Is Radio’s Brave New World Taking Shape?

Is Radio’s Brave New World Taking Shape?

Seasons change, habits ebb and flow, and the landscape of consumer choice is constantly shifting in today’s hyper-connected world. Such is the case on the radio airwaves as we crack the book open on another year of listener preference and review the release of Nielsen’s January portable people meter (PPM) ratings.

Much has been said about resetting norms in the political sphere, but Nielsen’s unique insight into total audience behavior across a variety of platforms allows for more macro trends to emerge. When it comes to media consumption, and in this particular case, radio listening, 2017 could turn out to be a year where traditional patterns and results don’t repeat in the ways we’ve seen in the past.

Look no further than the performance of some of America’s top radio formats in January in PPM markets: News/Talk has been revitalized by current politics and is breaking new ground with younger listeners, while Millennial audiences aren’t listening to the same formats they did as recently as just a year ago.

We’ll start our analysis with News/Talk, which has dominated the headlines in radio for several months now. The trend continued in January 2017, as News/Talk posted its best numbers since November of 2012 and claimed a new record among listeners 18-to-34.

In looking at News/Talk tune-in over the past seven years, the format has gained a full percent among Millennials, with the biggest jump happening between January 2016 and January 2017.

Last year was a banner year for the News/Talk format in PPM markets, as listenership spiked dramatically compared to the year prior. As we track the forthcoming months of this year, we’ll analyze both non-commercial stations (National Public Radio affiliates) as well as commercial ones. In the Nielsen PPM-market database, the News/Talk format identifier includes more than 50 NPR affiliates that are included with hundreds of other stations to create that group.

And as other recent commentary has pointed out, the reshaping of the news consumption landscape also affects other formats and genres. The first full survey month of 2017 also reveals norm breaks, particularly among Millennial audiences when we compare back to last year in the table below.

Given the rise in popularity of the News/Talk format among Millennials, other popular formats among this group of listeners lost share in January. Pop Contemporary Hit Radio, a leading format among Millennials, was off nearly a full share point, while Country continued to trend downward with younger audiences. Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) and Mexican Regional were also softer compared with January 2016, while Sports radio was flat.

Data used in this article is inclusive of multicultural audiences. Hispanic consumer audiences are composed of both English and Spanish-speaking representative populations.