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Radio Listening Remains Strong and Digital Booms

As Digital Audio Booms, Radio Listening Remains Strong   

Thanks to a powerful combination of on-air and digital, Americans are listening to more audio than ever, and that’s welcome news for radio stations and their advertising partners.  

Radio reached 92% of all American adults 18+ in Q4 2019, according to a new report from Nielsen, even with the same period in 2018. Amid ever-expanding audio and video entertainment options, that’s enormous reach and attests to radio’s staying power. In fact, radio reigns as the most-used of all media, with a larger weekly reach than other top media, including live and time-shifted TV (84%), and apps and web on smartphones (85%).  

While radio listening remains strong, more Americans are flocking to digital audio on connected devices. According to Nielsen, 64% of Americans 18+ streamed digital audio on their smartphones in Q3 2019, jumping up from 45% in the same period the previous year.  

Smart speakers are creating new listening opportunities as well. Voice-activated speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home enable consumers to stream audio, including spoken-word content, music, and podcasts, at home and at work, creating new listening opportunities. Nearly one-third of U.S. households owned a smart speaker in Q3 2019, up from 22% in Q3 2018, and, since smart speakers were a hot gift item during the recent holiday season, that figure has likely grown considerably.  

Here is the good news for radio stations and their ad partners: Digital’s growth is not coming at radio’s expense; “While broadcast radio is thriving as the leading reach vehicle in the U.S., consumers are complementing their listening with streaming services,” the report noted. 

Some radio broadcasters might be wary of streaming audio’s rapid ascent, but there are plenty of ways for local radio and its advertisers to participate in this growing space--and even grow audience and revenue.  

  • AM/FM stations’ live streams allow listeners to access their broadcasts in new places and additional times.  
  • Digital on-demand creates new listening opportunities, allowing users to stream their favorite morning show or talk show on their own schedules.
  • As radio stations aggressively grow their podcast lineups, digital streaming allows users to tune in on smartphones, smart speakers and desktops. 

For radio stations and local businesses, the combination of on-air and digital audio is a potent way to maximize reach and boost engagement. Radio has demonstrated its staying power and digital is on the rise, and there’s no one better positioned than AM/FM radio to maximize the opportunities. 

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Written by Paul Altman