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Reminder: Radio's UP when you include all forms of it

Posted on: 02/20/2008

This is just a quick reminder that when you read a headline like the one yesterday (“Radio down”, or, as Inside Radio put it, “PURs fall to a new record low”), remember that the headline writer is talking specifically about listening to local AM/FM stations as measured in Arbitron local market diaries. And that’s only one portion of total U.S. radio listening.

Expressed in terms of AQH persons, the average number of people listening to local AM/FM radio stations in Arbitron-measured markets (during the daypart Mon-Sun 6A-12M) was about 23,500,000 people in Fall 1999 and fell to about 20,900,000 in Fall 2007.

(Note, incidentally, that the more recent estimates could have been negatively impacted by Arbitron’s efforts to increase their response rates over that time period. (In 1999, the person who thought, “I only listen to radio in my car” might have thrown their diary away; but in 2007, perhaps Arbitron successfully encouraged them to fill out their diary and send it in anyway. Such a phenomenon theoretically could have reduced the apparent AQH of radio during the course of the period.))

In any case, “radio” actually, in the real world, to consumers, includes cable radio (e.g., Music Choice), satellite radio (XM and Sirius), and Internet radio (both streams of AM/FM stations and Internet-only stations).

Available data suggests that those forms of radio have acquired millions of AQH persons listeners during the same period — currently, perhaps 2,000,000 for Internet radio, over 1,000,000 for satellite radio, and I’d guess over 500,000 for cable radio. That’s almost certainly more listeners gained than the 2,600,000 that AM/FM apparently lost.

So don’t lose sight of the fact that radio is healthier than ever. It’s simply that the distribution channels are shifting.

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  1. I am not surprised at all that terrestrial radio stations have suffered a decline in listeners over the last 9 years.
    When corporate America took over all the radio stations, the quality of programming degraded past the point where listeners supported it.
    There is no diversity in station formats, what so ever in the US.

    I believe, however, that public radio could enjoy renewed interest from listeners as the quality of commercial AM and FM stations continue to decay.

    Spencer · Feb 20, 07:32 AM · #

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