Nielsen New 375

It’s been several years since Nielsen first released the eye-opening finding that radio is the No. 1 reach medium. While that raised eyebrows and triggered headlines, the realization has finally sunk in with enough marketers that it has begun to pay off for radio. True to form, Nielsen’s latest Total Audience Report, based on first quarter consumption data for nine different media, again shows 92% of U.S. adults listen to radio each week, the highest reach across platforms.

In what has become a familiar narrative, radio edged out all of its competitors, including live + time-shifted TV (88%), app/web on a smartphone (79%) and internet on a computer (60%), which came in second, third and fourth respectively. “Consistently, we continue to see how radio reaches everybody because it’s easy and we listen to it in a lot of places,” Jon Miller, VP of Audience Insights for Nielsen, tells Inside Radio. “It’s mass appeal, it’s community-based, it’s live and local, and it’s still the No. 1 source of audio in the car. It just keeps going.”

In raw numbers, radio has 227.5 million weekly listeners, besting total TV users at 224.6 million and 195.6 million for app/web on a smartphone.

Now that radio has been preaching the reach message consistently for years, it’s begun to resonate on Madison Ave., converting more advertisers into radio believers. “There have been all kinds of stories – you guys have written about this – about huge advertisers rediscovering radio, going from spending nothing to spending millions of dollars on radio, because this data has been out there long enough that they see how important and how impactful radio is,” Miller adds. That’s especially true now that Nielsen is starting to do a better job of infusing radio listening data into the complex marketing mix models that advertisers use to allocate their media budgets; and as planning tools are introduced that show marketers the optimum media mix to meet their objective. “Radio’s reach just keeps paying off. It keeps being a valuable part of advertising,” Miller says.

But What About TSL?

The radio industry often quotes its superior cume statistic. But what about time spent listening?

Despite all the new streaming audio services jockeying to siphon listeners away, radio usage is consistent with prior quarters, clocking in at one hour, 46 minutes per day among adults 18+, putting it in third place of nine media tracked by Nielsen. Live TV leads in average time spent (four hours, ten minutes) followed by app/web on a smartphone (two hours, 22 minutes).

The report documents the massive chasm between broadcast radio and streaming audio when it comes to time spent. On a weekly basis, adults 18+ spend 12 hours, 20 minutes with radio but only 26 minutes per week with streaming audio on a smartphone and five minutes a week with streaming audio on a tablet. Even among Millennials (18-34), radio racked up nearly ten hours a week compared to 42 minutes of streaming audio on a smartphone and six minutes on a tablet. “The overwhelming majority of audio usage that we capture is done by radio,” Miller says. “Certainly people listen on smartphones and smart speakers and all these other devices but when you line up the sheer time spent, there’s still a big chunk of time being spent with radio.”

While TV viewing is heavily tilted toward older demos, radio exhibits a more balanced demographic profile. True, adults 50-64 spend more time with radio per week than any other demo (14 hours, 57 minutes). But 18-34 year-olds tune in for nine hours and 52 minutes a week. That’s in stark contrast to TV where 50-64 year-olds spend nearly double the amount of time with television per week (46 hours, 47 minutes) than do Millennials (24 hours, 46 minutes).

Across the board, radio has solid time spent. Adults 35-49 tune in for 12 hours, 47 minutes a week, 50-64 year-olds log 14 hours, 57 minutes and adults 65+ spend 12 hours, ten minutes.

Regardless of age, radio consistently accounts for between 14%-17% of daily media use. There’s remarkable uniformity across demos – adults 18-34 spent 16% of their media time with radio, the same as adults 35-49. Adults 50-64 invest a smidge more of their media time with AM/FM (17%) while adults 65+ log 14%. (The adults 18+ average is 16%.) But with TV, the older you get, the more of your media time is spent in front of the tube. Nielsen shows 26% of 18-34 year-olds’ media time goes to TV, 37% of 35-49, 48% of 50-64 and a whopping 60% of 65+.

All the new media devices and platforms have Americans spending 11 hours a day connected to linear and digital media in Q1, an increase of 19 minutes. “People make more time for media,” Miller observes. “Because we have so many devices, and so much media and so many choices, every quarter that goes by, the number gets a little bigger. We spend more waking hours using media now because there’s more media and more devices.”

Nielsen based its radio estimates in the new report on June RADAR studies and its National Regional Database. RADAR reports national network radio ratings, covering the U.S. using both PPM and diary measurement, based on a rolling one-year average of nearly 400,000 respondents aged 12+ per year.

More from Nielsen’s Total Audience Report in Wednesday morning’s Inside Radio.