Is News/Talk Really the Top Audio Format of 2013?


Nielsen just released a report trumpeting “News/Talk/Information” as the “Top Audio Format of 2013.”

But what does that mean…really?

First, recognize that the ranker is based on Persons 6+.

Among 25-54’s, however, News/Talk/Info ranks 4th, clearly indicating that the driving force for the format’s dominance is persons over the age of 55, which should come as no surprise to anyone tracking News/Talk ratings over the years (not that 4th is shabby).

Second, there is no indication that these numbers exclude Public Radio, so I will assume that the strength for News/Talk/Info also averages in the enviable powerhouses in Public Radio in many PPM markets.

Indeed, it would be interesting to see just how much lower News/Talk ranks without Public Radio and how much of that rank is due to listeners over 55.

None of this is to argue that News/Talk, as commercial broadcasters know it, is irrelevant or “dying.” Nor is it to diminish the power of the format among persons 25-54 and older.

But formats which skew in one demographic direction generally keep skewing progressively farther in that direction unless something novel enters the formula to broaden the skew or refresh the demographics.

Adult Standardsanyone?

News/Talk, as commercial broadcasters know it, is due for a coat of fresh paint.

And non-music radio (which is a much larger category than News/Talk) is due for some fresh new experiments.

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  • Melissa Kunde

    I totally agree. A radio rebirth is needed. This means creative, out of the box, risk taking intelligence. Radio should call David Greenwalt or Joss Whedon.

  • Thanks Melissa!

  • Ah yes, but Adult Standards didn’t start out as a format targeting men in their late 30’s to early 50’s. There were a few attempts to lower the demos in Adult Standards on great signals but none worked. Remember the Fabulous 570 in Los Angeles? It was hip Rat Pack plus contemporary compatibles like Norah Jones, Rod Stewart, Diana Krall, etc. But point well taken on news/talk. Unfortunately, the big companies are too heavily vested and invested in the poli-talk model with syndication and talent and they don’t have the capital or patience to deliberately fragment the format to move it forward and younger. That will have to come from the small and medium sized companies. Look at Hubbard’s myTalk 107.1 in Minneapolis (female talk) or 102.5 The Bone in Tampa (Cox). Heck, The Bone was a “hard classic rock” that didn’t even bother to change the NAME…they just flipped to talk – younger targeted lifestyle talk. They are a ratings and revenue machine and it happened FAST, in both 18-34 and 25-54. Check ’em out!! And you might even find it strange to note that Tampa’s traditional talk leader, 970 WFLA, has plummeted from a top three radio station 6+ and 25-54 to ranking outside the top 10 12+ and not even in the top 15 25-54 while the Bone made its ascent. Tells me WFLA had a lot of “settlers” that moved quickly. I’m betting NPR has a few “settlers” as well. Sorry for the long rant!!

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