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Discourse on the Dial: A Focus on the Public Radio Listener
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Discourse on the Dial: A Focus on the Public Radio Listener

The radio dial is an auditory candy story for listeners—providing everything from the velvety sounds of smooth jazz to the sugary sweet beat of pop. And more than 90% of Americans over 12 years old use the radio each week, according to Nielsen’s most recent Audio Today Report. And in addition to commercial radio options, just about every market includes the eclectic programming of public radio, with its mix of news updates, informative programming, music from around the globe and culturally-themed segments.

According to the report—which specifically focused on this type of programming at over 900 stations in large and small markets—public radio reaches 32 million people 12 years old or older on a weekly basis. And the diverse programming of public radio draws a diverse mix of listeners. In fact, nearly 8% of English or Spanish speaking Hispanics in the U.S. and almost 10% of African-Americans tune in to public radio each week.

However, it seems the older the listener is, the more apt that listener will adopt in-home listening to public radio.

For instance, while 6.3 million Millennials 18-34 tune in to public radio each week, a little over one-third (35%) of them do so at home. Generation X, those 35-49 years old, exhibit similar at-home listening behavior when it comes to public radio (37%). But when it comes to Baby Boomers (aged 50-64), in-home and out-of-home listening of public radio is nearly equal—49% and 51%, respectively. Listeners also spend more time listening to public radio as they get older. Boomers spend six hours listening to public radio, nearly double that of Millennials (3 hours 15 minutes).

So what are the top markets for this type of programming?

According to the report, the southern U.S. has the most weekly public radio listeners, with 10.1 million people, representing 32% of the total public radio audience, tuning in. In terms of specific states or districts, the report notes that public radio is big in the Beltway (Washington, D.C.), with as more than 30% of Washington, D.C.’s population listens to this format each week.

Methodology

Listening trends for 961 rated public radio stations (AM, FM, streamed and HD Radio) were combined to arrive at the findings in the latest Audio Today Report. Nielsen’s Portable People Meter (PPM) technology surveyed English- and Spanish-speaking respondents in the top 48 radio metros in the U.S. as of the spring 2014 survey. Nielsen’s Diary service surveyed English- and Spanish-speaking respondents in the remaining 219 radio metros in the U.S. as of the spring 2014 survey.