Radio Listenership Holds Strong Despite Shifting Media Landscape

Written By

Payne Ratner

Published On

Friday, Jan 19
Vintage blue radio receiver on wood table.
Broadcast radio—which has existed for well over a century—continues to show remarkable resilience. Despite the rise of satellite radio, streaming audio, and podcasts, terrestrial radio has maintained a relatively stable listenership throughout the past decade. In contrast, pay TV audiences are rapidly declining.

Pew Research data published last year found that in 2009, 92% of Americans age 12 and up listened to broadcast radio in a given week. By 2022, that number dropped to 82%. However, pay TV viewership dropped at a much higher rate of 20 percentage points between 2014 and 2023, falling at a record pace in the third quarter of last year.

With so many media options to choose from, why do audiences continually turn to radio?

According to SMI’s Media Director Heather Hansen, “Being able to feel connected and find relevance in content is important to radio listeners, and that is what will engage them. Local radio gives listeners a platform to actively participate in discussions that they find personal and relatable. These are experiences that are not necessarily achievable through other mediums.” 

“Local radio helps to keep people informed about weather, sports and news events in their communities, said SMI’s Senior Media Buyer Josh Knock. “For many of us, it’s just part of our routine when we drive to and from work, or out for an errand.” 

Radio’s accessibility also contributes to its steady listenership. “Radio is found in all cars without associated costs,” said Hansen. “It provides content to listeners without an added expense, therefore making it widely available to a large percentage of the population.” Last year, Statista found that 73% of American drivers listen to the radio in the car, making it the number 1 audio source on U.S. highways. 

In the U.S., where people are inundated with monthly subscriptions, broadcast radio offers a cost-free alternative. “There are no paywalls or monthly subscriptions with radio,” said Jared Kulaga, Network Media Buyer at SMI. “The experience is entirely free of both cost and commitment.” 

Radio’s continued ability to draw loyal audiences is a tremendous benefit to advertisers. Buying media on local stations with well-known hosts—and on National networks with syndicated music, news-talk, sports, and entertainment personalities—has served SMI’s clients well. According to Kulaga, “We find there tends to be more listener loyalty with bigger personalities, average listening time is often higher, and it ensures your message achieves frequency with listeners.”

“Here at Strategic Media, we always find it interesting when studies reveal that radio listenership has remained stable over time,” said Bob Leonard, SMI’s Director of Business Development. “This is something we know. And with the strategies we’ve implemented, our clients haven’t just done well on radio, they’ve thrived.”


At SMI, our advanced tracking systems and attribution models enable us to optimize creative messaging and media selection not only month-to-month but week-to-week. “Knowing that one creative message works best the week before Black Monday and a different one works best the week after can make or break a company’s holiday campaign,” Leonard said.

“When you use radio the right way, it can be the most profitable medium in your marketing plan,” said Leonard.


Are you ready to reach loyal audiences on the resilient medium of radio? Contact SMI today

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