Radio Is America’s #1 Mass Reach Medium

July 1, 2015 By Pierre Bouvard

Erwin Ephron, the father of modern media planning, had a lot to say about the importance of reach:

“In today’s marketing, reach trumps frequency …Reach is media’s gift to marketing. It is fundamental to how mass advertising appears to work … Advertising is most effective when it reminds people about brands they know, when they happen to need the product.

“Each day, for some reason, usually independent of the advertising, people are in the market for products of all sorts. Advertising usually works by influencing that small group of consumers.”

Why Advertisers Need Reach

In order for advertising to be successful, it has to reach as many as people as possible to get to the people that are in the market for a product or service. Last week the media world was rocked by a new report from Nielsen about media reach.

Each quarter, Nielsen releases its “Total Audience Report,” which quantifies audiences to television, online, mobile, and AM/FM radio. In the past, television was the number one mass reach media based on monthly audiences of persons over the age of two. But there was a problem.

Radio measurement is weekly and not monthly and begins at the age of 6 or 12 depending on the market. Nielsen acknowledged, comparing monthly 2+ TV tuning with 12+ weekly radio audiences was not a fair “apples to apples” comparison. With the publication of the most recent Q1 “Total Audience Report,” Nielsen leveled the playing field and began reporting weekly audiences for standard audience demographics such as Adults 18+, Adults 18-34, Adults 35-49 etc. The results have surprised many in the industry …

Radio is America’s number one mass reach medium; beating TV, online, and smartphones!

According to Nielsen, more than 90% of Americans are reached weekly by radio — more than TV and smartphones. While radio is known for its frequency, the medium has always had significant reach. Even with the rise of digital platforms, radio has kept that reach, while TV is eroding. You can see television’s declining reach most prominently among the Millennials. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, radio is the top reach media, surpassing smartphones (80%) and television (76%).

Television misses out on one in four in the 18- to 34-year-old group. USA TODAY reported this week that Millennials “shun live TV,” watching the least amount of TV in comparison to other age groups.

Among adults 35 to 49, radio is also the number one mass reach medium. Interestingly, this group is using smartphones, PCs, and tablets even more in a week than 18- to- 34-year-olds.

Nielsen’s new research highlights the continued role of radio as a mass reach soundtrack for Americans. While TV is declining, radio is the number one way to reach young, working media consumers.

I had the immense pleasure of working with Erwin Ephron for many years. When the topic turned to radio reach he wrote: “In today’s planning, reach trumps frequency. It is media’s gift to advertising and … Radio … can deliver it by the carload.” The next time you meet a radio sales representative you might notice a difference. They are holding their head higher; after all, they work for America’s number one mass reach medium!

You can read the entire Nielsen Q1 2015 “Total Audience Report” here.

Pierre Bouvard is Chief Marketing Officer of Cumulus Media | Westwood One.