Let me tell you a surprising fact. AM radio has as many as 58 million weekly listeners (RADAR, 2017). Yeah, even after the advent of smartphones and gadgets, AM radio do have some serious listeners. I know you might be wondering who still listens to AM radio.
Well, this article is about AM radio listeners and the reasons why they still love listening to AM stations. While most people listen to AM radio in their cars or trucks, others opt for digital streaming platforms to enjoy listening to live broadcasts while at home or work.
Each day, 2 in 3 adults in the US tune into AM/FM radio; this number is far more than people who listen to music or stream plays. Although facing competition from platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora, AM/FM radio seems to have a consistent audience base. Today, you can choose to listen to over 6,000 AM stations in the US to seek weather forecasts, traffic updates, news and sports coverage, and entertainment.
Who listens to AM radio?
People listen to AM radios while driving in their car or when they are at home. Most of these are senior citizens who love to go back to their good times. The number of AM radio listeners continues to grow each year; however, there’s plenty of competition for audio listening. Although it’s difficult to speculate the exact number of AM listeners, according to Pew Research, there is a one-third bigger American audience of AM listeners than those who read the Sunday newspaper.
A national survey conducted in 2021 showed that up to 18% of radio listeners are info-maniacs who tune in to catch up on news updates, whereas 27% use it to enjoy music. 16% are connection-seekers who listen for company, while laid-back listeners, who form up to 17% of radio listeners, listen to it in the background. Keep in mind; this percentage includes AM, FM, and other forms of radio. Compared to AM radio, there are more FM listeners because of the superior audio quality. FM radio is a top choice for music listening; this is clear from the Nielsen research results, which showed that 86% of listeners tuned into FM, compared to 21% of AM listeners. This is also because of generational factors.
According to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the median age of AM radio listeners is 57 years. Among people aged 25-34, AM makes up for 9% of radio listening compared to 91% of FM listening. There is a significant generational difference between AM and FM listeners. While the millennial and Gen Z group grew up with the earlier means of listening to music, few remain loyal to the radio. With new and emerging ways of streaming music, AM weekly cumulative seems to decrease every year.
That brings us back to the question then, what type of people listen to AM radio?
AM Radio Listenership- By Type
- The older groups of people aren’t interested in tuning into the radio to listen to music. They are morning listeners who mostly tune in for news and information from 6 to 10 AM, partly out of habit. This population segment doesn’t mind the commercials, as long as they get to catch up on the breaking news, traffic updates, weather forecasts, and even sports coverage. It’s important to note that men outnumber women in this regard.
- On the other hand, mid-aged women are mainly connection seekers who tune into AM radio at home, looking for companionship.
- There are also radio heads that are the most engaged and heavy listeners of the AM band. They tune in for almost all needs: music and entertainment, sports and news, and talk radio. These are mid-aged, audiophile female listeners who have been identified to be African-Americans. The radio heads stream the AM band on their smartphones, tablets, computers, and speaker devices. They’re also commercial-friendly and don’t avoid listening to the ads.
- Another sizeable chunk of the population that uses AM radio are those that tune in to the band to keep them company in the car while driving. These are Latin and White listeners from low-income categories who listen for their need to consume music. Although much of the music has switched to the FM band, you can still find some country and Tejano stations on the AM radio. Look up Magic on your AM dial to find some old classics from the 50s to the 80s!
- With the ever-changing environment, we have seen a dramatic increase in natural disasters, such as floods, storms, and bushfires. AM radio comes in most handy in such situations since you can catch signals even over terrain. When cellular or Internet coverage is out, you can still receive AM signals to get up-to-the-minute updates, making it even more reliable.
- Not to forget, amplitude modulation is the primary method of communication between aircraft and control towers.
AM listeners are mostly older, conservative, white folks. That’s partly because of the nature of programs that air on this band. While FM radio mainly plays music that appeals to the current generation, AM content has a lot to do with news, politics, religion, sports, and talk shows that appeal more to the older male population. Nonetheless, some mid-aged individuals enjoy listening to AM radio for country music or the nostalgic tone of programs.