Broadcast Radio Remains Dominant

When it comes to how Americans consume media, an important new study makes it abundantly clear that people still love radio.

Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising as more than 235 million people tune in to radio each week. But a new landmark study shows that radio is second only to television - and a very close second - in how much time the average person actually spends with each medium.

The $3.5 million Nielsen-funded study, conducted by Ball State's Center for Media Design with oversight by the Council of Research Excellence, is the most comprehensive study of media usage ever conducted on the audio consumption habits of U.S. consumers. All told, the study generated data covering more than three-quarters of a million minutes, or a total of 952 days observed, of media consumption.

It becomes quickly apparent that radio holds a special place among media consumers. Broadcast radio is the dominant form of audio media at home, work and in the car. In fact, a remarkable 77% of the population listens to broadcast radio each day for an average of 109 minutes, or nearly two hours, according to the study. Among key advertising-based media platforms, live television had the highest reach and daily usage at 95.3% for 331 minutes a day, but broadcast radio far exceeded the Internet at 63.7% and 77 minutes, newspapers at 34.6% and 41 minutes, and magazines at 26.5% and 22 minutes.



More than 90% of adults are exposed to some form of audio media on a daily basis, with broadcast radio having by far the largest share of listening time. And while the perception is that younger listeners are abandoning radio for iPods and MP3 players, the reality is that 79% of 18-34 year-olds are listening to radio every day - for an average of 104 minutes. Only 20% of the younger demographic that advertisers often target listens to iPods or MP3s daily, and among those who use MP3s, 82% still listen to broadcast radio for more than 90 minutes a day.

What's more, almost half (46%) of those observed listened exclusively to broadcast radio and had no exposure to MP3s, satellite radio, streaming or stored digital music on a computer.

Even among younger demographics, broadcast radio is the second-biggest medium behind television, reaching almost 80% of 18-34-year-olds a day, versus 76% on the Internet, 21% who read newspapers and just 18% reading magazines. In terms of share of time against the total media universe, broadcast radio is also the No. 2 medium to TV with a 21% share, compared to 15% for the Internet, and one% each for newspapers and magazines.

As for satellite radio, just 15% of the population listens to satellite radio daily for 81 minutes. Interestingly, almost 90% of those who listen to satellite also tune in to broadcast radio each day - for an average of 109 minutes.

The study arrives at a critical juncture for the advertising community. Many have been clamoring for research to clarify the impact digital audio alternatives are having on broadcast radio. The study's methodology used the gold standard for media research - personal observation - as participants were monitored every 10 seconds from the time they woke up to the time they went to sleep over a two-day period.

What makes the results of this study more compelling is that the radio industry was not involved in its funding or its methodology. Earlier this year, speaking of the Video Consumer Mapping Study from which this audio data was extracted, CRE Media Consumption and Engagement Chair Shari Anne Brille of Carat said, "Nothing of this magnitude has ever been attempted before and we expect that our entire industry will benefit from this game-changing work for years to come." We agree.

This study reveals what we inside the radio industry have known all along: Radio remains among the most powerful ways for advertisers to reach a large audience. The medium is alive and well, and, in many ways, more relevant than ever.

3 comments about "Broadcast Radio Remains Dominant ".
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  1. Fred Jacobs from Jacobs Media, November 16, 2009 at 8:47 a.m.

    Nice job summarizing the study, Bob. Broadcast radio is challenged by new media competition to be sure, but advertisers often overlook its ubiquitous role in people's lives. Broadcast's radio's reach is still impressive, and to craft a campaign without traditional media amounts to shortchanging the client.

    Apple makes great use of "old media" to market its impressive product line, raising the question about why the Volkwagon GTI campaign and other initiaitves that are confined to new media tools do not come under more scrutiny from the trades.

    The perception vs. reality gap that exists within agencies is striking. So many feel that satellite radio will put broadcast radio out of business, but after years of relentless spending, advertising, and losses, Sirius XM remains a niche player that has been leapfrogged by iPods, streaming radio, and other technologies. Rumors of broadcast radio's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

  2. Laura Wilber from clear channel radio, November 16, 2009 at 1:07 p.m.

    Good stuff Bob. Thanks for continuing to tell radio's story. I've never appreciated radio more than I do during my two hour round trip commute here in LA. Judging by the amount of traffic on the road, I'm not alone! Laura

  3. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, November 17, 2009 at 10:23 a.m.

    Bob: Thanks for the article! I linked to it on my blog:

    Steve Schildwachter

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