“No One Listens to Radio Anymore?” How to Survive the Holiday Grilling from Your Relatives

Drunk Man at Christmas Party in Pub

Ah, the holidays. You’re likely disengaging from the grind and enjoying some much-needed downtime, along with more than a few holiday-cheer-infused celebrations among family and friends.  If you’re like me, this time of year yields more social interaction with those neither in nor connected to the radio industry.  

Inevitably, the Christmas punch bowl drains enough to embolden party-goers, and the lens through which “civilians”  view what we do for a living becomes apparent. Conversations become heated, invariably leading to the predictable observation that “no one listens to the radio anymore.”

Tired of slinking away from your booze-infused distant cousin-by-marriage?  Need a distraction to prevent conversations with relatives from devolving into politics? Then this article is for you and all the other industry folks who get trapped between a kitchen island and a 35 BMI towering relative and self-appointed skeptic offering no room for your escape.  

The most recent set of data from 2023 NuVoodoo listening studies (involving thousands of respondents from across the nation) is your secret weapon.  No holiday-party witness stand should be without it once the Christmas career cross-examination ensues.  I’m planning on standing my ground this year.  If you’d like to join me, here is our arsenal for survival.

Nobody Listens to the Radio Anymore?

We don’t have to have to deny the fact that over-the-air FM/AM listening is in decline. There are more choices in audio media these days than ever, and consumers are listening to a lot more of all of them.  In fact, most broadcast companies have diversified into podcasting, time-shifted programming, or streaming music platforms.  

Yet even with all of the ways this trend has fragmented traditional radio’s share of audio listening, nearly 7 in 10 study participants didn’t agree with the idea that “no one listens to radio anymore.”  As you might expect, 80% of Gen X’ers push back.  But even a majority in the youngest generation, members of Gen Z,  couldn’t get on board with the perception that stations no longer attracted much of an audience.

Three-quarters of our carefully screened, compensated, and demographically balanced group of 2,500 study participants reported listening to the radio each week.  Below, we’re showing combined over-the-air and streamed listening. 

There’s more overall listening to radio than podcasts, though it’s less than Digital Streaming Platforms (DSP) which often carry reduced or no commercial load.  Radio attracts nearly 7 in 10 Gen Z’ers each week and 8 in 10 Millennial and Gen X listeners.  That’s NOT “no one!”

Remember, our sample cuts off at age 55 and includes teens above the age of 13.  These numbers don’t reflect listening among Gen Xers 55+ or the younger members of Gen Z. So, this data set is likely less forgiving than if we had surveyed a sample representative of the country’s total population, including older Americans. You may have to explain to your uncle that revenue in our industry is tied to segments within the 18 – 54-year-old demographic.  Plus, the law restricts doing online research with young children.

The Knockout Punches

Make your uncle buy the next round before delivering your final crushing verbal blows, with data that confirms the fact that radio is very much alive and kicking.

  • The average time spent listening to FM/AM brands is still over a half hour per day, and podcast listening remains slightly below the 30-minute daily threshold. Commercial-advantaged digital streaming platforms come in at just over 50 minutes daily. 
  •  42% in our study recall listening most to FM/AM audio brands in a vehicle.  Radio’s in-car audience nearly doubles that of DSPs and more than quadruples those choosing a podcast when listening behind the wheel. 
  • More than a third of our total sample listens to radio when working outside the home, and 29% within that segment are listening online or via mobile app.
  • One in four follow a radio station on Facebook, and nearly that number have a radio station smartphone app.
  • 27% choose radio to get in a better mood, and 23% say radio stations keep them company.
  • About a third of our sample say they’ve purchased something as the result of an air-personality endorsement.  That’s within the margin of error when comparing it to the sales effectiveness of a social media influencer or a podcast host.  Yet, radio is sadly often absent from that conversation these days, despite the industry’s decades-long head start.

With your obnoxious relative put in his or her place, your New Year’s resolutions not yet broken, and the industry that feeds you not yet dead, there are many reasons to hold your head high about your radio career – both at your holiday gathering and into 2024. Our industry still impacts the lives of tens of millions of Americans.  

Nobody’s pollyannaish nor in denial about the challenges that lie ahead in 2024 and beyond for those employed in broadcasting.  But let’s stop beating ourselves up. Run a victory lap for the industry we still love once you fact-check Aunt Knowsbetter and make her retract that pointed finger and escape her semi-sober, inquisitive gaze.

Have a happy holiday and an awesome New Year.