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Nielsen Scopes Out the American Radio Landscape

Research suggests that AM/FM radio still leads the pack

As we quickly transition into Q2 of 2018, the release of Nielsen’s Audio Today Report gives us a snapshot of American audio consumption for the first three months of the year. Broadcast radio, according to Nielsen, continues to profoundly enrich the lives of listeners and create value for advertisers.

According to the report, every week, more Americans tune to AM/FM radio than any other platform. What’s more, according to Nielsen’s second-quarter 2017 Comparable Metrics Report, 93% of U.S. adults 18 and older listen to radio every week — more than those watching television or using a smartphone, TV-connected device, tablet or PC.

Nielsen’s numbers further break it down by generation. Surveys indicate that radio has the largest reach with Generation X (ages 35–54), with 80.5 million listeners tuning during an average month (97% of the Gen X population). This is followed by millennials (18–34-year-olds), with 71.6 million listeners tuning in monthly (95% of the millennial population). Meanwhile, radio reaches 41.2 million monthly listeners among baby boomers (ages 55–64), representing 98% of the baby boomer population.

[Read: “Broadcast Radio Remains the King”]

Research in Audio Today also suggests that network radio, a large and diverse catalog of content distributed on a national basis across hundreds of stations, also reaches a wide variety of listeners. Each week, Nielsen claims, 94% of all general radio listeners tune to a network-affiliated station.

While Audio Today has a lot of good news for radio, it is also clear that podcasts are a force to be reckoned with. Nielsen says that over 30 million Americans watch, listen or download a podcast every month. While this remains a significantly smaller slice of the audio pie than AM/FM radio, their research shows that listenership is growing, and smartphones are driving the surge in podcast popularity, with a 157% increase in podcast usage on those devices since 2014.