Why radio refuses to die

In fact, a new study says it's thriving -- even among teens and 20-somethings. 'Hyper-locality' and community connections are among the reasons.

By Bruce Kennedy May 20, 2013 10:21AM

Tuning knob on portable radio (© Thinkstock/Comstock Images/Getty Images)Remember that song "Video Killed the Radio Star," the first tune aired on MTV in the 1980s? It seems media experts have been predicting radio's demise ever since the first sound movies came out in the 1920s. But in an age of online streaming and digital media, radio not only endures but appears to be thriving, including among a surprising demographic: teens to mid-20-year-olds.

A new study, commissioned by Clear Channel (CCO), found 92% of all respondents to a 1,000-person online survey said they listened to radio at least once a week. You might think the radio giant injected its own bias into the study, but a Clear Channel spokesperson says all the people surveyed, men and women ages 13 to 54, were recruited randomly by a third party and not aware Clear Channel was involved in the research.

While radio has long had a strong consumer base among older Americans, especially with AM talk shows, the study says it still has a hold on younger generations. The survey found 94% of all 13-to-17-year-olds, as well as 89% of respondents ages 18 to 24, say they tune in to radio weekly.

Some other interesting factoids from the study, conducted by Latitude Research and OpenMind Strategy:

  • 71% said radio is a part of their daily routine.

  • 69% agreed that "streaming services do not replace radio."

  • 78% agreed radio "has the power to make a difference in the community," while 72% felt radio is more community-oriented than TV.

One of the biggest factors radio has in its favor is accessibility. Its portable and one-on-one nature make it unique among communication media. Of course, car radios are a huge part of that equation. About half of American radio consumers listen in their cars. And among the survey respondents, 82% said the first thing they do when they get into a car is turn on the radio.

Radio's portability and mobility make it popular with younger listeners, who access it across a variety of media platforms, including online streaming.

"A lot of radio stations have put apps on smartphones. They've been doing live streaming forever," Janet Kolodzy, a professor of journalism at Emerson College tells MSN Money. "So it makes . . . sense that young people will look for music via mobile, via what's out there -- which is radio."

Kolodzy says the new technologies are helping radio stations find audiences that are no longer tied to specific geographic areas, which is also strengthening radio's brand as it expands both nationally and globally.

While large, centralized corporations like Clear Channel control a lot of radio, Kolodzy says many of her students are attracted to radio by what she calls its "hyper-locality," especially when it comes to getting local news, music, sports and cultural information.

"What's made radio long-lasting, she says, "is everything from sponsoring concerts to doing live broadcasts in communities, to having ticket giveaways and contests. Those are the things that create a community and a community buy-in with the station. So radio has a sense of that we owe something to the community, and the community will buy in to us, if we continually connect with the community."

More on moneyNOW

May 20, 2013 1:01PM

I still listen to the radio in the car and late at night.  It's free, no taxes, and I can tune to whatever I want.  But nothing beats free in these days when everyone is beating us out of every dime we have.

May 20, 2013 1:08PM
Wow, I can't believe the post's from $8 & dave. I listen to the radio everyday for the music, sports, weather, and local events. Someone must live in a shell, a radio-less shell. Listening to the radio is a great way to stay informed on what's going on in your community. By the way, I generally do not listen to talk radio, don't care much about politcal view points.
May 20, 2013 2:19PM
Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open hearted
Not so coldly charted
It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah
Your honesty
One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity...  Rush - Spirit of Radio
May 20, 2013 2:46PM
People have been saying radio is *going away* since TV arrived in the 50's. There may be far fewer stations but there will always be radio. It is a great way to find out what is happening in our communities now that we are so disconnected--thanks to television and the internet.
May 20, 2013 10:50PM
Count me as one who still loves her local music radio stations!
May 20, 2013 6:59PM
Sirius XM Satellite radio is a savior for me.  It has totally replaced my cable tv.  Its great  for news, sports, and entertainment talk not just music.  I have a radio  in my home so I can lean back on my couch and listen to whatever comes to me.  Streaming radio over the computer is a pain with all the buffering,bandwidth eating hassles.  I also don't like it being broadcast thru a  glaring screen.      
May 21, 2013 3:43PM
i still use an alarm clock(not my phone) and use the radio to wake me up rather than the beeping. i also listen to iheart radio at work since it's the only way i can have music on my computer. sure is nice to listen to stations from all over the country. my car is old and has a am/fm radio cassette player. lots of radio for me!
May 20, 2013 1:57PM
THe real reason to listen to radio is that unlike TV and Cable, you actually can find the other side of any story on the radio. Which is infinitely better than getting only the MSNBC liberal left version that most televised media present. Without radio, and the internet, Obama would appear a great president. because the mainstream media only tell us HIS side of the story until the radio and internet force the matter into the open.
May 20, 2013 1:19PM
I actually listen to the Radio at times. There use to be a time when there was Real Music, back then, I listened to a ton more on the Radio, then now. Sports talk is almost as bad as Political Talk these days. ESPN is the worst. I listen for updates. Now if you live in GA, they have two decent local sport talk shows. New York also use to have decent sport talks shows. Recall schmoozing with Steve Somers, WFAN?

The explosion of Political talk and ESPN's butchering of sports talk has eroded the credibility of Talk Radio. Copycat music artists that literally have little to zero original music of their own has eroded the rest.

May 20, 2013 4:50PM

NPR daily. The beg messages get a little out of hand, that's for sure. But commerical radio, with its incredible larding of really grotesque commercials, is unacceptable as anything other than an alternative to waterboarding.


May 20, 2013 10:51AM
Radio has refused to die for two simple reasons. TV sucks and Corporations love to spend billions on Radio Programs that push their Political Agenda. If you want to hear Paid Agendas full of Lies, tune into Talk Radio. Talk Radio for the most part,  is a total disgrace these days.
May 20, 2013 12:45PM

When I bought my last car, the AM/FM radio was an option; one that I chose not to install.


Like the ashtray, radio is going away.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market began the new trading week on the defensive note with small-cap stocks pacing the retreat. The Russell 2000 (-1.4%) and Nasdaq Composite (-1.1%) displayed relative weakness, while the S&P 500 lost 0.8% with all ten sectors ending in the red.

Global equities began showing some cracks overnight after China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei poured cold water on hopes for new stimulus measures. Specifically, Mr. Lou said the government has no plans to change ... More