Every day, just about 2 in 3 U.S. adults (63%) tune into AM/FM radio. Widen the window to weekly reach and the percentage jumps to 89%. Radio also has the biggest share of time spent listening (41%) as Americans spend twice as much time with AM/FM than streaming audio pureplays (18%) and four times as much as owned music (10%), YouTube music (9%) and SiriusXM (9%).
“In our increasingly digital lives, some of us may take radio for granted,” Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick said Thursday. “But radio’s reach is truly phenomenal.”
“There is a lot of competition for people’s audio time,” added Lamar Johnson, VP of Sponsorship Marketing at NPR. “But radio really is everywhere.”
To get a deeper understanding of today’s radio listeners, Edison and NPR teamed up on a study that segments the radio audience based on what motivates their listening, their engagement with what they hear and what they’re getting from the medium.
The study, presented Thursday in a webinar by Lazovick and Johnson, uncovered six types of radio listeners:
Radio Heads (9% of radio listeners) Use AM/FM radio for everything
These are radio’s most engaged and heaviest listeners, using it for virtually all of their audio needs: music, news, personalities/talk, and sports. More likely to be female and under 54, they over-index in listeners who are African American. As all-around audiophiles, they go way beyond the AM/FM dial – 43% listened to radio on their smartphone, 30% on a smart speaker and 29% on a computer in the past week. They’re advertiser-friendly – 72% typically listen to ads on AM/FM – and are more likely to be employed, have above-average income, and have attained a higher education than the average AM/FM listener.
Connection Seekers (16% of radio listeners) Listen to the radio for companionship
This group is more likely to be female, 55+ and White. Second only to Radio Heads in the amount of radio they consume, Connection Seekers over-index in listening to spoken word audio and listening at home – 64% tuned in at home in the last week. “They hug the average,” Johnson said, meaning their listening habits are similar to the average listener in the devices they use to listen to radio, and the time of day they listen. Roughly seven in ten typically listen to ads on AM/FM radio.
Infomaniacs (18% of radio listeners) Listen for their need to consume news and information
The only segment among the six where men outnumber women, Infomaniacs are open to advertisements – 65% typically listen to ads on AM/FM radio and only 35% frequently avoid them. These are morning listeners with 69% tuning in from 6-10am, the highest listening in that daypart of all the segments. They prefer spoken word – 96% listened to AM/FM radio for news, 78% for music, 43% for personalities/talk and 27% for sports in the last week. While they're not exclusively NPR listeners, they index extremely high for the service. Two in three (64%) have a college degree or higher and this segment over-indexes in the high income categories.
Rhythm Rockers (27% of radio listeners) Listen for their need to consume music
The largest segment of radio listeners, this music-first crowd leans heavily female (61% to 39% male). The youngest of the segments – three in four are aged 18-54 – they over index in listeners who are LatinX, under-index in White listeners, and over-index in low-income categories. While more likely to use online audio services, this group is also more apt to say radio keeps them company in the car.
Laidback Listeners (17% of radio listeners) Listen to radio only in the background
Skewing older and White, these radio-centric listeners are less likely to use other audio platforms and prefer listening via a traditional AM/FM receiver. They prefer music over spoken word and are more apt to try to avoid ads on broadcast radio than any other group.
Habitualists (13% of radio listeners) Listen to radio when it is the only option available
Skewing older, this group is not all that interested in audio. While they are less engaged with radio, they still spent three hours listening in the past week. Preferring receivers over streaming to get their radio, this group is the most apt to try to avoid commercials.
The study is based on a national online survey of 1,500 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted January 13-21, 2021. All respondents reported listening to AM/FM radio (traditional or streamed) in the last week. Data was weighted to match the sex, age, and ethnicity of AM/FM radio weekly listeners from The Infinite Dial. Download the study results HERE.