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News Radio Surges During September Hurricanes
RADIO ONLINE | Wednesday, October 11, 2017 |12:50pm CT

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The impact of this year's hurricane season from a radio perspective is quite evident when examining listening trends in Texas, Florida and around the continental U.S. Nielsen's portable people meter (PPM) September survey -- which stretched from August 17 until September 13. It reveals a distinct spike in listening to News/Talk stations during this period, as weather dominated the busy news cycle.

It's not unusual to see spikes in News/Talk listening in the fall, says Nielsen. In addition to being ripe for worsening weather, News/Talk radio audiences always grow in the lead up to U.S. presidential elections, as the company has reported in recent cycles. In fact, the share of audience for News/Talk stations (both commercial and non-commercial) during the recent survey was the format's highest since 2012 during the lead-up to that U.S. presidential election.

Hurricane Sandy was also a huge news story on the radio in 2012, but the listening spike happened during the November PPM survey -- the same month as the election. And given the double-whammy of those two events, November 2012 remains the high water mark for News/Talk's share of audience in PPM measurement, but as Nielsen has detailed throughout this year, the format has seen a significant boost in audience from the intense interest in the current U.S. administration.

This month, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma arrived during the September survey: Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 and 26 during the second week of the survey, directly or indirectly affecting four of Nielsen's PPM markets in the state (Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas). Irma followed just two weeks later with landfall in Florida on September 10 before moving on to affect five different markets in the sunshine state (Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville).

While each storm was unique, Nielsen saw a common thread across all of the affected markets -- audience tune-in to local news radio stations surged during the week each hurricane arrived. Regardless of evacuations, flooding, power outages or disruption from the storms, the reach of local news radio stations spiked the week that each storm made landfall.

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