We in radio tend to look at radio listeners by demographics and formats…18-24 women, 35-44 men, Country P1’s, CHR P1’s, etc.

Totally valid. But I wanted to take a broader look at radio listeners…analyzing consumers based on their attitudes toward radio! – what they want from it, what they get from it, how they feel about it, and even how they see themselves.

So earlier this year, we conducted an online survey of 1,009 18-64’s in the U.S. We looked at all of those issues and more – including how much time they spend listening to radio and other sources of audio entertainment and information – including pureplay streaming like Pandora, as well as YouTube, MP3’s, CDs, etc.

This analysis is a “deeper dive” into the data, based on a statistical technique called Cluster Analysis – a tool that divides consumers into groups that share similar “mindsets”…in this case, with respect to radio.

And we learned that there are six different kinds of radio consumers – each with unique attitudes and preferences:


Here’s the scoop on each group…

Radio Junkies: The biggest group, they love radio more than the others.

More than any other group, they agree with the statement: “If you couldn’t listen to radio, you’d feel something important was missing from your life.” Their self-reported time spent listening to FM is higher than any other segment, and their listening to AM is above average. More than any other group, they agree that they “pay a lot of attention” when they listen.

Looking beyond programming elements to their “radio psychology,” we find they score higher than average on all 16 benefits of listening to radio we tested and highest on 12 of them! But like most listeners, their biggest motivations relate to mood – get in a better one, get an energy boost, or relax and unwind.

While they listen for music more than anything else, they’re the group most into personalities, and they want more talk than most do. More than any other group, they like personalities that “seem like personal friends.” They’re most interested in contests too.

P1’s of every format are represented among the “Radio Junkies,” as in most of the groups. But the “Junkies” include a higher-than-average percentage of CHR and Urban P1’s.

Music Enthusiasts: Music is really it for this group. More than most, they agree with the statement: “You listen to radio to hear music and nothing else.” Their interest in every other programming element – news, weather, personalities, contests, and so on – is lower than average. 

And, more than any other segment, they agree with the statements: “You keep switching stations until you find a song you like,” and “When announcers start talking, that’s when you switch stations.”

The “Enthusiasts’” interest in music drives their song seeking…more than any other segment, they think they “know more about music than most people.”

Escapism is the biggest benefit they seek by their music-focused listening. More than any other group, they listen to take their minds off problems and to relax. But – at the other extreme – they’re also #1 for listening to “work better and faster” and above average for listening to get “excited.”

Since music is what they listen for, it makes sense that their time listening to FM would be eroded by other sources of music. They do listen to radio less than average, but just a bit less, and 74% agree that radio is a very important part of their lives.

Still, they listen to iPods/MP3’s about as much as FM radio. Pandora and other pureplay internet radio ranks third.

CHR and Rock P1’s have higher-than-average representation in this group.

Music Onlys: They’re so named because they agree with: “You listen to radio to hear music and nothing else” even more than the Music Enthusiasts” (or any of the other segments) do.

They’re the more passive, less-engaged “cousins” of the Enthusiasts. Most disagree that radio is a very important part of their lives.

Their personal and emotional connections to radio are much lower. They don’t think of themselves as more knowledgeable about music. As far as the benefits of listening, relaxing and mood enhancement are #1 for them, but lower than average. Other motivations we tested – like companionship, energy, excitement, laughter, etc. – aren’t very or even somewhat important to them.

Not surprisingly, their time spent listening to FM is lower than average, and they don’t listen to AM radio at all. But they also spend less time than average with Pandora, YouTube, iPods, Sirius/XM, etc.

Rock and A/C P1’s have higher-than-average representation in this group.

Average Joes: They match the 18-64’s in many respects….i.e., they’re average (for the most part).

Like most listeners, mood enhancement is what they get most from radio. They’re also into “fun” motivations – listening for laughs, for excitement, and adding to the fun with others. But they’re not exceptional in these respects…they’re average!

They do want a bit more music than average, and a bit less news. They’re less into “thinking” motivations (ones you’ll hear about in the next group) than 18-64’s as a whole. But they don’t listen for music only, or switch away when personalities start talking. They don’t score non-music programming elements low…they’re average!

The “Average Joes” are humble. They don’t think they know more about music than other people, and their self-image about news knowledge is below average as well. And they don’t claim to be first to try a new station when it comes on the air.

Finally, their time spent listening to FM is average. But their listening to other music sources is lower than average, except for YouTube…which is (you guessed it!) average.

Rock and A/C P1’s have higher-than-average representation in this group as well.

Info-Maniacs: They’re way different from all the other kinds of radio listeners. They’re less into “feel good” motivations for listening to radio. They don’t listen to take their minds off problems…they want realities.

Their top motivations for listening: “To hear things that get you thinking,” “To get practical information to that makes your life better” and “To learn things that make you more informed than other people.”

It’s working for them. More than any other segment, they agree with the statement: “You know more about what’s going on in the news than most people.”

They want more news than any other group. The programming element they’re most interested in isn’t music…it’s national news. Local news about ties it, but that’s unlike all the other groups (that are more concerned with local than national). They’re also the #1 group for talk shows, sports news, and play-by-play sports coverage.

Not surprisingly, they spend more time than any other group listening to AM radio, while their FM listening is about average. As far as internet radio, YouTube, iPods, satellite radio…all are below average.

No surprise, News/Talk and Sports P1’s have much higher-than-average representation in this group.

Disconnecteds: They hardly listen, spending more time with their iPods than with any kind of radio. They’re more interested in music than anything else, but not very interested in that either. Radio is definitely not a big part of their lives, and their emotional connections to it are minimal.

The good news is: They’re only 4% of all 18-64’s! Forget ‘em.


So, aside from interesting reading (I hope), what does this all mean for terrestrial radio going forward?

Looking at the groups, I think the “Radio Junkies” and “Info-Maniacs” are the most locked in to terrestrial radio…the “Junkies” because they love everything about it, not just music; the “Maniacs” because what they seek from radio is best delivered by local radio.

The most “at risk” groups are the ones most concerned about music. This is more true of the “Music Onlys” – 16% of 18-64’s – because they don’t have strong emotional connections to radio.

The “Music Enthusiasts” are a challenge, but give radio the opportunity to fight back.  They see themselves as knowledgeable about music, and radio can serve that psychology by being a strong source of music information and discovery. As long as radio taps into that self-image, as well as serving their needs for mood-enhancement, companionship, excitement and energy, it can remain a major player in their lives.

Bottom Line: Radio (as we’ve known it) faces serious challenges (and challengers). We see the potential for erosion, particularly in the two most music-focused groups that represent a third of 18-64’s. But as long as it focuses on what it can do better than its challengers – not just becoming a “me too” music source – it’s certainly not going away!