While radio continues to resonate with African American audiences, reaching 92% of America's Black population weekly, advertisers need to step up their game when it comes to understanding and representing the diverse segments within the Black community. These are among the key findings of “Seeing and believing: Meeting Black audience demand for representation that matters,” Nielsen's latest report in its Diverse Intelligence Series.
"As the media industry looks to be more inclusive of Black storytellers, and brands look to grow their bottom lines and brand awareness with Black audiences, understanding who we are, where we're connected, and how we're changing is as important as ever,” Nielsen VP, Diverse Insights & Partnerships Charlene Polite Corley says. “All of this work translates to the important acknowledgment of the value the Black community delivers 'for the culture' and beyond.”
According to Nielsen's data, radio reaches more than 9 in 10 African Americans each week, with listening levels at more than 21 million minutes weekly. “Traditional radio continues to prove the power of its reach providing the gossip, pandemic guidance and breaking news that’s kept Black listeners connected this year,” the report says, citing the listening spike on the day the verdict in the George Floyd murder case was announced, when Black radio listenership reached its highest level in three months. “In a single day, radio reached more than one-third of the Black population, an audience impact that usually takes the better part of a week to achieve,” the report says.
African Americans' engagement with audio goes beyond radio, with streaming audio listening levels at more than an hour and a half a week, based on Nielsen's research. Podcast listening has not only increased among all age groups in the past three years, Black listeners average a 73% brand recall for podcast ads.
Overall, the report shows that while African Americans spend more time consuming media than any other group – including delivering more than 1 trillion viewing minutes during 2Q21, according to Nielsen – there continues to be a lack of representation of the collective Black community, including advertising aimed at the segment.
“In the era of personalization and inclusion in media, Black audiences worldwide are looking to see both their collective and distinct experiences represented,” the report says, “[but] when it comes to representation in media, the complexity that creates the richness of their experience is often lost, and when present, undervalued.”
Backing up the importance of representation, the report points to 2020 U.S. Census figures showing that people identifying as 'Black in combination with another race' increased 89% in the last decade, and 2020 figures showing Black buying power at $1.57 Trillion, all while six in ten Black American TV viewers say there's still not enough representation of their identity group on screen. From the advertising angle, while two in three Black viewers are more likely to watch representative content and buy from brands that advertise in representative content, and the number of advertisers spending in traditional media focused on reaching African Americans has been up 16% since last summer, Black men are increasingly engaged outside of these platforms to find content offering more accurate representation.
“As Black Americans continue to listen to radio and podcasts as well as buy Black, they continue to lead the conversation, having an unprecedented impact on brands and what consumers watch, purchase, and listen to,” Nielsen's report says. “But outlets and advertisers that do not take into account how today’s demographics influence identity may still end up missing the mark. In this new day, brands and content providers must begin to explore the experiences and identities of Black people within the U.S. and around the world.”