UNESCO recognizes Feb. 13 as World Radio Day, celebrating the form of mass media that has the widest audience in the world, according to the United Nations agency. To mark the occasion, here are seven facts from Pew Research Center analyses about the state of radio in America.
For World Radio Day, Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to provide findings about radio listeners, radio journalists and the broader radio industry in the United States. All findings are based on previously published studies by the Center. Details about the methodology of each study, including survey sample sizes and field dates, are available by following the links in this analysis.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
About eight-in-ten Americans ages 12 and older listen to terrestrial radio in a given week. Weekly terrestrial radio listenership in the U.S. has been high for years, though there was a slight drop in 2020, the most recent year that Pew Research Center analyzed this data. That year, 83% of Americans ages 12 and older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week, down slightly from 89% in 2019, according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau. The decline in listenership in 2020 coincided with the beginning of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.
Nearly half of U.S. adults say they sometimes or often get news from radio. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in summer 2022, 47% of U.S. adults said they get news from radio at least sometimes, a figure that has remained relatively constant in recent years. In the same survey, just 7% of U.S. adults said they prefer radio to other platforms for getting news.
White and Black Americans are equally likely to get news at least sometimes from radio (48% each). Meanwhile, 42% of Hispanic adults and 37% of Asian adults say they get news from radio at least sometimes. When it comes to age, adults ages 50 to 64 are the most likely to get news at least sometimes from radio, with just over half (55%) saying they do this; 48% of those ages 30 to 49, 46% of those 65 and older, and 35% of those 18 to 29 say the same.
One-in-five U.S. adults say they often get local news from radio stations, according to a 2018 Center survey. That was below the share of U.S. adults who say they often get local news from TV stations (38%) but comparable to the share who often get local news from daily newspapers (17%). It is higher than the shares that get local news from online forums (12%) or other types of outlets.
After a decline in the mid-2010s, employment in radio newsrooms has remained relatively stable in recent years. There were 3,360 news employees in the radio broadcasting industry in 2020, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That was about 1,000 fewer than in 2004, when there were 4,290 such workers, but it was similar to the number recorded in more recent years.
The relative stability in employment at radio newsrooms is reflected in a 2022 Center survey, which asked journalists whether they think their news organizations are mostly expanding, cutting back or staying about the same. Among journalists who said the original platform of their news organization is radio or podcast, 53% said their organization is mostly staying about the same, while 28% said it is expanding and 19% said it is cutting back.
The median annual wage in 2020 for news analysts, reporters and journalists in the radio broadcasting industry was about $49,000, according to data from the BLS. Editors in the radio broadcasting industry had a median annual wage of about $79,000.
Most radio journalists feel highly connected to their audience. In the Center’s 2022 survey of journalists, about six-in-ten radio and podcast journalists (59%) said they felt extremely or very connected to their listeners. That was significantly higher than the 45% of print journalists, 44% of TV journalists and 43% of online journalists who said the same.
Average revenue at news-focused radio stations in the U.S. fell 24% between 2019 and 2020, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from MEDIA Access Pro and BIA Advisory Services. Average revenue for stations in the all-news format dropped from $18.1 million in 2019 to $13.9 million in 2020. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during these years for only 16 of the 25 all-news stations. Therefore, only those stations are included in these averages.) Like the decline in overall terrestrial radio listenership in 2020, the decline in revenue at news-focused stations coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.
Average station revenue for all-news radio stations
The share of Americans who listen to podcasts has substantially increased over the last decade. As of 2021, 41% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to a podcast in the past month, according to “The Infinite Dial,” a report by Edison Research and Triton Digital. That was up from 37% in 2020 and 9% in 2008. Many podcast listeners tune in more frequently than that: In 2021, 28% of Americans ages 12 and older said they had listened to a podcast in the last week, up from 24% in 2020 and 7% in 2013, when this was first measured.
A sizable share of U.S. adults (23%) get news at least sometimes from podcasts, according to a 2022 Center survey. More than half of adults (55%) said in the same survey that they never get news from podcasts.
Unlike with radio, younger adults are more likely than older adults to get news from podcasts. Roughly similar shares of adults ages 18 to 29 (32%) and 30 to 49 (29%) say they get news from podcasts at least sometimes, followed by 18% of adults 50 to 64 and 12% of adults 65 and older.