MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
The audio news sector in the U.S. is split by modes of delivery: traditional terrestrial (AM/FM) radio and digital formats, such as online audio and podcasting. While terrestrial radio reaches a large portion of the U.S. population, online audio and podcasting audiences have grown over the last decade. And revenue for news radio stations dropped over the past year after years of relative stability. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about audio and podcasting below. (Data on public radio beyond podcasting is available in a separate fact sheet.)
The audience for terrestrial radio remains high, though there was a slight drop in 2020: In 2020, 83% of Americans ages 12 or older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week, a figure that dropped slightly from 89% in 2019 according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau.
Note: This and most data on the radio sector apply to all types of listening and do not break out news, except where noted. In 2019, Nielsen listed news/talk among the most-listened-to radio formats; in 2020, 50% of U.S. adults said they got news on the radio often or sometimes.
The share of Americans who listen to podcasts has also substantially increased over the last decade. As of 2021, 41% of Americans ages 12 or older have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to “The Infinite Dial” report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, up from 37% in 2020 and just 9% in 2008. Additionally, 28% of those 12 and older said they have listened to a podcast in the last week, up from 24% in 2020 and 7% when this was first measured in 2013. (The data in this chart, as well as in the subsequent chart about podcasts, is for all types of content and does not break out news programs.)
The average weekly unique users who download NPR podcasts, which include some of the most popular podcasts in the Apple Podcasts charts, such as Up First and Fresh Air, rose from 11.3 million in 2019 to 14 million in 2020, according to data provided by NPR. Public Radio Exchange (PRX) reported nearly 8 million average weekly unique users in 2020. (More information about public media is available in the public broadcasting fact sheet.)
Public radio podcast users
According to survey data from Edison Research and Triton Digital, the share of the public listening to online audio has plateaued. As of early 2021, 68% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online audio in the past month, while 62% had listened in the past week. This has been about steady since 2019, revealing a plateau after steady year-over-year growth from 2007 to 2018.
Average radio revenue dropped fairly sharply in 2020 – by 24% – for stations in the all-news format, according to Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. Average station 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 the averages.)
Average revenue for a combination of stations in the all-news, news/talk, and news/talk/info formats is substantially lower than when looking at all-news stations alone – in 2021, $2.1 million per station. This likely stems from the fact that this category contains a sizeable number of stations with low total revenue. (The BIA Advisory Services database contains revenue data during all of these years for 361 stations in this category.)
Average station revenue by programming category
There were 3,360 news employees in the radio broadcasting industry in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. (To learn more about how we track the number of news employees, see the methodology.) This is about 1,000 fewer than in 2004, when there were 4,290 news employees.
The median wage in 2020 for news analysts, reporters and journalists in the radio broadcasting industry was about $49,000. Editors in the radio broadcasting industry had a median annual wage of about $79,000.
Employment in radio newsrooms
As of 2020, there were 25 AM or FM stations listed as “all-news” in the BIA Advisory Services database of radio stations. Entercom (which changed its name to Audacy in 2021) is currently the parent company of 10 of these 25 stations.
Find out more
Read the methodology.
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.
Find more in-depth explorations of audio and podcasting by following the links below:
- Public Broadcasting Fact Sheet, June 29, 2021
- More than eight-in-ten Americans get news from digital devices, Jan. 12, 2021
- Key findings about the online news landscape in America, Sept. 11, 2019
- For Local News, Americans Embrace Digital but Still Want Strong Community Connection, March 26, 2019