Reflecting on the U.S. Radio Listening Trends of the First Quarter

Reflecting on the U.S. Radio Listening Trends of the First Quarter

A quarter of the year is now complete for radio measurement in larger U.S. markets—and Nielsen’s March portable people meter (PPM) ratings present the opportunity to take stock of the changes shaping the radio landscape as the middle of the year draws closer.

We have been tracking the impact of surging News/Talk audiences since January, while monitoring changes in listening patterns for other top formats compared with years past. News/Talk held strong in March, drawing 10.2% of the radio listening audience (persons 6+), slightly down from the 10.5% we reported for February.

While tracking the strength of the News/Talk format, we recently found that while commercial stations have a significantly larger share of the overall audience, non-commercial stations are growing at a faster clip. It’s also worth comparing News/Talk listening patterns with listening patterns across the All News format. Found mostly in the larger markets, All News stations typically focus on reporting hard news around their programming clock. Nationwide, there are significantly fewer All News stations than News/Talk stations. However, listening trends for the All News format have not been able to keep pace with the growth that News/Talk has seen over the past year.

This month we’ve also revisited Millennial historical listening patterns among some of the top music formats—a subject we explored in January to reveal some interesting year-over-year changes. Now we’re taking the opportunity to present a longitudinal look at March ratings.

A handful of storylines stand out:

  • Country remains at its lowest point for Millennial March listening share in five years, despite the fact that the format has grown its share in every month this year and jumped 8.0% to 8.4% from February to March.
  • Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) is another format that’s seen explosive growth in recent years, particularly when compared with trends in 2011. However, Hot AC is currently at its lowest point with 18-to-34 year-olds since 2014. Prior to this month, the format had not been below 7% among Millennials since May of 2014.
  • Urban Contemporary and Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) share a good amount of content and audience, but they have moved in opposite directions in terms of share of audience over time. Specifically, they have not both been strong at the same time in PPM measurement. Over time, as Rhythmic CHR declined (by more than 2%), Urban Contemporary grew at a similar rate.

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