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If you invest in radio advertising, this is for you. Here’s an update on what formats posted growth in 2018, and what formats experienced audience erosion. Of course this is national data, and results vary by market.

With another year nearly in the books, American radio preferences continue to evolve to meet the cultural, entertainment and news realities of today. Right now, hundreds of radio stations around the U.S. are playing wall-to-wall holiday music as Christmas approaches. This annual tradition on the radio airwaves continues to pay off for the stations that swap in the “all-Christmas” format at the end of the year, and particularly for Adult Contemporary (AC).

News/Talk Remains Strong For Radio Advertisers

Elsewhere, News/Talk radio continues to be ascendant as audience interest in news (and politics) remains exceptionally strong several years removed from our last presidential election. In 2018, midterms, Supreme Court nominations, natural disasters, social media scrutiny and widening cultural debates (among other stories) continued to drive listeners to the News/Talk format, which had another strong year of performance.

According to Nielsen’s Portable People Meter (PPM) data for the balance of 2018 (January-November), News/Talk remained the No. 1 format among all listeners (age 6+) for the eighth year in a row. It was one of four formats that increased its share of audience this year from last year (News/Talk had a 10% share this year, up from 9.9% in 2017).

Adult Contemporary Posts Growth

Elsewhere, Adult Contemporary increased from 7.7% to 8.0%, Classic Hits trended from 5.3% to 5.6% in 2018 while also having another big summer, and All Sports moved slightly higher in 2018, growing from 4.3% last year to 4.4% this year.

2018’s Top 10 Radio Formats

The chart below includes the 10 most popular radio formats of 2018 across Nielsen’s PPM markets.

AQH: Average quarter hour. Source: The Nielsen Company (US), LLC.


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