Charlie Cook On Air: The Nielsen Numbers

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

If you have read this space at all over the last few years you know I am a defender of radio. My entire adult life has been spent working in radio, so I am obviously a believer in its pluses. I appreciate all of the other audio services and I use most of them at one time or another during a month. Nielsen Audio (the old Arbitron) recently released a RADAR study touting the strengths of radio. Some of the numbers are quite impressive.

Radio continues to be vital to Americans, as 92% of everyone in the country listens to radio each week. Google says 314 million people live in America. The 92% is a big number but the actual number of 289 million people listening to radio each week really puts it in context.

It is fashionable to believe this is not true with the younger listeners. Certainly they have abandoned radio for all of the other services. The numbers do not back up this assumption. Millennials- Persons 12-34 come in at 92%. Persons 35-49, referred to as Gen X deliver 95% and Baby Boomers (50-64) are at 94%. It is only the Silent Generations, persons 65+, that fail to deliver over 90%. The numbers stand up with African Americans (92%) and Hispanics (94%).

As a programmer I know attracting these numbers to radio is impressive but making sure they listen for long periods of time is the only way to create a business for our sales departments and for selling CDs and downloads on a music station. American radio listeners tune into for over 2 ½ hours per day.

I know these numbers are big and many of you may think they are not true because you and your friends don’t consume radio at these levels. You probably also don’t watch 34 hours of TV a week either. But that is the number, also reported by Nielsen. Next to the NSA, Nielsen knows more about Americans than we want.

The other day I was watching the Tigers on, listening to the Lions on Sirius and reading the Wall Street Journal. All at the same time. I wonder why I live alone? We have a capacity to do more than one thing at a time and one of the benefits of radio is being able to multi-task.

I have nothing against Pandora, Spotify and all of the rest. But it is radio that delivers for its partners. When it comes to quick service restaurants, convenience stores and clothing stores radio, over 90% of radio listeners visit these shops, and often right after hearing one of their commercials. This according to a Scarborough USA+ reports of persons age 18+.

The other services are not set up to quantify their consumers, though they certainly can measure tune in and usage. The research put in place for radio listeners delivers useful information for our partners like home ownership (70%) and employment (70%). Radio can prove our listeners have disposal income for music, concert tickets and those $30 artist T-shirts. In fact, the Millenial-heavy radio listeners are 41% more likely to be “swayable shopaholics” than the average person. The heavy listeners are radio’s friends and what we present to them has positive consequences for our partners.

I keep using the term partners because I believe this is why radio is still so viable. Partnerships with artists and record companies. Partnerships with sponsors for remote broadcasts and contesting. I hope Nashville will continue to understand this partnership is important to radio and work with us to get everyone’s share of disposal income. You can believe I will remain an advocate because it is easy to be in favor of something so positive in its results.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)


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