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Men vs. Women – Who Listens Longer?

June 26, 2020

An advantage we have in working with radio stations across the country is greater perspective. We see data from a wide variety of markets and formats. This affords us the opportunity to see broad trends in how listeners are consuming radio. While our sample size does not encompass every station in the country, it is large enough to make some solid observations.

One of these observations is the ongoing difference between reported listening for men and women. As a general rule, in market after market, we see a stark difference between the weekly TSL (AWTE) for male and female listeners. In PPM markets, measured listening for men consistently outweighs that of women. This gap is evident in every 18+ demo cell. This can vary with ethnicity, but the disparities are usually consistent.

That is the what. The question we wrestle with is the why. We do not have specific data that can define these differences, but we do have a few observations/questions.

Sociology: Yes, men are from Mars, women are from Venus. However, are their listening patterns so different because of their genetic make-up? Or, is it more of a lifestyle issue? While this might be overly simplistic (and a tad stereotypical), is there a grand difference between the day-to-day lives of men and women that affect how they consume radio? More importantly, is there something radio can do to bridge that gap?

Methodology: This is all about the meter. How do the genders differ when it comes to carrying around an extra electronic device every day? According to a Pew Research Center study from 2019, there is scant difference between smartphone ownership between men and women. According to the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020, women are less likely to access the Internet than men.

What these reports do not address is how the PPM meter itself affects usage. Are men more likely to carry the meter on a regular basis because of something as simple as pockets vs purses? Are men more “gadget” focused than women? Chances are these differences are less important today than they were at the dawn of the PPM era. Clothing styles have evolved and smartphone dependency is pretty much gender neutral. This does not mean that having “one more device” to carry does not affect behavior. Certainly, this is worth further study. (And, if it has been studied, please feel free to share those findings in the comment section below).

Formats: Two of the radio formats that have consistently high levels of weekly listening are News/Talk and Sports. These tend to lean heavily male – especially for those News and News/Talk stations that remain confined to the AM band. We do see a higher percentage of female listening to NPR News/Talk stations. As with all rules, there are exceptions. Most Urban and Urban AC stations do not have issues generating high TSL with female demos.

Could it be an emotional issue? Do so-called female-leaning stations generate less passion than those that cater more to men?

There is a finite amount of measured listening in every market. All stations are fighting for that hour or so of listening per day. With formats like AC, Hot AC, CHR, Classic Hits, and Country battling it out over female listening, the margins can be very small.

We are deceiving ourselves if we think that, as radio programmers, we can make someone listen to more radio. We get what they give us.

What you can do is examine your station’s female TSL in comparison with the market and your competition. This kind of deeper dive will help you get a better handle on your station’s ratings performance.

This is where The Ratings Experts from Research Director, Inc. can be of invaluable assistance in growing your brand.

Stay tuned – in a future blog post we will examine the great demographic divide.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant

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