What’s hot? Good old-fashioned radio


Smartphones, satellite television, the internet, and music streaming may have displaced many older technologies, but radio remains almost as popular as ever.

We recently focused on the rise of podcasting as a source of entertainment and news. We reported that roughly half of U.S. residents listened to at least one podcast last year. The focus this week will be on a more traditional news source: terrestrial radio.

Terrestrial radio is any broadcast radio station that has a signal through a land-based station. Although terrestrial radio listenership dropped by 6% from 2019 to 2020, the medium remains overwhelmingly popular among U.S. residents.

There are over 15,000 terrestrial radio stations in the U.S. Total revenue for commercial radio stations nationwide was estimated at $12 billion in 2021, mostly generated through advertising revenue. In comparison, National Public Radio, which has slightly more than 1,000 stations airing its programming across the U.S., had revenue of about $317 million in 2022.

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In a 2022 survey by Pew Research Center, 47% of respondents reported getting their news from the radio “sometimes” or “often,” with 7% reporting a preference for news delivered on the radio through other media. One in five U.S. adults gets their news from local radio stations, slightly more than the 17% who use local newspapers.

That brings us to today’s question. U.S. residents listen to terrestrial radio for more than just the news. Thinking of all listeners, those tuning in to music stations, sports broadcasts, talk shows, news, or other offerings, what proportion of Americans ages 12 and up listen to terrestrial radio in any given week?

Answer: C. Roughly eight in 10, or 82%, of Americans ages 12 and older listen to terrestrial radio during a typical week.

Listenership dipped from 89% in 2019 to 83% in 2021, largely due to the pandemic. Listenership leveled out in 2021 and 2022, suggesting that the number of us who listen to radio is stable and will remain popular even as other forms of media are on the rise.

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