While the advent of new technologies has had dramatic effects on the nation’s media habits, radio has maintained a large and expanding audience, according to Nielsen’s annual State of the Media: Audio Today.
The report, released in December 2014, states that 91.3% of all Americans (age 12+) use radio each week, and that the national radio audience has grown from 239.7 million to 243 million since 2010.
Focusing on public radio, this year’s report shows how 32 million Americans tune in to one or more of the country 900+ listener-supported stations each week. These listeners are primarily male (52%), older, and significantly more likely to have college degrees than the average radio listener in general.
Although listenership for public radio peaks during the morning rush hour on weekdays, it is also higher than radio as a whole at nights and on weekends in homes.
The top regions for public radio mirror national population trends. Nielsen’s grouping of southern states holds both the largest amount of the U.S. population (38%) and the largest proportion of the audience for public radio (32%). However, the next two regions, the West and the East, feature larger audiences for public radio relative to their proportions of the population.
Meanwhile, the states (and district) with the largest public radio listenership aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest populations. Washington, D.C. topped the list with 30.5% of the city listening to public radio each week, followed by Vermont, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.
Baby boomers (ages 50-64) make up the largest group of public radio listeners, representing 15% of the audience and 9.4 million people. They spend on average six hours with public radio each week, listening in roughly equal parts inside their homes and outside of them. A huge majority of boomer-generation listeners have a college degree (63.7%) and/or work full time (62%).
Public radio is still represented well among other important demographics. Each week, it reaches 11.8% of Generation X (7.3 million), 8.9% of Millennials (6.3 million), 7.7% of Hispanics (2.7 million), and 9.1% of African Americans (2.5 million).
As media relations professionals, we value public radio because it offers an often unique variety of programming with thought provoking content. These stations work hard to spark discussion around important community issues and better the lives of their listeners through education and advocacy. To give just one example, D.C.-based WAMU’s coverage of the tragic disappearance of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd helped create a crucial discourse about the city’s accommodations for homeless families and children.
Public radio also offers opportunities for more precise, demography-based targeting that brings stories so much closer to listeners’ daily lives. Our work with public radio stations around the country has allowed our clients’ messages to resonate deeply with their intended audiences.
Nielsen’s report shows that, while we are very much in an era of new media, radio continues to thrive. As always, we look forward to working with our partners at public radio stations to deliver high quality content that touches listeners’ lives.