MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
The audio news sector in the United States 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 past decade. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about audio and podcasting below. Data on other public radio beyond podcasting are available in a separate fact sheet.
The audience for terrestrial radio remains steady and high: In 2017, 90% of Americans ages 12 and 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. Nielsen lists news/talk among the most listened-to radio formats; in 2017, the news/talk format earned 9.9% of radio audiences during any 15-minute period during the day.
According to “The Infinite Dial” report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, the portion of the public listening to online radio continues to grow. As of early 2018, 64% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online radio in the past month, while 57% had listened in the past week. This is up slightly from 61% and 53%, respectively, in 2017, continuing online radio’s steady year-over-year growth.
Online radio listening in cars, such as listening to AM/FM stations online or streaming other online audio, continues its steady increase. In 2018, 44% of U.S. cellphone owners have ever listened to online radio in a car using a phone, up from just 6% in 2010.
The percentage of podcast listeners in America has also substantially increased over the past decade. In 2018, 44% of Americans ages 12 and older have ever listened to a podcast, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital survey data, and 26% have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from just 9% in 2008. Furthermore, 17% of those 12 and older said they have listened to a podcast in the past week, up from 7% when this was first measured in 2013. (The data in this chart, as well as in the subsequent chart about podcasts, are for all types of listening and do not break out news programs.)
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 Planet Money, rose from 3.5 million in 2016 to 5.4 million in 2017, according to NPR data from Splunk. (More information about public media is available in the public broadcasting fact sheet.)
Average radio revenue remained steady in 2017 for stations in the all-news format, according to Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. Over the past seven years, the average station revenue for these all-news stations has hovered between $21 million and $23 million per year. (It is worth noting that the BIA Advisory Services database only contains revenue data during these years for 15 of the 26 all-news stations; thus, only those stations are included in the averages.)
Average revenue for a combination of stations in the all-news, news/talk and news/talk/info programming is significantly lower than when looking at all-news stations alone – in 2017, $2.8 million per station. This likely stems from the fact that this category represents a much larger number of smaller stations. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during these years for 365 stations in this category.)
Average station revenue by programming category
There were 3,320 news employees in the radio broadcasting industry in 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. (To learn more about how we measured news employees, see the methodology.) This represents a decline since 2004, when there were 4,290 news employees.
The median wage in 2017 for news analysts, reporters and correspondents in the radio broadcasting industry was about $38,000. Editors in the radio broadcasting industry had a median annual wage of about $71,000.
Employment in radio newsrooms
As of 2018, there were 26 AM or FM stations listed as “all-news” in the BIA Advisory Services database of radio stations. Entercom (which merged with CBS Corp. last year) is currently the parent company of 10 of these 26 stations.
Find out more
This fact sheet was compiled by Research Associate Elisa Shearer.
Read the methodology.
Find more in-depth explorations of audio and podcasting by following the links below:
- Public Broadcasting Fact Sheet, June 6, 2018
- Covering President Trump in a Polarized Media Environment, Oct. 2, 2017
- Americans’ online news use is closing in on TV news use, Sept. 7, 2017
- Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News, Jan. 18, 2017