At-Work Women: What Do They Listen To?


By Adam R Jacobson

For decades, radio stations have been on a quest to lure the at-work woman.

These efforts have ranged from the placement of Susan Leigh Taylor in middays at top-rated WHTZ (Z100) in New York, circa August 1988 — well before her 20-year career as a successful KCBS-AM 740 in San Francisco news anchor — to radio formats expressly built for the at-work woman.

It could be said this move by then-PD Scott Shannon was designed to keep women from shifting to Adult Contemporary stations that were responding more to women in the workplace then those at home or driving around town doing daily errands. In New York, this meant protecting “The Flamethrower” from not only Top 40 rival WPLJ (Power 95) and freestyle dance music-focused Rhythmic WQHT (Hot 103.5), but now “Soft Rock 105” WNSR.

Lots of changes have been seen since this era, but have they been beneficial?

New data from Alan Burns and Associates/Strategic Solutions Research suggests the answer may be “no.”

While some 74% of women who work full-time listen to music while they work, just 40% listen to over-the-air radio, while another 14% listen to the online stream of a broadcast radio station.

Where are 46% of these online women going to hear music?

Alan Burns

Alan Burns notes that “pureplay” music streamers now account for 21% of women-at-work’s music choice.

This leaves 25% of at-work-women listening to their MP3s or other music in ways that do not involve radio or a streaming audio service provider.

Then, there’s music via YouTube: Counting the Google-owned video giant, 85% of all women now listen to a pureplay at some point during the typical week.

The findings are the latest in a series of data tied to a Alan Burns and Associates/Strategic Solutions Research national study of 2,000 women, “What Women Want — 2017.”

“Custom music streamers online have become ubiquitous,” said Strategic Solutions Research Partner and EVP Hal Rood, “but radio has some terrific strengths versus pureplays.”

These strengths will be highlighted in a Thursday webinar, he said.

This second in a four-webinar series on the audio desires of women will also include new data on the “connected car.”

Among the latest findings from Alan Burns and SSR: Six out of every 10 women in the U.S. can connect to the Internet in their car, while over-the-air radio is still the dominant audio choice in those connected cars.

“Most women now know they can connect to the Internet through their phone or the built-in dashboard entertainment system,” said Rood. “Yet, those women continue to listen to radio most: some 71% of them listen to radio most in their car.”

Breaking down this statistic, Alan Burns and SSR found that, given all of the choices now available to in-car women, 65% tune to the over the air signal of a local AM/FM station, 4% to the online stream of a local station, and 2% access the stream of a station in another city. By comparison, only 14% choose to listen to a pureplay streamer most, and 6% tune to Sirius XM satellite radio.

In contrast, of the respondents who cannot or do not know they can connect to the Internet in their cars, the “listen most” sources are 81% to AM and FM radio over the air, and 2% to radio streams.

“Radio’s numbers are lower in connected cars, but not to the degree I think most people expected,” said Burns. “In aggregate, that’s a loss of only about 15% for radio in the connected car. That’s significant, but certainly not a disaster.”



RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: As a multicultural analyst for global market research firm Mintel, our Editor-in-Chief became highly aware that when it comes to the household purchasing decisions of big-ticket items — as well as groceries and entertainment — the woman is largely the decision maker. This is more common in Hispanic households, and with a hyperfocus on millennials, a comprehensive study on “What Women Want” is highly important for radio’s C-Suite in 2017. But, this study also shows that there is a problem with at-work listening. Just 4 in 10 women who listen to music at work tune to an AM or FM station. That’s not good. So, what does radio do? Perhaps thinking like the alternatives could help: Less commercials, more user control. It’s no longer 1988, and having a female midday host won’t cut it alone. How about interactivity via social media, since a call-in contest is impractical in the office or for the road warrior. Also keep in mind that women in their 20s and 30s are rising faster than previous generations. This comes with responsibility — and perhaps your station is a distraction, compared to a background stream of songs they like. Alan Burns & Associates and Strategic Solutions Research have much to offer, and we encourage our C-Suite readers to investigate the positive and negative results of this study.