Big Bad Storms Are Good to Radio


We’ve heard it over and over again….when Mother Nature goes into beast mode, radio is right there to make sure the locals are safe and sound from her wrath. Nielsen has come out with some new data to support that theory.

2017 was a storm chasers dream with many big natural disasters hitting different parts of the country. In Puerto Rico, which is a Nielsen radio diary market, the just-released winter 2018 survey reveals a rise in listening to news-formatted radio stations as a result of last year’s tumultuous weather.

As Nielsen details in this first chart, which combines all of the news-formatted radio stations the ratings firm measures in Puerto Rico (16 of them carrying the News/Talk format and

another five broadcasting Spanish News/Talk), tune-in across Puerto Rico spiked significantly during the winter survey when compared against previous survey periods. Nielsen’s fall 2017 survey was not conducted after measurement operations were suspended following Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Sept 20, 2017. As infrastructure recovery has progressed, however, Nielsen has been able to resume surveying on the island. During the Winter 2018 Nielsen audio survey in Puerto Rico, more than 991 thousand listeners each week (aged 12 and older) were tuning to a news-formatted radio station. This marks an increase of more than 100,000 weekly listeners from the most recent survey, Summer 2017.

Nielsen says wht happened in Puerto Rico mirrors the same pattern in Texas and Florida with audiences tuning to the radio for news and information following hurricanes. During the September PPM survey, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas (on Aug. 25th). Two weeks later Hurricane Irma came ashore in Florida (on Sept. 10).

Nine different major markets were affected by these two storms. The Nielsen data show there was a common thread of tune-in to local news radio stations, increasing dramatically during the week those storms arrived. “Regardless of evacuations, flooding, or power outages, the reach of local news radio stations spiked during the specific week those hurricanes rumbled into town.”


  1. Tell that to Sam Bush. Saga’s Q1 was impacted by bad winter weather, leading to ad cancellations. Tell that to Townsquare Media. TSQ took a nosedive because live events were crippled by bad weather. A bump in ratings didn’t lead to long term ad growth for stations in Puerto Rico! They were lucky to be on the air. How are Houston’s stations going to deal with Q3 2018 comps vs. 2017? This is Nielsen PR fluff that has no meat. Listening rose because with no power the TV is dead and you cannot charge your phone. Duh …

    • Juan – are you questioning the conclusion that battery powered radio is a reliable source of information and that the industry should acknowledge and embrace that data-supported fact?
      I’d say that the data adequately positions radio as a dependable and important part of a community during disaster. I don’t see anything in the article that suggests that stations could monetize disaster for ad growth.
      I miss the point that you are making.

      • John – I’m siding with you on this one. Juan L. is totally missing the point. The fact that Radio is a dependable, credible source of real-time weather information translates into long-term listener loyalty. Radio has always been the go-to medium during local severe weather events. Juan is looking at this from an opportunistic standpoint, as you say, capitalizing on disaster. When a station serves its market well, as shown in the data, that translates into confidence and loyalty among listeners. In turn, that would transition to ad revenue later on. Just my opinion.


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