AM Diversity

By Published on .

The perception of the AM radio audience as a homogeneous bastion of older white men by and large might hold true, but companies whose products are positioned for other audiences might look for opportunities there. Fact is, the AM audience pool contains more of their target customers than they sometimes realize.

Without question, taken as a whole, AM's core constituency is made up of people aged 65 and older. Twenty-four percent of AM listeners in the top-25 metropolitan areas fall into this age group, according to Interep, a radio advertising sales and marketing company based in New York City. At the far end of the spectrum, young adults aged 18 to 24 make up only 4 percent of the audience-fairly low, even taking into account that the age group spans 7 years. But analysis of share data at the far ends alone might result in overlooking a strong showing among groups in the middle age segments. Twenty percent of the AM radio audience is aged 35 to 44, and 19 percent is aged 45 to 54, while 15 percent is aged 55 to 64 and 14 percent is aged 25 to 34.

"There's no question that AM stations are always concerned about trying to grab more young people," says Michele Skettino, director of marketing communications for Interep. "But as the population ages in general, more people will fit the audience profile, bringing more dollars with them."

AM programmers are not just waiting for people to come of age, though, which would be the marketing equivalent of watching grass grow.

"We're seeing a shift in programming," says Skettino. "More sports are coming in, along with other programs that attract a younger audience." The all-sports format debuted a decade ago and today accounts for 10 percent of all AM stations in the top-25 metros.

What these findings highlight, and what marketers must remember, is that there is really no such thing as "the AM radio audience." Particular formats may have one, as can a particular station or program. This fact is illustrated by two of the newest AM formats-Spanish news-talk and children's programming.

"There's been growth in total Spanish-language programming," says Skettino. "As the Hispanic population continues to increase, there will definitely be more demand for programming. In general, some advertisers are excited about Spanish-language programming because Hispanics tend to be heavy users of radio and the formats are a good way to target the market."

Another format in its early stages is children's programming. If it grows, AM would have the opportunity to connect with the very young.

"The format has generated a lot of interest, but ratings data aren't in yet," says Skettino. "A lot of people are watching this because it's a niche that hasn't been tapped."

The emergence of Hispanic and children's formats suggest a strength of AM radio familiar to anyone acquainted with Larry King, Paul Harvey, or even any of their satirists: the ability for listeners to connect in a highly personal way with the programs. This maybe borne out by characteristics found in San Francisco, the top AM market. Twenty-eight percent of people aged 12 and older listen to AM radio in a given week.

"Part of it may be due to the strength of the AM stations there," says Skettino. "They have some very popular AM stations. But just off the cuff, it may be due to the fact that people in San Francisco tend to be very socially involved, and AM radio is one of the ways issues get discussed."

What this means for marketers is that even if AM doesn't have much clout in one city, it may be hopping in another. In areas where AM radio is thriving, there is a good chance that listeners have a more personal relationship with the medium than with other media options. The answer to this question might be found with the turn of the radio dial. Marketers and researchers looking for demographic data on magazines, cable TV or 53 different product or service categories should visit Mediamark Research's new Top-Line Reports site. Product and service categories include accessories, alcohol, appliances, travel, trucks, and vegetables. Top-Line Reports breaks down cable TV networks according to viewers' age, sex, median age, and income. Magazines are listed by total audience, circulation, readers per copy, median age, and income. MRI also added its technical guides to its Web site, which include definitions and tables that explain the company's research methodologies. Looking for inside information about a company? Company Sleuth is a free service offered by Infonautics Corp. that automatically scans financial, regulatory, investment, and business information. The service then delivers the data via daily e-mail reports to users who query certain topics. For example, it uncovered that Coca-Cola had filed for the trademark "JAVALAIT" in the frozen-coffee beverage category. The service also discovered that, last July 13, online bookseller registered domain names "" and "" Synergos Technologies site has added a service called Business Crossroads that provides links to more than 200 restaurant chains, 300 grocery chains, 80 mass merchandisers, and 80 shopping centers. Besides links, the site also offers corporate profiles, stock quotes, and recent news clippings from retail companies. Synergos uses its geographic information systems to allow users to narrow a search of retail companies by national or regional focus. The "daily" section offers news, weather, classifieds, maps, and other information from a number of sites, including The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, while a government section provides links to government agencies, including the Department of Commerce. Marketers offering their products through the Web need to keep tabs on tax liabilities as they appear at the state, federal, and even international level. The Certified Public Accounting firm of Markle Stuckey Hardesty and Bott provides a free e-commerce tax newsletter that offers news and analysis about government's look into taxing the Web. Recent stories tackled subjects such as "Final Rules for International Software Transactions," "Texas Imposes Use Tax on Out-of-State Software Licensor," and "Sales Taxation of Downloaded Software." The firm's clients include Internet merchant sites, Internet service providers, software companies, and Internet content providers. The site also provides links to e-commerce industry associations, such as the Software Publishers Association and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Are You Normal Around Holiday Time? Holidays may be all about caroling and house-calling but this season more than ever Americans say there's no place like home. But home is a little different these days. Four out of five homes in American (84.2 percent) are spruced up for Yuletide. Some 63 percent of Americans say they hang Christmas stockings in hopes of something more than a lump of coal. And 78 million Americans-42 percent of us-plan to hang and stand under a sprig of mistletoe during the holiday season.

We're also decorating the Christmas tree-though in more than half the households, it's the kind stored in the basement or the attic. According to the Milwaukee-based National Christmas Tree Association, roughly 54 percent of American households that go to the trouble to display a Christmas tree have a fake one, compared with 46 percent who opt for the real thing.

Some traditions are on the wane, while others are going strong. Two out of five of us-40 percent of the country-leave cookies and milk or some other treat for a hungry Santa who hoofs it down the chimney. And 58 percent of Americans say they'll make at least one homemade gift for the season. Fewer than one in five Americans-19 percent-go out Christmas caroling and when it comes to roasting chestnuts, that's Yuletide Hollywood style. Despite Nat King Cole's famous song about doing this on an open fire, only 9 percent of Americans say they roast chestnuts at all.

But they are stepping out. Almost three in four -71 percent-plan to pay a visit to Santa. Three out of four families who exchange gifts at Christmas holiday open them on Christmas Day: One in four can't wait and do it on Christmas Eve. Some 85 percent of Americans collectively send more than 2.7 billion holiday cards this time of year, according to the Greeting Card Association-twice as many as birthday cards. On average we send 38 Christmas cards a year, though married folk, women, and the affluent generally mail more.

Nearly three out of four-71 percent of Americans-say they will attend religious services over the holiday. And almost a third-29 percent-attend church/religious services more often during the holiday season, while 2 percent say they go less frequently.

As for New Year's Eve celebrations, more Americans spend that night at home than anywhere else. According to the Roper Organization, in a typical year around 28 percent of Americans stay home and do nothing special at all. Almost half watch TV, while 10 percent rent a movie for the VCR. Many will be watching a movie classic. (According to Primestar Partners, the direct broadcast satellite service, "Miracle on 34th Street' is America's favorite holiday movie, seen by 84 percent of Americans and selected as top pick by 35 percent.) Another 13 percent celebrate quietly at the home of a family member or friend. Just 25 percent party on New Year's Eve. Almost the same number-23 percent-go to bed before midnight.

Americans overwhelmingly say they'd rather spend the holiday season at home than on vacation (86 percent vs. 14 percent), and most would rather be with friends and relatives than alone with their significant other (83 percent vs. 17 percent.).

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