How Big is Christian Radio?

A recent report indicates that about 46% of all adults in the US are listening, for at least a little while, to Christian Radio during a typical month.

Indeed, Christian Radio has grown by leaps and bounds of late, and I am proud to say several such stations are my clients. Still, this estimate strikes me as wildly overstated. Nevertheless, many (if not most) Christian stations are non-commercial and thus largely invisible in the published ratings. My clients, for example, are both non-commercial and are among the most popular and highest rated stations in Orlando and Columbia, SC.

Let’s ignore how ridiculous it is that listenership for some stations should be invisible simply because “they don’t matter to advertisers.” Despite their ratings influence in some markets, the primary challenge for Christian stations is that folks either love them or don’t listen at all. That is, it’s a Cume problem. And that’s why the 46% statistic is hard to stomach. Let’s face it, there’s no radio format consumed by half of everyone any more.

Wrapped up in that 46%, I suspect, is a large number of people who perceive “social risk” in saying to an interviewer that they don’t listen to Christian Radio since it would imply they are not “Good Christians.” Also wrapped up in that statistic is a lot of very, very light listening. This is why the question is best asked unaided (i.e., “What stations do you listen to…?’ than aided (i.e., “Do you ever listen to station X?”). The former sets a higher bar than the latter because, let’s face it, if you can’t remember you listened then you certainly didn’t listen much – and you are not likely to remember your listening enough to record it in a diary.

By considering this “ultra-fringe” listening to be of any significance, you could likewise find that 46% of everyone says they do absolutely everything – in tiny doses. Especially when there are positive or negative social consequences to their responses.

I am especially suspicious when it’s noted that listenership has actually DECREASED from 56% in 1992 (my clients and the Christian stations I know will tell you their audience is UP, not down) and that “the vast majority” of listeners are born-again Christians (it’s hard to imagine the vast majority of 46% of all US adults are “born-again Christians”).

Here’s more on the original study by the Barna Group.

And thanks to Tod Maffin for the original story.

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