Radio Isn’t Going Away

Published on October 31, 2013
by Mary Beth Garber


photo credit: Un ragazzo chiamato Bi via photo pin cc

A few days ago a column ran in this space — “Seismic Shifts Remake the Radio Industry” — written by Paul Goldstein, a consultant for new media companies. While there truly is a seismic shift in perception of broadcast radio and the facts surrounding it, it’s not the one that Goldstein claims, and the facts — and the research — bear that out.

Scarborough USA Plus data shows radio has actually increased its reach of adults 18-54, 25-54 and 18-34 over the past five years. Radio accounts for more than 90 percent of almost any demographic segment of the consumer market every week. And many are surprised to discover that radio is the leading source of reach among media entertainment.


In one example, two separate — and current — well-respected sources, Scarborough and USA Touchpoints, show that more than 95 percent of the people who used Pandora in the past month also listened to broadcast radio in the past week.


The statistics are nearly identical in both sources and extend to other Internet music players in addition to Pandora. USA Touchpoints also shows that while consumers have shifted some of their audio entertainment time, it has been away from CDs and iPods, not radio. The number of radio listeners has continued to grow as digital audio has grown.


USA Touchpoints is smartphone- and Internet data collection-based, developed two years ago under the auspices of CIMM. It offers new measurement capabilities and gives an accurate representation of how consumers spend their days and their media time. And the fact of the matter is that people continue to spend the overwhelming majority of their day with broadcast radio.

This is data from syndicated research released within the past few months and accepted by every major advertising agency and advertiser in the country, and I raise this point because the currency of research is critical when discussing a category that’s evolving as quickly as digital music. Goldstein’s premise is based on data from a 2005-2008 U.S. Census report.

USA Touchpoints puts the percentage of people 18-64 using Internet music players on a weekly basis at just 20 percent reach currently — a significantly smaller voice for messaging, especially when compared with Arbitron’s 92 percent weekly reach by broadcast radio.

That’s not to say that Internet music players will not continue to grow audience; they undoubtedly will. But based on current trends, broadcast radio will continue to be the dominant player in the field of audio entertainment — and the only one capable of offering the kind of personal connections to listeners that are afforded by locally focused content.

Broadcast radio has not died; it’s keeping 242 million people company every single week for an average of two hours and 45 minutes each day.

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