News/Talk radio typically sees a surge in listening during election years, as people tune in to hear the political commentary in the lead up to November, before dropping back to typically listening share the next year. Unlike in years past, however, this year is breaking with norms, both politically and in Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) ratings, which we explored last month. In February, News/Talk listening again remained strong, so we’re exploring this trend in more depth by breaking out the public, non-commercial stations from this group, along with some of the less obvious storylines taking shape two survey months into the new year.
No matter which side of the political spectrum news/talk radio stations lean, the past year has seen steady growth in the format’s share of listening audience across the board. And this month’s results are the highest February shares for News/Talk in PPM measurement for both Millennials 18-34 (4.7%) and persons 25-54 (7.9%). From a general audience standpoint (all listeners 6 and older) this month (10.5%) trails only February 2011 (10.6%) for the largest February News/Talk share on record.
Nielsen’s News/Talk format classification consists of both commercial News/Talk stations and public, non-commercial affiliates, and it can be revealing to break out the contributions and growth trends between the two types. Across the PPM markets there are 66 public, non-commercial stations, along with 205 commercial stations. Below is a look at how these two subsets of the News/Talk format performed in February.
Commercial News/Talk stations have a significantly larger share of the overall audience and older listeners, while non-commercial stations score slightly better with younger, Millennial listeners. And when you compare the year-over-year growth of these two groups, those public stations are gaining ground faster than their commercial counterparts.
Beyond News/Talk radio, America’s top-rated format, Country, also benefits from a long view of seven years’ worth of format trends under PPM measurement. Recently, we profiled how Millennial audiences appear to be shifting this year compared to results of the past, and in February, we can see the same story holding true with Country.
Over the past several years, Country radio has enjoyed both a hot streak in 2013 and 2014, as well as a prolonged cooling off in the years since. As we head deeper into 2017, the trends are ticking upwards once again for Country when comparing to a year ago. The chart below tracks the February performance for Country, which is growing again overall but still experiencing softness with Millennials.
Data used in this article is inclusive of multicultural audiences. Hispanic consumer audiences are comprise both English and Spanish-speaking representative populations.