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Ladies and the Listening Gap

May 23, 2024

You’ve probably read the recent report from Alan Burns & Associates about what women want from radio. If you haven’t then I urge you to do so – especially if you are programming a station that targets women.

Being the data geeks that we are, this comprehensive report was a wealth of information about the radio wants and desires for women. What struck me was that their overall feeling about AM/FM radio was positive.

Yet, the question that it brought to my mind was – is radio fulfilling those needs? Based on what we have seen in PPM markets we think the answer may be “no.”

For years we have seen a consistent theme across these markets – the Average Weekly Time Exposed (or Time Spent Listening for you grizzled veterans) for every female demo consistently lags behind every male demo. This is not as pronounced in diary markets, but we suspect this has more to do with methodology than actual practice.

Say what you will about the ratings, but one thing is certain – the PPM meter accurately reflects what the panelist is hearing. Diaries are based on recall, and we know that is spotty (quick – what did you have for lunch last Wednesday?)

Why, then, do women generally spend less time with radio than their male counterparts?

Could it be – in part – because many of the higher AWTE formats are driven by male listening? Think News, News/Talk, and, especially, Sports.

Or is it lifestyle? The study showed that two-thirds of those surveyed actually look forward to listening to AM/FM radio. That suggests a positive relationship with the medium.

We will offer a possible answer here. The discrepancies between male and female listening levels tend to be less pronounced with African-American and Hispanic audiences. Is this because formats that specifically target those demographics are more focused on community and companionship? Are they less about playing “the best variety” and more concerned with forming a relationship with their listeners?

I leave those questions to the programming gurus.

Suffice it to say that the listening gap is real, and it presents AM/FM with an opportunity.

What will programmers do with it?

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant