While Baby Boomers grew up with radio and Millennials tune into the medium in strikingly large numbers, radio’s largest reach comes from Generation X (ages 35-54). Some 80.5 million Gen X-ers tune in to AM/FM radio during an average month (97% of the generation’s population), according to fresh research from Nielsen. Gen X is followed by Millennials (18-34-year-olds) with 71.6 million monthly listeners (95% of the Millennial population) and 41.2 million monthly Baby Boom listeners (ages 55-64), representing 98% of the generation’s population.
All told, radio reaches 93% of adult Americans (18+) each week, some 228.5 million consumers, more than those watching television (216.5 million), using an app or accessing the web on a smartphone (203.8 million) or watching video on a smartphone (127.6 million).
The new numbers, from Nielsen’s second-quarter 2017 Comparable Metrics Report, keep radio in the enviable position as the country’s top reach medium, which it has occupied since Nielsen first began apple-to-apples comparisons of media platforms more than two years ago.
Comparing technology trends to fashion trends, Nielsen Audio managing director Brad Kelly calls AM/FM radio “the blue blazer” of the media universe. “Who would have believed 100 years after its debut AM/FM radio would continue to top the charts as the medium that reaches more consumers each week than any other,” he says in the introduction to “Audio Today – How America Listens.” “Audio plays a central role in the daily lives of hundreds of millions of consumers. Broadcast radio specifically continues to profoundly enrich the lives of listeners and create value for advertisers,” Kelly adds.
The new report offers a snapshot of the audio world, where a plethora of new apps and streaming services continue to make headlines on a daily basis. Yet broadcast radio’s weekly reach of 228.5 million outpaces the 68.5 million for streaming audio, 35.7 million using satellite radio and 21.9 million consuming podcasts.
“Radio plays a special role in our culture. Its audiences are as varied and diverse as our national makeup. All generations, demographics and ethnicities are tuning in,” Kelly says. In fact, the new data shows radio reaches 97% of Blacks (34.5 million consumers) and 96% of Hispanics (44.6 million) on a monthly basis. The medium’s monthly reach is remarkably consistent across all age demographics, from teens (94%) to adults 25-54 (97%).
That consistent reach hasn’t gone unnoticed by big national brands. “Billion dollar advertisers are re-discovering the power of radio and how it can augment, supplement and amplify their media mix,” Kelly says. “New ad dollars are flowing to the medium, and major national brand names that have been absent from commercial radio for decades can once again be heard on the air – further evidence that we are entering into an age of ‘reawakening’ about what radio has to offer both the general consumer public, and the ad community.”
The report also affirms the power of network radio, with 94% of radio listeners aged 12+ tuning into a network-affiliated station every week.
It also shines a light on which radio formats have the highest appeal among the country’s growing podcast consumers. More than 30 million Americans watch, listen or download podcasts each month. But their appeal is stronger among some formats than others and “Audio Today” offers a roadmap for programmers navigating the podcast landscape. Alternative and triple A score highest with roughly 20% of each format’s audience also listening to podcasts. Rhythmic CHR (17.1%), hot AC (17.0%) and sports (16.8%) round out the top five formats among podcast fans. But every format, except country (12.1%) and regional Mexican (11.5%), over-indexes against the 12.7% national average of all American adults for using podcasts. And while podcasts remain a significantly smaller slice of the audio pie than AM/FM radio, listenership is growing, and smartphones are driving the surge with a 157% increase in podcast usage on those devices since 2014.