Audio and Podcasting Fact Sheet

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The audio news sector in the U.S. is split by modes of delivery: traditional terrestrial (AM/FM) radio and digital formats such as online radio and podcasting. While terrestrial radio reaches almost the entire U.S. population and remains steady in its revenue, online radio and podcasting audiences have continued to grow over the last decade. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about audio and podcasting below. Data on public radio will be available in a separate fact sheet at a later date.

Audience

The audience for terrestrial radio remains steady and high: In 2016, 91% of Americans ages 12 or older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week, according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau, a figure that has changed little since 2009. (Note: This and most data on the radio sector apply to all types of listening and do not break out news, except where noted.)

Weekly terrestrial radio listenership

Year % of Americans ages 12 or older who listen to terrestrial (AM/FM) radio in a given week
2009 92%
2010 92%
2011 93%
2012 92%
2013 92%
2014 91%
2015 91%
2016 91%

Pew Research Center

According to “The Infinite Dial” report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, the portion of the public listening to online radio continues to grow. In 2017, 61% of Americans ages 12 or older have listened to online radio in the past month, while about half (53%) have listened in the past week. This is up from 57% and 50%, respectively, in 2016, continuing online radio’s steady year-over-year growth.

Online radio listenership

Year Month Week
2007 20% 12%
2008 21% 13%
2009 27% 17%
2010 27% 17%
2011 34% 22%
2012 39% 29%
2013 45% 33%
2014 47% 36%
2015 53% 44%
2016 57% 50%
2017 61% 53%

Pew Research Center

Nielsen lists news/talk/information among the most listened-to radio formats; in 2016, 9.6% of radio listeners tuned in to a news/talk/information station during any 15-minute period during the day

Most listened-to radio formats

Format % of listeners
News/talk/information 9.6%
Pop contemporary hit radio 8.1%
Adult contemporary 7.5%
Country 7.4%
Hot adult contemporary 6.4%
Classic hits 5.3%
Classic rock 5.1%
Urban adult contemporary 4.8%
All sports 4.7%
Mexican regional 3.7%
Urban contemporary 3.7%

Pew Research Center

Online radio listening in cars, like listening to AM/FM stations online or streaming other online audio, continued its increase since 2010, when it was at just 6%. In 2017, 40% of U.S. cellphone owners have ever listened to online radio in a car using a phone.

Online radio listening in cars by cellphone owners

Year % of U.S. cellphone owners who have ever listened to online radio in a car using a phone
2010 6%
2011 11%
2012 17%
2013 21%
2014 26%
2015 35%
2016 37%
2017 40%

Pew Research Center

The percentage of podcast listeners in America has substantially increased since 2006. In 2017, four-in-ten Americans ages 12 or older have ever listened to a podcast, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital survey data, and 24% have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from just 9% in 2008. (This chart, as well as the subsequent chart also about podcasts, applies to all types of listening and does not break out news; this is primarily related to ongoing technological challenges with compiling and centralizing metrics, making fine-grained breakouts by format difficult.)

Podcast listening

Year Ever In the past month
2006 11% --
2007 13% --
2008 18% 9%
2009 22% 11%
2010 23% 12%
2011 25% 12%
2012 29% 14%
2013 27% 12%
2014 30% 15%
2015 33% 17%
2016 36% 21%
2017 40% 24%

Pew Research Center

The average weekly unique users who download NPR podcasts, which include some of the most popular podcasts in the iTunes library such as Up First and TED Radio Hour, rose from 2.5 million in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2016, according to NPR data from Splunk. (More information will be available about public broadcasting in a future fact sheet.)

NPR podcast users

 Year Average weekly unique users who download NPR podcasts
2014 2,000,000
2015 2,500,000
2016 3,500,000

Pew Research Center

Economics

Average radio revenue remained steady in 2016 for radio stations in the major news formats, according to Pew Research Center analysis of BIA/Kelsey data. Over the last seven years, the average station revenue for these all-news stations has hovered between $16 and $19 million per year. (It is worth noting that only 20 of the 29 all-news stations currently listed in the BIA/Kelsey database have revenue data during any of these years and thus are the only ones included in the averages.)

Average revenue for stations in all-news, news/talk and news/talk/info formats is substantially lower than all-news – in 2016, $2.4 million per station. This likely stems from the fact that this category represents a much larger number of smaller stations (438 stations in the BIA/Kelsey database in this category have revenue data during any of these years).

  • All-News
  • News/Talk/Info
Year Average station revenue
2009 $16,358,000
2010 $17,727,000
2011 $18,724,000
2012 $18,195,000
2013 $17,990,000
2014 $17,333,000
2015 $17,282,000
2016 $17,462,000

Pew Research Center

Year Average station revenue
2009 $2,463,000
2010 $2,562,000
2011 $2,618,000
2012 $2,604,000
2013 $2,536,000
2014 $2,436,000
2015 $2,393,000
2016 $2,416,000

Pew Research Center

Ownership

As of 2017, there were 29 AM or FM stations that are categorized as “all-news” listed in the BIA/Kelsey database, down three from the last year. CBS Corp. (which recently announced plans to merge with Entercom) is currently the parent company of 10 of these 29 stations.

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