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Summer is Near, and Radio Habits are Changing

3 minute read | May 2017

Another summer is just around the corner, and with it comes the seasonal changes in habits for millions of Americans. When it comes to listening to the radio, summer brings a seasonal shift in tuning behavior that matches the lifestyle of warm weather days, trips to the shore and vacation mindsets.

So as we dissect Nielsen’s April portable people meter (PPM) ratings, we see several historical trends in the data as we move into summer. Notably, News/Talk’s recent high water marks driven by interest in politics are cooling just slightly, and Country radio is surging, particularly with Millennials.

News/Talk radio stations have enjoyed a long stretch of increased share of audience due to interest in our current national politics. News/Talk tune-in over the past seven months has represented a return to levels not recorded since 2011 or 2012, including some record-breaking months in PPM measurement. The chart below tracks News/Talk’s share of audience since November, with the April data revealing a slight dip in the numbers and a reset to pre-election levels.

Historically, News/Talk as a format, trends lowest in the summer, when working patterns, travel and lifestyle changes alter the daily routines of millions of Americans everywhere. When you’re out of town at the beach or taking the day off for children’s summer camp, the normal routine of weekday news consumption is interrupted. It will be interesting to see how the summer of 2017 trends for the format, considering the intensity of coverage and no shortage of material coming out of Washington, D.C. these days.

One format that does peak in the summer is Country, and we’re seeing signs of that annual surge in the April results.

Although the April 2017 numbers for Country trail the same results from years past (when the format was at its PPM peak; 2014 and 2015), the past few months have seen a significant uptick in listening for the format, particularly among Millennial listeners aged 18-34. Since January (7.9%), Country’s Millenninal share has jumped by more than half a share-point, coming in at 8.6% this month.

In fact, Millennial radio preferences are something we have been tracking all year long—2017 so far has shown some significant changes in which formats are engaging Millennials, when taking the long view. The following data looks at how things have changed over a five-year period for some of the most popular formats among Millennials.

In this 2012 vs 2017 comparison you can see that Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) still leads the way as the most listened-to Millennial format, but the share of the audience has declined. Adult Contemporary (AC) and Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) are both up significantly, while Urban Contemporary increased the most (nearly two full share points!). News/Talk remains strong this year as mentioned earlier, and Classic Hits is also up, having seen strong summer ratings in each of the past three years.

Next month we’ll begin early handicapping for 2017’s format of the summer designation, a title that Classic Rock took last year after two consecutive wins for Classic Hits.

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

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