Radio’s Audience Remains High. Is a Revenue Drop Concerning?


The audience for terrestrial radio remains high. That’s a point made by many of the leaders of commercially licensed broadcasting companies over the last several years.

Here’s the bad news: A Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro and BIA Advisory Services data confirm that average radio revenue dropped “fairly sharply” in 2020.

And, for the all-news format, the dip in revenue was no different.

Or, are the numbers skewed?

Average station revenue for stations in the all-news format dropped from $18.1 million in 2019 to $13.9 million in 2020.

That assessment is based on the BIA Advisory Services database, which Pew says includes revenue data during these years “for only 16 of the 25 all-news stations.”

Audacy owns 10 of these 25 all-news stations. Sinclair Broadcast Group has agreed to sell one of these major stations — KOMO-AM & FM — to Lotus Communications.

Thus, only those stations are included in the averages.

With nine all-News stations unaccounted for, is this a fair analysis?

Perhaps. The BIA Advisory Services database contains complete revenue data for 361 stations in the all-news, news/talk, and news/talk/info categories. And, using this classification average revenue “is substantially lower” than when looking at all-news stations alone. In 2021, $2.1 million per station has been shed in ad revenue.

Why? “This likely stems from the fact that this category contains a sizeable number of stations with low total revenue,” Pew believes.

The revenue analysis is just a small segment of a wide-ranging review of radio and its news and information-oriented stations conducted by Pew. It relies heavily on previously released research reports and analyses conducted by Nielsen, the RAB, and its own report on newsroom investment.

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.

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.



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