The vast majority (44%) of audio listening among those aged 25+ takes place on an AM/FM receiver, with mobile devices coming in second at 24%. “The picture is completely different” for Gen Z, said Megan Vartan, Manager of Research at Edison, who presented the results during the virtual event. “Half of all listening among Gen Zs is on their mobile devices, essentially their phones.” Contrary to the commonly held notion that Gen Z’s don’t listen to radio, 20% of their audio listening takes place on an AM/FM receiver, more than that which occurs on a computer (12%), smart speaker (4%) internet-connected TV (4%) and other (9%). “They do listen to the radio, perhaps more than you would expect,” Vartan said.

The latest Edison data also shows that radio’s reach story encompasses Gen Z. AM/FM achieves 55% daily reach with this group, with steaming audio close behind at 53%. “In an environment where radio people are constantly hearing that no young people listen to the radio anymore, this is powerful proof that this is just not the case,” said Vartan. “More than half say they do so every day.” But far more Americans 25+ – 70% to be exact – listen to radio every day and only 29% tune to streaming audio on a daily basis.

That’s the Share Of Ear story for cume. For time spent listening the pie is carved up a bit differently. Streaming audio pureplays like Spotify and Pandora account for the largest slice of audio listening time among 13-24 year-olds (26%), with AM/FM close behind at 22%, then You Tube (18%). Adding streaming audio and You Tube together shows 44% of audio time among Gen Z’s goes to digital formats. “Young people do listen to the radio. It’s just that in comparison to their parents and grandparents they spend way less time listening to the radio,” Vartan pointed out. The data shows AM/FM accounts for 48% of audio listening time with Americans 25+, more than double that for Gen Z, while streaming audio among 25+ is much lower at 15%. “The issue among young people is not cume, it is time spent listening,” Vartan explained. “And when fighting for listenership, getting more listening is a lot easier than getting someone to start listening in the first place.”

With streaming audio capturing the biggest slice of the audio listening pie among Gen Z, the Edison data shows Spotify is far out front in this sector with more than half (54%) of streaming listening time. After that it’s Pandora well behind at 19% followed by iHeartRadio at 9% ad Apple Music at 8%. Pandora has the streaming lead with the 25+ crowd at 37%, followed by Spotify at 23% then iHeartRadio at 10%.

The Share Of Ear study shows both Americans 13-24 and 25+ spend most of their time listening to audio at home, with listening in the car or truck second. (Keep in mind this is listening to all audio). For Gen Z, YouTube and streaming audio combined surpass 50% of all time spent listening to audio sources at home. But the amount they're listening to AM/FM radio at home isn't as low as you may think. “This digital first group of people still spend 15% of their time listening to AM/FM radio at home,” Vartan observed. The numbers are much different with Americans 25+ with 42% of their total at-home audio time going to AM/FM radio while streaming audio and YouTube only make up 29%.

Radio makes a huge jump in the car for Gen Z with almost 50% of their audio time in the car going to AM/FM radio, surpassing streaming audio and YouTube combined. “A higher portion of their listening to AM/FM radio is not due to lack of available options for Gen Z to listen in the car,” said Vartan. “They have an entire world of digital audio at their fingertips available on the mobile device that is never more than an arm’s length away. However, almost half of their time in the car is spent making the conscious decision to listen to AM/FM radio.”

As you’d expect, radio captures an even greater share of audio listening in the car among 25+ Americans at 64%. SiriusXM is competing for their attention in the car, grabbing 10% of their time behind the wheel, followed by owned music at 8% and 5% for streaming audio.

When Edison’s researchers looked at listening to AM/FM radio by device, they found almost all of it is taking place on a traditional AM/FM receiver – 89% for Gen Z, 91% for 25+. “Even among young people, nearly all radio listening is done over the air and only a tiny portion, 11%, is going to their streams,” Said Vartan. “Even among this young digital first demographic, the one that always has a phone in their hands or their pocket, they are simply not listening in big numbers to radio streams.”

“We know Gen Z likes radio,” Vartan concluded. “They think of radio as a reliable friend, as someone who gets you going.”

The findings are based on Share Of Ear data conducted by Edison Research from 4,000 interviews, updated in first quarter 2020. Participants keep an audio listening diary to report what they listen to in each quarter hour for a 24-hour period.