When examining mediums to tout and those to pan, digital continues to be held up as the golden child, while radio seems forever (for lack of a better term) the step-child – seemingly on the verge of inconsequential and the brink of demise. And while turmoil regularly and publicly embroils radio giants iHeart and Cumulus, what does the research say on the industry overall? What do the numbers show? In recent days, Nielsen’s quarterly “State of the Media: Audio Today” was released and featured prominently in Tom Taylor’s “Now” report. The findings may surprise you. Certainly they are enlightening.
Comparing radio to other mediums, Audio Today shows radio “reaching more Americans each week than any other platform.” That reach for all adults is 93%, with television coming in second at 89%. The smartphone is now at 83% and PC at 50%. “TV-connected devices” reach 44% of all adults weekly, the tablet 37%
A look at the next generation (18-34), of great concern and focus for all mediums (especially radio), shows that radio is still quite strong (and maybe surprising to many) – reaching 92% of all persons in that demographic each and every week. Considering how millennials consume visual content, not as surprising are numbers that show TV reach has fallen to 79% (smartphone reach, by contrast, is 91%).
Nielsen’s deep dive into radio also examined “America’s top formats” for all listeners age 12+ in all markets from Spring 2016. Top 5 rankings showed: #1 Country (13.6%); News-Talk (11.1%) (does not include All-News); Hit Radio (7.9%) and Adult Contemporary (7.8%) tied for third; with Classic Rock (6.0%) and Classic Hits (5.9%) tied after that. A fairly close race overall and no matter how you slice and dice it.
Moreover, as podcasts gain momentum and popularity, Nielsen examined this medium and listener preferences by genre. Here, comedy leads the way with 48% of podcasting users consuming it. Next comes educational at 40% followed by sports (27%); politics (22% and, one would assume, growing); gaming (18%); and tech/sci-fi at 16% each.
Overall, there is no doubt that radio continues to exert tremendous impact and accomplish cross-demographical reach. To be sure, Nielsen’s numbers in the 90+percentiles are far from new but, rather, have remained consistent for years. Someday they will hopefully and finally serve as a wake-up call to its naysayers. Still, savvy radio programmers understand the need to constantly adapt to ever-evolving consumption preferences and technology. That said, the formula for success remains constant: The need for live, local, relevant and interactive. Take a closer look at the radio stations that still subscribe to this approach. They are thriving. They will survive.