The Uninformed Are Everywhere


(Bob McCurdy) Last week I made my annual trek to the dermatologist. Had never met this physician but my usual doctor was on vacation. He asked what I did for a living and I replied “radio ad sales” and his immediate next words were, “I’ve heard that radio is dead” — I am not kidding. Like it had been rehearsed. Upon hearing these six words uttered my rash got worse.

This is a skin doctor who is as far away from the media world as the earth is from the sun, telling me radio is “dead.” I responded, “Yeah Doc, it’s about as dead as the bad blood that exists between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Yankees and Red Sox, and Trump and the squad of four. Turns out he’s a big Sirius guy, so I asked if he knew that, “Only 12% of cars and trucks registered in the U.S. are capable of receiving Sirius programming” and peppered him with a few choice facts you can see below. He got the message and literally stood there corrected before I allowed him to touch me.

Many of us don’t like to take the time memorize stuff, but tip-of-the-tongue facts injected into conversations will not only move our “Why radio” story forward, but provide mental nutrients which are helpful to persevere in what often comes across as an uninformed and unenlightened radio-discouragement fraternity that exists in the ad world — and apparently in dermatology as well.

Each fact below, gathered from various sources, could also be an effective educational pre-sell email to both current and prospective clients, allowing us to simultaneously educate and maintain “visibility with value.” An advertiser who knows what we know is more likely to believe what we believe and ultimately do business with us. It’s all about improving the odds. Some topline “true or false” stuff:

– 272 million Americans 6+ listen to radio each week — Nielsen’s Audio Today 2019

– 98% of all U.S. adults across the U.S. tunes to radio each month, as do 99% of all A25-54s — Nielsen’s Audio Today 2019

– Radio reaches +53.6 million adults each month than search sites/apps defined as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others — Nielsen Audio Today 2019

– Radio reaches +66.7 million adults each month than social media sites/apps defined as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and others — Nielsen Audio Today 2019

– 69% of radio is consumed away from home, when the listener can take immediate action and when messaging can most influence a purchase — Nielsen National Regional Database Fall 2018 A18+

– Radio enjoys a 65% share of all in-car audio listening, with Sirius a distant second with a 17% share — Edison Share of Ear Q1 2019 P13+ in-car

– Five: The approximate number of days the average adult tunes to AM/FM radio each week — Nielsen Sept/Oct/Nov 2018, six-market PPM average

– AM/FM accounts for 80% of daily audio time spent with ad-supported audio –– Edison Share of Ear Q1-Q4 2018 A18+

– Radio dominates the daily reach of audio ad-supported listening options. Radio’s daily reach of 73% is 10x that of Pandora, 18x that of Spotify, and 24x that of Sirius — Edison Share of Ear 2019

– Radio dominates the audio landscape with a 46% share of all audio listening — Edison Share of Ear 2018 Americans 13+

– Radios daily TSL is flat Q1 2019 vs Q1 2018: 1:46 vs 1:42 — Nielsen Q1 2019 Total Audience Report

– Numerous single-source ROAS studies confirm the impact of radio generating, on average, a $10:$1 ROAS — Nielsen Single Source ROAS studies (2014-2016)

– Radio added to a TV only campaign increased ROI +20% — Analytic Partners 2016 for the Advertising Research Foundation

– Only 17.4% of U.S. adults 18+ tuned to Pandora in the past week and 10.4% tuned to Spotify — Scarborough USA Release 2 2018

– 44% of Americans are light TV viewers accounting for only 9% of total TV viewing with radio reaching 90% of these light TV viewers — Nielsen PPM March/April 2018 A18-49

– TV ads aren’t seen 61% of the time. Only 39% of the time were eyes on the screen. 40% of the time eyes were on a second screen. 21% of the time they were out of the room — Council for Research Excellence Nielsen Neuroscience Study “The Mind of a Viewer” March 2017

– TV viewing among young Americans is declining 3x faster than radio listening 2014-2018- Nielsen/Deloitte Insights

– The heaviest TV viewing quintile (20%) view TV an average of 10.1 hours/day. The lightest TV viewers tune in an average of only 12 minutes/day — Nielsen Q3 2016 Total Audience Report

– Radio’s P1s (heaviest listeners) are considerably more upscale than TV’s and are 74% more likely to reside in a home with a HHI of $100K+, 40% more likely to have graduate college, and 165% more likely to be full-time employed than TV’s P1 viewer — Scarborough (six-market average: Boston, Detroit, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Tampa)

All of the above happen to be true. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. It’s better to have command of these facts than not — to know than not know — as you never know when you’ll run into a dermatologist, client, or prospect that needs a little educating.

Educating is camouflaged selling and good selling is never wasted, regardless who is being educated.

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


  1. And yet, there SiriusXM is making a profit. iHeart is still saddled with $6B in debt, Cumulus is in their death spiral (sold LA and NY stations for peanuts) and Entercom is knocking on the door of being a $4 stock while it was a $16 before the merger. All of the bullet-points above are great for a radio buyer, but those budgets are drying up quickly. A client that was buying 100 GRP’s per week a few years ago are now buying 50. 10x stations deep is now 4x stations deep. These points also do nothing to address the real issues impacting Radio the most. The constant cost-cutting, increasing spot loads, decreased in-car listening and a loss of younger listeners does not paint a pretty picture. Not to mention about 90% of these stats are from Nielsen, and we all know they measure a tiny fraction of any population. Approx. 0.02% in Los Angeles. Ever notice how SiriusXM never slams Radio? It’s because they’re focused on making money and not perception and the trades. If Radio would provide it’s listeners with a better product, maybe people would not say it was dead. Unless Radio shifts focus from the rear-view mirror to the windshield, nothing is going to change.

    • “Ever notice how SiriusXM never slams Radio?”

      Huh? Simply google “SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer” to read all of the slams he makes about radio. He slams radio each and every chance he gets. It’s his second favorite subject. Nothing wrong with that. That’s his right as CEO. He says directly that he says FM radio is his biggest competitor. He is very focused on perception, and he takes every interview offered by the trades. That statement is completely and totally false.

      • “completely and totally false”. i just watched around 5 interviews, from 2013-2019. even seeking out ones with anti-radio rhetoric. I could not find one. I am not saying it does not exist, but your google instructions did not work for me. the only item regarding radio that he mentioned was when he said “we’re in the radio business, it’s a $25B industry”. While that might be false (more like $18B in the US but perhaps he is counting Canada as well), it’s not bashing radio. That sounds to me like he thinks he is part of the Radio industry. he has bashed streaming services more recently… until they bought one that is.

  2. Re: Andy’s comment:
    Anyone who believes the number of spots is “radio’s BIGGEST problem” does not have access to an accurate map of radio’s territory.
    Nor are radio’s alarming failures at “telling the story” – a great story as Bob regularly demonstrates, the main factor.
    Radio’s biggest problem is its inability to communicate more effectively, both on-the-air and in the preparation of commercial content.

  3. Yes, too many commercials is radio’s biggest problem. More than three in a cluster is driving listeners away. Charge more per commercial and have less of them. It’s like church…..when the Pastor speaks too long, you tune out, and maybe find another church to attend.

    • With all due respect, Andy, I think charging more for commercials and having fewer of them has been thought of.
      Trouble is, getting all stations to agree to that is called collusion and price-fixing and is quite illegal. Besides, do you really think any industry has the discipline to not have a rate-cutter in town? Dream on.

  4. Indeed, as most astute observers will agree: This is an internal issue.
    Only radio can clean up its own act.
    And so it is, as Bob so ably, and often demonstrates: all the significant penetration research, and a buck, ninety-five….

  5. The listening to AM/FM in the teen and 12-34 demographic is declining rapidly, and that should sound alarm bells. But Sirius is not the problem. These young listeners are going to Spotify and other streaming options, because 6, 8, 10 and more commercials in a cluster just push away listeners, especially the younger listeners. And the corporate radio owners and their top minions are all about the “here and now,” the immediate revenues, with zero regard to long term growth or considerations. There will be consequences to that. But Sirius is not “the problem”; on the top Sirius music channels, there is way too much inane and meaningless talk and drivel — they are very poorly programmed.

    • I was watching a baseball game on TV last night…and besides the usual triple spots between innings, the broadcast contained:
      A nearly continuous crawler on the bottom of the screen for various law firms and window replacement companies, concerts, Fox promos-pretty much non-stop advertising.
      Also, the play-by-play guys 1-2 times per batting segment said between batters ” Now a quick word from —” and a 10 second ad ran on the right on a split-screen while the next batter wiggled and adjusted his gloves while stepping up to bat.
      Behind the batter was a constant changing display of ads on the wall in the stadium.
      In the outfield, huge billboards beckoned home run hitters to put one in “Toyota Territory”-flashed with regularity with each fly ball to the outfield.
      It was a great game. Enjoyed it all.

      But, radio has too many ads.

      • Your observation re a TV product has absolutely nothing to do with radio. Your response and your behavior are sadly typical of many in radio, who become hostile and defensive, and quickly point out their perceived weaknesses of other media, as opposed to objectively discussing the radio product.
        If you actually believe that most radio listeners are going to listen through 6, 8, 10 or more commercials in a stop set, then you clearly have not looked at People Meter data. Unequivocally, PPM data very clearly shows listeners tuning out out stations en masse, by the 2nd or 3rd commercial in these insufferable cluster breaks.

        • What did this Big A guy say? People don’t mind constant ads on TV but they hate them on radio? His Peter Meter said that?

  6. Bob-

    A fact about satellite radio that I consider to be overlooked is that…

    Despite the 20 years of hard-promoting by the muscle of the automotive industry itself, Sirius is still a rather small factor in radio listenership. You can’t buy a car today without a full-fledged Sirius pitch from the auto salesman, the dealership F & I rep and follow-up emails and direct mail from Sirius urging you to turn on your 30 day free trial. Many car buyers do turn it on for the trial, I suspect, but quickly set their AM/FM dial favorites and return to broadcast radio.
    Rejecting a product after a free sample normally means the consumer felt the product was not worth the price.


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