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AM/FM radio continues to be the medium with the broadest reach among US adults, details Nielsen in its Audio Today 2018 report [download page]. In fact, AM/FM radio’s monthly reach of 243.4 million US adults outpaces even search sites (197.5 million) and social media sites (179.2 million), per the report, with more Millennials (18-34) listening to the radio in a typical month than using the web or apps on a smartphone.

In terms of audience distribution, Nielsen’s report indicates that 38% of network radio’s 12+ audience is in the 45-64 age range, compared to 25% in the 18-34 bracket. That aligns with MarketingCharts’ US Media Audience Demographics report, which finds that terrestrial radio attracts more of a middle-aged audience than other traditional media platforms.

Top Radio Formats

Nielsen’s report reveals not only the broad reach of radio across demographic groups, but also the top formats among various groups. The following list presents the top format (by audience share) for each group, along with reach statistics:

  • 12-17-year-olds (23.6 million listeners; 94% reach): Pop CHR (19.1% share);
  • 18-34-year-olds (71.6 million listeners; 95% reach): Country (15.6% share);
  • 35-54-year-olds (80.6 million listeners; 97% reach): Country (12.6% share);
  • 55-64-year-olds (41.2 million listeners; 98% reach): News/Talk (15% share);
  • 18-49-year-olds (131.6 million listeners; 96% reach): Country (14% share);
  • Women ages 18-49 (65.9 million listeners; 97% reach): Country (15% share);
  • Men ages 18-49 (65.7 million listeners; 95% reach): Country (13.1% share);
  • 25-54-year-olds (123.4 million listeners; 97% reach): Country (13.1% share);
  • Women ages 25-54 (62.1 million listeners; 98% reach): Country (14.5% share);
  • Men ages 25-54 (61.3 million listeners; 97% reach): Country (11.9% share);
  • Blacks 12+ (34.5 million listeners; 97% reach): Urban AC (29.3% share); and
  • Hispanics 12+ (44.7 million listeners; 96% reach): Mexican Regional (16.2% share);

Top Advertisers

So which advertisers were chasing after these various demographic groups last year? Nielsen provides the top 20 advertisers on music-based stations in PPM markets, and the top 20 on spoken word radio, which includes all News, Sports, News-Talk-Information and Talk/Personality stations. (Judging by the above, that’s a largely Boomer audience.)

McDonald’s emerged as the top advertiser on music-based stations, spending $46.1 million last year to reach Americans via the radio. It was followed by Mattress Firm ($41.1 million) and Comcast Xfinity ($36.8 million), with Home Depot ($34 million) and T-Mobile ($32.8 million) rounding out the top 5.

Both Comcast Xfinity (#2; $8.6 million) and Mattress Firm (#4; $6.8 million) also appeared within the top 5 advertisers on spoken word radio. That list was headed by Zip-Recruiter, which spent $11.1 million advertising on these stations.

Meanwhile, GEICO (6th on the list of music-station advertisers) was the third-largest advertiser on spoken word radio ($7.7 million), with Accufacts Research rounding out the top 5 ($6.8 million).

Overall, 9 of the top 10 advertisers on music-based stations were also among the top 20 advertisers on spoken word radio, with Sprint being the lone exception.

The full lists can be seen in the chart above, and the Nielsen report can be downloaded in its entirety here.

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