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Americans are listening to radio more, reinforcing advertisers' commitment to the fast-growing $9.5 billion industry.

Arbitron Co.'s 1994 Focus on Radio study, released last month, found that 96% of all Americans 12 and older listen to the radio daily. Since the last study a de- cade ago, the amount of time spent listening has risen by almost 2 hours, up 8%, to 24 hours a week.

While radio ad revenues have nearly doubled in that time, the industry has seen the emergence of cable TV and the proliferation of specialty magazines and newspapers, all of which were expected to contribute to the demise of radio.

"What the study shows is that with the average person having so many more media options available to them, the intelligent advertiser will use radio as the best vehicle for reaching their customers," said Thomas Evans, VP-research at Westwood One Entertainment.

The study answers concerns potential advertisers may have about radio and supports current users' knowledge of the medium's effectiveness.

"I'm happy to hear that; it reinforces our purchase," Shy Scheihagen, media director for Southland Corp. and its chain of 7-Eleven convenience stores, said of the study's findings.

Southland is believed to be one of the larger, if not the largest, spot radio buyers. In 1989, 7-Eleven's $20 million buy for the first time eclipsed its TV spending. In 1992, the company's total ad budget was 2-to-1 radio over TV.

Lee Miles Transmission, Paramus, N.J., has "become radio-oriented. Up until a few years ago, we spent the better part of our budget on TV," said Carmine DeMaio, chairman of the advertising committee for the national automotive repair chain.

Last year, Lee Miles spent $1.4 million on radio advertising for its 90 outlets, most in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Despite the increase in time spent listening to the radio, the medium's share of total ad dollars has been flat in the past decade. Radio captured 6.8% of the $138 billion spent in all media last year, compared with 6.6% of the $87 billion spent in 1984, said Robert Coen, senior VP-director of forecasting at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

Advertising on network radio was $583.5 million and spot was $1.1 billion last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Despite its flat ad share, radio is poised for continued growth, having previously experienced the fracturing now being realized by other media.

"Most of the splintering has been in TV. The amount of time spent watching remained the same; however, it's spread out over network, independent and cable TV channels," said Page Thompson, exec VP-media at DDB Needham Worldwide.

"It's remarkable, but not surprising, that despite the ever increasing fragmentation of the media world, time spent with radio increased," said Gordon Hastings, president of Katz Radio Group, the spot radio sales representative company that commissioned the study.

Highlighting the point is the jump in the number of radio stations between 1983 and 1993, up about 22% to more than 11,000.

"Radio has the ability to keep its programming fresh and moving forward," said Robert Calandruccio, president of Vitt Media International.

Marketers using radio point to the medium's flexibility as a key selling point. In addition to providing news, weather and sports information, radio is the primary way consumers listen to and keep up to date on their favorite music and recording artists.

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