AM/FM Vs. The Streamers


(By Bob McCurdy) Last week an AE and I were involved in a conversation with an advertiser who was looking to get a better handle on the listening habits of the “digital streamer,” specifically the Pandora and Spotify listener.

I pointed to a USA TouchPoint slide, which showed that, on average, those streaming digital-audio outfits spend about a third of their “audio day” with their streaming service of choice and close to half of their “audio day” with AM/FM radio.

I then reviewed some newly mined metrics from the latest Scarborough utilizing the Target Profile report that shed additional light on the audio lives of the listeners to these two major streamers. The data came from six markets: Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Tampa, and there is little reason to believe that they are not reflective of the remainder of the country.

Theses metrics enabled us to establish that Pandora and Spotify listeners remain big fans of AM/FM radio. I accomplished this by breaking down AM/FM listening into quintiles — P1, P2, P3, P4, and P5, or heaviest, heavy, medium, light, and lightest — users to determine in which AM/FM listening quintile the Pandora and Spotify user fell.

Across these six markets with A18+, the Pandora listener was 14% more likely to be among the “heaviest” and “heavy” AM/FM listeners, and 17% less likely to be among the “light” and “lightest” listeners to AM/FM. The Spotify listener was 4% more likely to be among the “heaviest” and “heavy” AM/FM listeners, and 9% less likely to be among the “light” and “lightest” listeners to AM/FM.

The Takeaway: Pandora and Spotify users are also heavy listeners to AM/FM, which means commercial campaigns on AM/FM stations can effectively reach them.

I then quantified the amount of time the Pandora and Spotify listener spends tuned to AM/FM radio each week. Across these same six markets, the average Pandora listener tunes to AM/FM radio approximately 1.8 hours/daily, while the Spotify listener tunes in approximately 1.7 hours/daily.

The Takeaway: Again, the Pandora and Spotify users are also heavy listeners to AM/FM, which means commercial campaigns on AM/FM stations can effectively reach them.

Next, I quantified the percentage of Pandora and Spotify listeners that tune to AM/FM each week, finding that 94.3% of Pandora listeners tune in to AM/FM weekly, with 92.6% of the Spotify listeners doing the same across these six markets.

Finally, I quantified the weekly reach of both Pandora and Spotify, a figure one rarely sees due to the way their metrics are typically reported (monthly). Scarborough now enables us to compare digital streamers weekly reach to AM/FM radio’s, thanks to the folks at Westwood One.

Across these six markets, Pandora’s A18+ reach was 19.0 and Spotify’s was 8.0, compared to AM/FM’s 91.0. These weekly reach metrics are extremely important for any sale, call-to-action, or limited-time offer campaigns as the chances of a consumer buying are slim if they are not exposed to the offer. Big sales require big reach.

The Big Takeaway: Both Pandora and Spotify users rank among the heaviest listeners to AM/FM radio, with more than nine out of 10 of the users of each service tuning to AM/FM each week for close to two hours/day. And the weekly reach of both services is dwarfed by AM/FM radio.

The findings above are similar to what I discovered several months ago regarding the satellite radio usage of 25-64 year old adults with a household income of $75,000+ in the same six markets. Ninety-four percent of those satellite subscribers tuned to AM/FM 1.6 hours/daily and were as likely to be among the heaviest and heavy radio listeners as non-subscribers.

AM/FM radio remains the behemoth of all audio options and you can’t defy the law of “large numbers.” When any medium, product, or service is used by 93% of the population weekly, as is the case with radio, it means that that medium, product, or service continues to be quite popular among those more limited-in-scope competitive options.

Based on the data above, my advice to the client was to consider the addition of other audio options only after AM/FM’s marketing prowess has been used to its fullest.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Dave, you’re missing the point of what we do. We promise to have their message heard by X number of people. That’s the value we offer. The level of response to the message depends on a number of variables. Does the ad contain a call to action, a deadline, is there scarcity? Does the advertiser have a good reputation are they easy to find? can they fulfil orders in a timely fashion. Are competitors active in the market? is the weather right?
    What we know about consumers is this: They are more likely to buy from a business they have already heard of. Radio creates that familiarity better than any other medium. This is what we sell. The ability to turn an ordinary business into a household name That is far more valuable than clicks, likes, shares, re-tweets, reactions et al that more often than not come in quantities that you could fit into a people mover.

  2. Bob you make good points….and tell the AM/FM story very well. Trouble is the pure plays seem to have their own story to tell and it’s no doubt a lot cheaper to put to work. It’s also probably a whole lot effective. That’s the bottom line and while we can deliver audience numbers that far outweigh the online services we should probably also be considering delivering numbers on RESULTS. How many radio sales efforts actually track the effectiveness of a campaign? Being able to say “XYZ retailer saw their in store visits increase by 4% in the month during and after their effective radio schedule”. We can always go in saying “my station has 400,000 people tuning in over the course of a week”, but if they don’t react to a schedule it might be considered worthless. You certainly want the advertiser to come back time and time again to use your product. ;


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