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The Continuing Power of Radio

September 25, 2017

Over the past couple of months Nielsen has published some interesting data that reinforces what we already know about how radio listening is holding up in a world of disruption and new media choices. It’s up to the Radio industry to go on offense with this information and counter the urban myths that are out there regarding our still large and strong audience.

In the latest Nielsen Total Audience Report Q1 2017 (click here), Nielsen looked at how media is consumed across the generations — from Generation Z to Baby Boomers. There is a lot of interesting information in this report but for now we focus on the following chart from page 7.

Research Director, Inc. has been analyzing radio listening patterns for more than 25 years and this current chart shows the same pattern we’ve seen since the early ’90s. Younger demos have always spent less time with media overall and as a result they consume less radio than older demos. Our normative data collected from 1993-1999 shows that TSL to radio increased between teens and Adults 18-24. It continues to increase in every age bracket until the 65+ demo, where it declines about 17% from the 55-64 age cell.

This latest study demonstrates that the same pattern still exists. It also shows that time spent with radio is flat from Q1 2016 to Q1 2017 for every generation. So, even with all the new media available today plus the increased use of mobile devices, radio usage remained constant. If you think that’s no big deal then look at what happened to TV usage over the past year.


However, if you dig a little deeper into the numbers you see some interesting information. The percentage of “media time” spent with radio is relatively consistent across all generations. In the chart below we created an “apples to apples” comparison between the groups by eliminating the App/Web categories from the above chart for the three older generations. (Nielsen cannot glean that information for Gen Z due to privacy laws). When you do the math you see that in actuality Generation Z spends the highest amount of their media time with radio.


The second study is called “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” (click here). Nielsen looked at time spent listening for teens (P12-17) in Spring 2011 and compared their TSL to Radio then to the TSL of 18-24 year-olds in Spring 2017. We see the same historical pattern. As teens become young adults and enter the workforce, they spend more time with radio.


The more things change the more they stay the same. Radio can continue to maintain its place with consumers by evolving and extending the content we provide onto new platforms such as smart speakers and mobile. We need to provide an excellent listener experience on all platforms where the listeners consume content. If we do that we will ensure our continued success.

-Marc Greenspan, Partner