MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
The audio news sector in the U.S. is split by modes of delivery: traditional terrestrial (AM/FM) radio and digital formats, such as online radio and podcasting. While terrestrial radio reaches almost the entire U.S. population and remains steady in its revenue, online radio and podcasting audiences have continued to grow over the last decade. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about audio and podcasting below. (Data on public radio beyond podcasting is available in a separate fact sheet.)
The audience for terrestrial radio remains steady and high: In 2018, 89% of Americans ages 12 or older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week, according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau, a figure that has changed little since 2009.
Note: This and most data on the radio sector apply to all types of listening and do not break out news, except where noted. Nielsen lists news/talk among the most-listened-to radio formats; in 2018, the news/talk format earned 10% of radio audiences during the average 15-minute period during the day.
According to “The Infinite Dial” report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, the share of the public listening to online radio continues to grow. As of early 2019, 67% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online radio in the past month, while 60% had listened in the past week. This is up slightly from 64% and 57%, respectively, in 2018, continuing online radio’s steady year-over-year growth.
Online radio listening in cars, such as listening to AM/FM stations online or streaming other online audio, remained steady after years of increase. In 2019, 41% of Americans ages 12 and older have ever listened to online radio in a car using a phone, up from just 5% in 2010.
The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast has also substantially increased over the last decade. As of 2019, 51% of Americans ages 12 or older have ever listened to a podcast, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital survey data, and 32% have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from 26% in 2018 and just 9% in 2008. Furthermore, 22% of those 12 and older said they have listened to a podcast in the last week, up from 7% when this was first measured in 2013. (The data in this chart, as well as in the subsequent chart about podcasts, is for all types of listening and do not break out news programs.)
The average weekly unique users who download NPR podcasts, which include some of the most popular podcasts in the iTunes library, such as Up First and Planet Money, rose from 5.4 million in 2017 to 7.1 million in 2018, according to data provided by NPR. Public Radio International (PRI) reported about 500,000 average weekly unique users in spring of 2018 (PRI merged with PRX in August 2018; this data represents average weekly unique users before the merger). American Public Media saw 3 million weekly unique users downloading podcasts, up from 2.3 million in 2017. (More information about public media is available in the public broadcasting fact sheet.)
Public radio podcast users
Average radio revenue remained steady in 2018 for stations in the all-news format, according to Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. However, over the last eight years, the average station revenue for these all-news stations has slowly declined. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during these years for only 17 of the 25 all-news stations, therefore, only those stations are included in the averages.)
Average revenue for a combination of stations in the all-news, news/talk, and news/talk/info formats is substantially lower than when looking at all-news stations alone – in 2018, $2.7 million per station. This likely stems from the fact that this category contains a sizeable number of stations with low total revenue. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during all of these years for 352 stations in this category.)
Average station revenue by programming category
There were 3,370 news employees in the radio broadcasting industry in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. (To learn more about how we track the number of news employees, see the methodology.) This is about 1,000 fewer than in 2004, when there were 4,290 news employees.
The median wage in 2018 for news analysts, reporters and correspondents in the radio broadcasting industry was about $42,000. Editors in the radio broadcasting industry had a median annual wage of about $74,000.
Employment in radio newsrooms
As of 2019, there were 25 AM or FM stations listed as “all-news” in the BIA Advisory Services database of radio stations. Entercom (which merged with CBS Corp. in 2017) is currently the parent company of 10 of these 25 stations.
Find out more
This fact sheet was compiled by Research Associate Elisa Shearer.
Read the methodology.
Find more in-depth explorations of audio and podcasting by following the links below: