top of page

New Study Reveals 'What Woman Want' On Radio – And Suggests What To Do About It.

The findings from radio programming consultancy Alan Burns & Associates' latest study in its “What Women Want” series not only stress the importance of AM/FM radio to women, but also reveal what they literally want when it comes to programming, and suggest how to fix a few things, especially for the younger end of the demographic.

Right up top, the survey, conducted among 1,000 women aged 15-64 in September and October 2023 in conjunction with the Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group and MARU/Matchbox, shows that what women want – is radio. According to an analysis of the study in Westwood One's weekly blog, nearly half (46%) say they “love” their favorite AM/FM station, with a love second to just their mobile phone (51%) and ahead of Amazon (43%) and Netflix (40%), not to mention ahead of other audio and video streaming brands as social platforms.

AM/FM radio is not just far-and-away women's first choice in weekday mornings, with 44% saying they typically listen Mon.-Fri. 5-8am, that share's ahead of the 42% measured in Burns' 2017 survey. This time around, AM/FM is well ahead of TV (28%), social media (27%), online music streaming services (25%), and online video (14%). “AM/FM radio is the accompaniment to women’s lives and the media platform they consume as they get ready for their day,” Alan Burns & Associates President and Founder Alan Burns says.

The results of the study paint a clear picture of what content women prefer – not just in morning drive but throughout the day. For mornings, companionship, local news and information, humor, inspiring conversations, and interesting stories are rated “very/somewhat important” by the largest share of respondents.

Outside of mornings, a significant share of women still want entertaining talk or chat alongside music, while for call-in shows, the largest share of the sample is “very/somewhat likely” to listen to funny or unusual stories, in addition to entertainment/pop culture topics and news/current events – with women under 35 leaning more toward the former, and those 35+ favoring the latter.

“AM/FM radio station features do not resemble the major priorities of women (family, health, relationships, and friendships),” Burns says, referencing the results from “What Women Want.”

“Examine your station features – what about highlighting family? Does contesting align with what’s important to women? Give away prizes that matter, like a gift certificate to companies that help kids after school who are having challenges with their school and homework. Much of the formatics of top 40 and AC stations were designed by single male PDs 40 years ago. Our stations act like kids do not exist.”

Burns also recommends that stations “study media that really know female content – women’s magazines and morning TV. [Both] invest heavily in research to understand their female audience and provide relevant content. [Also] women love comedy, so give it to them.”

It's no surprise, then, that most of the reasons women give for listening to AM/FM radio are not music-related, including companionship, fun, ease of use, mood enhancement, and above all, it's free. While 28% listen to hear their favorite songs, and 18% to hear new music, here's a troubling statistic: regardless of age, six in 10 women – even among ages 15 to 34 – agree that “today’s music is not as good as it was years ago.”

“There is a sameness of the pop music sound that is the result of very formulaic production,” says Burns, whose consultancy specializes in female-targeted formats such as CHR and adult contemporary. “What programmers need to focus on is the fact that both top 40’s cume and the age group the format always thrived on are not very happy with today’s music.”

As a result, he recommends that stations “be part of the solution to fix top 40 and deal with the negative reaction to current music. Proactively find songs that diversify CHR’s sound. Reward songs that sound unique and different, play them for variety.”

The survey's by-generation breakdown of main reasons for listening to AM/FM radio shows key differences among Gen Z, represented by 15-to-26-year-old participants, where fun and hearing new music are larger drivers – both of which should be addressed in order to not just hold onto but to grow that demo, Burns says.

“AM/FM radio needs to start offering Gen Z more content. Whether that’s on HD channels or separate versions of our streams, this group needs to be a focus. In addition, we need to find ways to lure more Gen Zs into the AM/FM radio workforce as they’ll bring more of that generation’s values and ideas to the content. Consider Gen Z cast members. Engage with [them]. and give them something to connect with.”

453 views0 comments


bottom of page