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Radio Continues To Hold Its Own


Satellite radio.



The iPod.


In recent years, there have been lots of new media challengers to traditional radio. Each time one of them came along, the gloom and doom talk for radio began again.


Analysts predicted people would flee radio for the sparkly new option. They forecast the medium would see a big drop in listenership.


That hasn’t happened yet.


While these new media have had some impact—weekly radio listenership declined 4 percentage points from 2001 to 2014—they have by no means wiped out traditional radio or even come close.


Ninety-one percent of Americans say they listen to radio each week, which is a huge number. Ninety-one percent of Americans don’t even eat breakfast or go to work every week.


Still, while traditional radio listenership remains strong, it’s also true these new media options are drawing more and more listeners.


Down the line could these new options slice away bigger chunks of radio’s audience?


Probably. But they won’t kill radio, just as TV didn’t kill it 70 years go, despite dire predictions at the time.

If history tells us anything, it’s that any new medium, rather than killing off the old, tends to attract its own unique niche audience, the great example of that being satellite radio, offering listeners a vast range of music channels and no ads but at a cost.


Too, more often than not, rather than stealing away audience, the new medium shares audience with the old.


When TV came along, Americans didn’t stop listening to radio; they listened to radio and watched TV.

Here’s a look at where radio listenership stands now and how other new media options are faring as well. As you can see from the charts, many are finding an audience, but that audience cannot compare to traditional radio.


There are two ways to look at this data. One is to marvel at how well radio has fared this past decade, considering the devastation seen by other traditional media.


The other is to flip the entire discussion. Forget about where radio has been. Talk about where it’s going.

If radio has held up as it has, and all these other options have come along as well, perhaps radio’s real potential has yet to be realized, even imagined.




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