Genetic symbols

More women listen to radio than men but men listen longer. This trend, which has been showing up in Nielsen listening estimates for more than a decade, is all the more noteworthy today in light of new data showing women spend nearly 73 hours a week consuming media. That’s five more hours of media use during the typical week than men. And yet despite spending more time on other media platforms than their male counterparts, female radio listeners continue to outnumber men.

Here’s how it breaks down, according to Nielsen RADAR 142 data provided to Inside Radio: 127.6 million women 12+ listened to radio weekly in September 2019. That’s 6.4 million more than men (121.2 million). The trend is the same among persons 18+ with 116.8 million female radio listeners compared to 110.6 million men.

But the dynamic changes when you shift the lens from cume to time spent listening. Men lead in this metric with 13 hours, 19 minutes per week among radio users 12+ compared to 11 hours, 47 minutes for women. Same deal with 18+: men tune in for 13 hours, 55 minutes, women for 12 hours, 9 minutes.

The reason behind the TSL difference is, in a word, employment. “Most radio use continues to be outside the home,” explains Nielsen VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller. “And people that use more radio are people that are out of the home on a regular basis, especially during the week and working hours, which is when the peak of radio listening happens. It all makes sense if you put the pieces together and connect the dots.”

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics fills in a big piece of that puzzle. It shows 57% of men work full time compared to 43% for women, a 14-point gap. Nielsen Scarborough data shows an even wider 19-point gulf with 56% of men working full-time and 37% of women. “That means men are more likely to be out of the home during the day and that’s where they consume more radio,” Miller offers.

With most radio listening occurring away from the home, the wide employment gap between women and men directly influences the amount of time available for women to spend with radio. And yet there are more women tuning into radio than men, even as women spend more time than men with every other media platform. “That’s important for advertising purchasing decisions, ad effectiveness and all the things we’ve been talking about for the last few year with radio,” Miller contends. Even as some studies suggest marketers aren’t targeting their ads by gender as much as they once did, some product categories are still heavily female-skewing. Kantar Media says two-thirds of food ad dollars last year targeted women and 87% of household cleaner ads. Nielsen data shows there’s good reason for that. For better or worse, 93% of women in North America have shared or primary responsibility for daily shopping, household chores and food preparation.

Country: The Gender Equalizer

When it comes to format choices, women and men agree on one thing: country is king. The format leads in AQH share with both groups, delivering a 15.2 AQH share among women and 12.7 with men. And although many of radio’s biggest formats attract both genders, some appeal more to one than the other. News/talk, classic rock and sports do significantly better with men than women. AC, pop CHR, hot AC and contemporary Christian, on the other hand, capture larger shares of women.

Yet even formats that skew female, like AC and hot AC, have sizable male audiences AC has a male cume of 28 million and a 6.2 share, while hot AC pulls in 18 million men and a 3.3 share. And news/talk and classic rock have significant female audiences.

What’s radio’s most the most gender-balanced format? That would be classic hits, which pulls a 6.7 share among men and a 6.0 with women.

How various formats appeal to different demos is one of radio’s top selling points. “It’s part of radio's mass appeal. Radio’s got something for everybody and everyone loves music,” Miller says. “Music isn’t a gender-specific thing. These formats and music and talk and topics appeal to everybody: male, female, old and young.”