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Arbitron Client Conference: Format Facts and Forecasts

| December 10, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

ANNAPOLIS — Now THIS is worth a meeting.  If your station is an Arbitron subscriber, you should download, devour, and discuss the just-released “Radio Today 2012,” an uncanny mash-up of Scarborough consumer profiles and Arbitron audience data.  What you will read about people-who-listen-to your format really fleshes-out the folks you want as heavy listeners, and will send you in specific directions to seem relevant and relatable and habit-forming to ’em.

And that’s all I’m allowed to say!  Because this information is THAT valuable!  Read the legal hear-ye-hear-ye at, and you’ll understand that I’m not being coy.  But I can share some useful headlines from the Executive Summary Arbitron has released, which follow.

OK, one mea culpa.  During his presentation at last week’s Arbitron Client Conference, I was so intrigued by one particular factoid that Arbitron’s Ron Rodrigues tossed out that I blabbed it on Twitter before he concluded his session by telling us that it was behind-the-password.  OOPS…MY bad.  The Twitter time stamp will affirm my alibi!  Since the cat’s out of the bag here it is: MSNBC indexes higher than Fox News Channel with Talk Radio listeners.  Hmmm…

Now the in-front-of-the-password stuff, my not-for-executives-only summary of the Executive Summary:

  About 93% of the USA population uses radio every week.  And despite all the shiny new objects competing for media consumption time and attention, “this widespread reach has changed very little over the decades; radio remains a reliable entertainment and information source for listeners regardless of their age, gender, income, education, or location in the home or outside the home.”

•  That 93% is how many.  As for how much: “Time Spent Listening to radio (TSL), compared to last year’s report, is relatively stable. In most listener demographic age and gender categories, and in most dayparts TSL changed at most one Quarter-Hour.”

By formats:

•  Country and New Country: “Already No. 1 in our report last year, grew even more to remain in first place…growth was larger than any other format in our study. Its geographic strength was in the Midwest and Appalachian states, and in medium and small markets.”

•  News/Talk/Information and Talk/Personality is rich with high-income, highly educated listeners. The format’s national AQH share was even with last year’s report, but off from its record 14.1 share, which it earned during the presidential election run-up in Fall 2008.  “These formats have the longest TSL of all formats in the report.”

•   Adult Contemporary and Soft AC‘s 72 million 12+ listeners “is larger than any other format in this study. The format’s loss of 0.6 in AQH share might have been the result of gains by Country and Hot Adult Contemporary. The formats are strong in the midday daypart, reinforcing their reputations as ‘at-work’ strongholds.”

•  Pop CHR “was even with last year’s report, but remained substantially ahead of where it stood in the mid-2000s. Although it has the largest proportion of teens, about 40% of the format’s audience is aged 35 and older.”

•  Classic Hits “stood at a 0.9 share in our 2003 report and has grown every year since then. Many of the stations in this format are re-branded Oldies stations. Listeners to this format are active web consumers.”

•  Classic Rock “is a reliable performer in all market sizes, and is the second most popular music format among Men 35-54 (next to Country).  The format’s listeners are avid sports fans, attending sporting events, going to sports websites, and watching sports on TV in outsized proportions.”

•  Hot AC “experienced the second largest growth spurt in this year’s study and achieved a national historical high. The format has a high proportion of women listeners, and they are active consumers of retail goods and live entertainment.”

•  Urban AC’s 3.9 persons aged 12+ national AQH share is “substantially ahead of the 2.2 it had in our 2003 report.” The format has the highest percentage of Black listeners in this study.

•  All Sports’ 3.6 national AQH share “is twice where it stood in our 2003 report.” The format’s listeners are the best educated and live in the highest income households of all the formats we studied.

•  Rhythmic CHR has the highest proportion of under-35 listeners of the formats in this study, and as such its listeners love technology and make vigorous use of the web. They are much more likely to visit entertainment web brands.

•  Mexican Regional is the most popular format among Hispanic listeners and one of only two Spanish-language formats profiled in this study. This format caters primarily to young men and its geographic strength lies in the Mexican border states and its neighbors.

•  Urban Contemporary’s 2.9 national AQH share is “significantly lower than its 4.6 share in our 2004 report.”  The format’s strength lies in many Southern and industrial states, and it performed better in Diary markets. “Its listeners are twice as likely to use Twitter as the average radio listener.”

•  Contemporary Christian “has become stronger in the PPM era, thanks to recent growth in the major markets. Listeners to this format are looking to buy Blu-ray players and digital cameras this year; they also enjoy family-oriented cable TV networks such as Disney, Nick Jr., and ABC Family.”

•  Adult Hits + ’80s Hits achieved a 2.2 national persons aged 12+ AQH share for the third consecutive year.  “Known on many stations as ‘JACK-FM,’ stations in these formats are known for their music variety.”

•  Active Rock’s 2.1 AQH share “is off two-tenths from the 2.3 share that it earned in our 2011 report.”  The format had the second-highest proportion of male listeners, next to All Sports. It also had a high proportion of out-of-home listening.


See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis