Fact Sheet

June 29, 2021

Audio and Podcasting Fact Sheet

    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 audio and podcasting. While terrestrial radio reaches a large portion of the U.S. population, online audio and podcasting audiences have grown over the last decade. And revenue for news radio stations dropped over the past year after years of relative stability. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about audio and podcasting below. (Data on public radio beyond podcasting is available in a separate fact sheet.)

    Audience

    The audience for terrestrial radio remains high, though there was a slight drop in 2020: In 2020, 83% of Americans ages 12 or older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week, a figure that dropped slightly from 89% in 2019 according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau.

    Note: This and most data on the radio sector apply to all types of listening and do not break out news, except where noted. In 2019, Nielsen listed news/talk among the most-listened-to radio formats; in 2020, 50% of U.S. adults said they got news on the radio often or sometimes.

    Weekly terrestrial radio listenership

    Year Listen to terrestrial radio
    2009 92%
    2010 92%
    2011 93%
    2012 92%
    2013 92%
    2014 91%
    2015 91%
    2016 91%
    2017 90%
    2018 89%
    2019 89%
    2020 83%

    Pew Research Center

    The share of Americans who listen to podcasts has also substantially increased over the last decade. As of 2021, 41% of Americans ages 12 or older have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to “The Infinite Dial” report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, up from 37% in 2020 and just 9% in 2008. Additionally, 28% of those 12 and older said they have listened to a podcast in the last week, up from 24% in 2020 and 7% when this was first measured in 2013. (The data in this chart, as well as in the subsequent chart about podcasts, is for all types of content and does not break out news programs.)

    Podcast listenership

    Year In the past month In the past week
    2008 9%
    2009 11%
    2010 12%
    2011 12%
    2012 14%
    2013 12% 7%
    2014 15% 8%
    2015 17% 10%
    2016 21% 13%
    2017 24% 15%
    2018 26% 17%
    2019 32% 22%
    2020 37% 24%
    2021 41% 28%

    Pew Research Center

    The average weekly unique users who download NPR podcasts, which include some of the most popular podcasts in the Apple Podcasts charts, such as Up First and Fresh Air, rose from 11.3 million in 2019 to 14 million in 2020, according to data provided by NPR. Public Radio Exchange (PRX) reported nearly 8 million average weekly unique users in 2020. (More information about public media is available in the public broadcasting fact sheet.)

    Public radio podcast users

    • NPR
    • PRX

    According to survey data from Edison Research and Triton Digital, the share of the public listening to online audio has plateaued. As of early 2021, 68% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online audio in the past month, while 62% had listened in the past week. This has been about steady since 2019, revealing a plateau after steady year-over-year growth from 2007 to 2018.

    Online audio listenership

    Year Month Week
    2007 20% 12%
    2008 21% 13%
    2009 27% 17%
    2010 27% 17%
    2011 34% 22%
    2012 39% 29%
    2013 45% 33%
    2014 47% 36%
    2015 53% 44%
    2016 57% 50%
    2017 61% 53%
    2018 64% 57%
    2019 67% 60%
    2020 68% 60%
    2021 68% 62%

    Pew Research Center

    Economics

    Average radio revenue dropped fairly sharply in 2020 – by 24% – for stations in the all-news format, according to Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. Average station revenue for stations in the all-news format dropped from $18.1 million in 2019 to $13.9 million in 2020. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during these years for only 16 of the 25 all-news stations, therefore, 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 formats is substantially lower than when looking at all-news stations alone – in 2021, $2.1 million per station. This likely stems from the fact that this category contains a sizeable number of stations with low total revenue. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during all of these years for 361 stations in this category.)

    Average station revenue by programming category

    • All-News
    • News/Talk/Info

    Newsroom investment

    There were 3,360 news employees in the radio broadcasting industry in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. (To learn more about how we track the number of news employees, see the methodology.) This is about 1,000 fewer than in 2004, when there were 4,290 news employees.

    The median wage in 2020 for news analysts, reporters and journalists in the radio broadcasting industry was about $49,000. Editors in the radio broadcasting industry had a median annual wage of about $79,000.

    Employment in radio newsrooms

    • Employees
    • Wages

    Ownership

    As of 2020, there were 25 AM or FM stations listed as “all-news” in the BIA Advisory Services database of radio stations. Entercom (which changed its name to Audacy in 2021) is currently the parent company of 10 of these 25 stations.

    Ownership of all-news radio stations

    Name 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
    Entercom 0 0 0 10 10 10 10
    Hubbard Radio LLC 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
    Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
    Cumulus Media Holdings Inc. 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
    iHeartMedia Inc. 0 1 1 1 1 1 1
    Jet Broadcasting Inc. 0 0 1 1 1 1 1
    MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting Inc. 0 0 0 1 1 1 1
    Storm Front Communications LLC 0 0 0 1 1 1 1
    Kensington Digital Media LLC 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
    Bryan Steele 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
    VPM Media Corporation 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
    Steve Hegwood 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
    Brian R. Walsh 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
    Davis Media LLC 0 0 0 0 2 2 0
    TL Broadcasting LLC 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

    Note: Data includes full-power AM and FM radio stations in the BIA Advisory Services database in 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Entercom changed its name to Audacy in 2021. Before 2019, the stations listed under Hubbard Radio LLC were listed under Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., the stations under Cumulus Media Holdings Inc. were previously listed as Cumulus Media Inc., and the stations under iHeartMedia Inc. were previously listed as CC Media Holdings Inc.
    Source: Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data.

    Pew Research Center

    Find out more

    This fact sheet was compiled by Research Associate Elisa Shearer and Research Assistant Jacob Liedke.

    Read the methodology.

    Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

    Find more in-depth explorations of audio and podcasting by following the links below: