MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
The audio news sector in the U.S. 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 last decade. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about audio and podcasting below. Data on public radio will be available in a separate fact sheet at a later date.
The audience for terrestrial radio remains steady and high: In 2016, 91% of Americans ages 12 or 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.)
According to “The Infinite Dial” report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, the portion of the public listening to online radio continues to grow. In 2017, 61% of Americans ages 12 or older have listened to online radio in the past month, while about half (53%) have listened in the past week. This is up from 57% and 50%, respectively, in 2016, continuing online radio’s steady year-over-year growth.
Nielsen lists news/talk/information among the most listened-to radio formats; in 2016, 9.6% of radio listeners tuned in to a news/talk/information station during any 15-minute period during the day
Online radio listening in cars, like listening to AM/FM stations online or streaming other online audio, continued its increase since 2010, when it was at just 6%. In 2017, 40% of U.S. cellphone owners have ever listened to online radio in a car using a phone.
The percentage of podcast listeners in America has substantially increased since 2006. In 2017, four-in-ten Americans ages 12 or older have ever listened to a podcast, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital survey data, and 24% have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from just 9% in 2008. (This chart, as well as the subsequent chart also about podcasts, applies to all types of listening and does not break out news; this is primarily related to ongoing technological challenges with compiling and centralizing metrics, making fine-grained breakouts by format difficult.)
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 TED Radio Hour, rose from 2.5 million in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2016, according to NPR data from Splunk. (More information will be available about public broadcasting in a future fact sheet.)
Average radio revenue remained steady in 2016 for radio stations in the major news formats, according to Pew Research Center analysis of BIA/Kelsey data. Over the last seven years, the average station revenue for these all-news stations has hovered between $16 and $19 million per year. (It is worth noting that only 20 of the 29 all-news stations currently listed in the BIA/Kelsey database have revenue data during any of these years and thus are the only ones included in the averages.)
Average revenue for stations in all-news, news/talk and news/talk/info formats is substantially lower than all-news – in 2016, $2.4 million per station. This likely stems from the fact that this category represents a much larger number of smaller stations (438 stations in the BIA/Kelsey database in this category have revenue data during any of these years).
As of 2017, there were 29 AM or FM stations that are categorized as “all-news” listed in the BIA/Kelsey database, down three from the last year. CBS Corp. (which recently announced plans to merge with Entercom) is currently the parent company of 10 of these 29 stations.
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Elisa Shearer is a research analyst focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.
Read the methodology.
Find more in-depth explorations of audio and podcasting by following the links below.
Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News Jan. 18, 2017
Civic Engagement Strongly Tied to Local News Habits Nov. 3, 2016
The Modern News Consumer July 7, 2016