This Generation's Got Radio

If an advertiser wants to target a college-educated 18-34-year-old consumer, a blockbuster new study confirms there's no better place to look than radio. Yes, radio.

Younger people remain committed to their radios, according to the recently released Nielsen white paper, "How U.S. Adults Use Radio and Other Forms of Audio." By realigning the data socio-economically instead of by medium or audio platform, the study offers an unprecedented glimpse into the media habits of various population segments.

Almost 80% of 18-34-year-olds listen to radio every day for an average of 104 minutes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, only 20% of the younger demographic sought by advertisers listen to MP3s daily; and among those who did, 82% also listen to broadcast radio for close to 100 minutes a day. It turns out this coveted demographic tends to be lighter viewers of television, while paying little attention to print and spending close to 40% less time with newspapers than the average adult.



Education and income levels also play critical roles in determining people's media habits. Individuals with a high school education or less spend significantly more time with TV than any other medium. TV dominates their media day with viewing clocking in at 7.4 hours, almost two full hours more per day than the average and accounting for an amazing 80% of their daily media consumption.

Because of this huge dose of television, those with a high school education or less tend to be lighter than average consumers of both audio and radio. The college-educated, however, are much more audio-centric, tuning into broadcast radio for close to two hours a day while viewing almost three hours a day less television than less-educated people. Those with advanced degrees are also fans of radio, with 84% tuning in daily while viewing nearly three and half hours less of television per day than those with a high school education or less.

The media habits of various income levels also vary dramatically. Households with annual income below $30,000 consume less audio and are lighter than average broadcast radio consumers with only 62% tuning to broadcast radio daily. Their use of satellite radio, other digital audio options and the Internet is also far below average. But their devotion to television is extraordinary at 478 minutes, or 8 hours, a day.

Meanwhile, households with annual incomes above $100,000 are heavy consumers of audio, listening about 30 minutes more per day with fully 84% tuning to broadcast radio daily. Listening to satellite, streaming and MP3s, as well as other digital audio options, are all above average. Households with incomes above $100,000 spend about the same amount of time with audio as with television -- 210 minutes with audio compared to 224 minutes with television.

What's more, while the upscale individuals increased their use of other digital forms of audio, it's not at the expense of radio. As with the higher educated, the affluent continue to embrace radio -- viewing other audio options as a supplement, not a substitute. It's a completely different story for television, with high-income households viewing close to two hours less television per day than the average household; and 4.25 hours less than households with annual income of $30,000 or less. This upscale segment also shuns newspapers, spending 25% less time with the paper on a typical day.

Employment also plays a key role in media consumption. The employed tend to consume more audio and radio than the norm, are more likely to be online and less likely to read a newspaper. Those who are unemployed, retired or students are extremely television-centric and lighter than average consumers of radio and audio. Similar to low-income households, they spend 90 minutes more per day with television (seven hours) than the average individual, and are one-third less likely to use the Internet. This segment is also 29% more likely to read a daily newspaper.

Viewed socio-economically, the Nielsen audio study confirms that radio remains a vital cog in today's media landscape, especially among the more affluent and higher-educated. Radio has made great strides in transforming the medium, incorporating a multi-channel mix of terrestrial radio, digital audio, mobile applications and audio streams, and we expect these efforts will serve to maintain radio's continued relevance for many years to come.

11 comments about "This Generation's Got Radio".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 24, 2009 at 9:12 a.m.

    So a study commisioned by Hershey shows that chocolate does not hurt you. Surprise, surprise. My impartial research published 3 years ago shows that ipod users listen one hours a day less than non-users. I don't take any money from the radio industry, so who you gonna believe.

    You want anecdotal evidence instead? 10 years ago when I asked my students their favorite radio stations, I got a variety of responses. Nowadays they just stare back and finally admit, we don't listen to the radio much.

  2. Fred Leo from Ad Giants, December 24, 2009 at 1:18 p.m.

    Was there an breakdown of talk radio versus music? I can see how these numbers might make sense if radio is defined as it is in the last paragraph.

  3. Mark Kolter from Kolter Creative, December 25, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.

    Profound disagreement. Apparently Nielsen has been talking to a very select and remarkably non-representative group of 18-34's. I'll go further: In the age of niche marketing and extremely targeted demographics, I make distinctions between 18 and 20 year olds, not to mention 20 and 26 year old. It's ludicricous to categorize, even research, such a broad demographic, given the reality of today multi channel
    media world.

    To take one example: "Those with advanced degrees are also fans of radio, with 84% tuning in daily while viewing nearly three and half hours less of television per day than those with a high school education or less." How many 18-22 year old do you know with Advanced Degrees? So, if you're trying to reach 18-22 year old, why would you pay attention to research that lumps them in with those 12-16 years older?

    This entire survey sems to designed to prop up terrestial radio. And not very convincingly.

    A 'vital cog' ,eh? Sure Nielsen. whatever you say.

  4. Jeffry Pilcher, December 25, 2009 at 1:31 p.m.

    Please don't publish studies about [insert name of industry] that have been conducted by a major, vested player in [insert name of industry].

    What's next? Are you going to trot out a newspaper figurehead who tells us that newspapers are a "vital part of Gen-Y's landscape?"

  5. Gene Mccoy from Focus on Profits, Inc., December 26, 2009 at 9:36 a.m.

    I walked in to the local cafe in our Nebraska town of 2,200 people in the middle of a blizzard on Christmas Eve Day. A girl who I estimate to be 8 or 9 was listening to her headset radio and keeping everyone in the cafe of the latest weather warnings and cancellations she was hearing from our local radio station.

    I can only speak anecdotally. I own a small-market radio station and consult with over 30 other small-market radio stations, primarily in the plains and mid-west states. I and others I consult with have noticed a renewed interest in our local small-market radio stations among those in the High School, Junior High and even younger age groups. Five years ago it was hard to find high schoolers listening to or interacting with our local radio stations. The I-pod was the rage. Today we have renewed interest and interaction. Our requests and other interaction with the younger age groups are way up.

    I do think there is a listenership gap of about 5 years - from about 20 or 21 up to 25 or 26. I call this the lost generation. These are those high schoolers from 5 years ago that did not get into the radio habit. But on either side of that gap I see renewed interest in radio. The advertiser response from local business also is demonstrating that radio is strong - at least in the small towns that I work in.

    Granted there may be a difference between the small-markets and metro markets. That may be why small-market radio revenues have held up extremely well.

    I would also add that there has been a lot of what I call "radio bashing" going on for the past few years. Satellite Radio started bashing terrestrial radio when it was trying to establish itself. Then many people in new media have found it convenient to lump radio in with newspapers as dying media. There is no comparison here.

    Newspapers across the midwestern area I work in are, in most cases, down more than 20% in advertising revenue this year, while the radio stations I work with are generally even to down less than 10% in advertising revenue. In these tough times local small town advertisers vote with their dollars and they are saying radio is a cost effective media compared with others.

    I also do some consulting with retail clients on how to integrate new media into their traditional media marketing efforts. Many new media people adopt an "us vs them" attitude when it comes to radio. This is unfortunate for the businesses they work with because the two are a very powerful combination when used together. I have seen the combination of the two do some rather amazing things.

  6. Elizabeth Brigham from jive software, December 27, 2009 at 5:13 p.m.

    What's the breakdown of NPR here? I suspect a good portion of these radio-listening commuters are listening to Renee and Steve in the am.

  7. Steven Fisher from, December 28, 2009 at 11:44 a.m.

    Normally, I would not expect such an ignorant study out of Nielsen. I completely agree with Jeff and Mark.

    There is such a huge difference in the listening habits in the different ages within that age group that you cannot link them together in the world of radio. Radio is all about segmentation.

    An 18-22 year old college kid is not going to be listening to the same things as his 25 year old or 30 year old "real world counter part" and the same between the 25, 30 and 34 year old, so to lump them all together like you would television and say that 80% of 18-34 year olds listen to almost 2 hours of radio a day is ridiculous. I just did my own "Nielsen Style Survey" and checked out the entire floor that I am working on, approximately 45 people between the ages of 18-34 and not one of them listens to the radio for the entire 9 to 10 hours they are at work here.

    This study by Nielsen is the most self serving white paper I have ever read. Think about it this way, if the average 18-34 year old spends close to two hours listening to radio and another 4-7 hours watching television and another 4 hours on the internet, add in video games, texting etc. The numbers don't add up.

    Also, I love the advance degree part. How many Doogie Howsers are there in the 18-22 year old age bracket. I knew exactly 0 when I was in college.

    Don't get me wrong, broadcast radio will always have it's place in the media landscape because of its local nature and I think that satelite will gain listenership and once internet radio figures out what it is going to be when it grows up, it will eclipse them both.

    Douglas Ferguson's comments regarding Hershey's and chocolate are right on. Remember when the beer companies were trying to convince us that beer was actually nutritious? I so wanted to believe that.

    I recently did a study of three educated 25 to 50 year olds and found that almost 100% of that audience visits my website every day and spends at least 10 minutes on there and visits an average of 5 pages. Give me a break! :-)

  8. Victor Carr from Sunbeltsynergistics Inc., December 28, 2009 at 5:45 p.m.

    This is not really new info.You can see expanded radio audience data at, also use for individual markets and stations.I am always amazed at the writers use of the Pronoun'I' when bloging. Reads like a high school debater without proofs,and no study of argumentation and debate.Just a bunch of unfounded opinions.

  9. Erik Gable from The Daily Telegram, December 28, 2009 at 6:11 p.m.

    "Almost 80% of 18-34-year-olds listen to radio every day for an average of 104 minutes."

    But how many of those people listen to the commercials ... and how many listen as long as the "50-minute commercial-free rock block" is going it on, then flip to a different station as soon as the advertisements come on?

  10. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, December 29, 2009 at 2:54 a.m.

    [An 18-22 year old college kid is not going to be listening to the same things as his 25 year old or 30 year old "real world counter part" and the same between the 25, 30 and 34 year old]

    Unless they're dating each other, which happens a lot. In addition, younger cousins introduce me to knew music etc via Facebook all the time and visa versa.

  11. Walter Sabo from HitViews, December 29, 2009 at 5:45 p.m.

    Actually, Nielson doesn't have a vested radio roll in the study, they measure TV. (Nielson measures Radio in Australia and tiny test markets in the US.) Arbitron measures radio in the US.

    Arbitron's studies, RADAR, RAJAR (England), BBM (Canada) and OTX all show similar results to the quotted Nielson study. 65% of American's listen to radio daily, 82-85% listen weekly. Never underestimate the 100% distribution in-car.

    It's ubiquitous. No other medium has its distribution. Most homes have six boxes. (Cable gets excited at 2).

    Interestingly, nothing drives traffic to a website quite as fast as plugs on a popular radio station combined with the right online promotion. The combination of a strong online presence matched with sympatico radio programming is highly effective. ie: Stuff moves off the shelf.

    BTW if you look at the history of any new medium you'll find an interesting phenomenon: When radio started, it was perceived as a fad and of no value. Same with TV, cable and Internet advertising. In fact all of it is media and it all works if the messaging is targetted and entertaining.

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