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Gen Z Heavy Users of Streaming, 55% Listen to AM/FM Radio


Edison Research
Edison Research

Audio consumers in "Gen Z" -- those between the ages of 13 and 24 -- prefer listening on their smartphones, which should be no surprise because they have grown up with the devices, but AM/FM radio's reach among Gen Z is high (55%), according to Share of Ear information from Edison Research. Megan Vartan, Director of Research at Edison Research and Jayne Charneski, founder of Front Row Insights & Strategy, presented the "Radio's Roadmap to Gen Z Listenership" webinar on Thursday -- a version of this study was presented at the NAB Show Express earlier this year.

Gen Z is the most racially diverse generation in the U.S. to date, with 48% identifying as a racial or ethnic minority. They are the first generation of true digital natives; they are increasingly being referred to as "Zoomers," a nod to the pace at which technology and culture have changed in their lifetimes, and now to the presence of Zoom in their lives. Having grown up in the age of the 24-hour-news cycle and endless information on the Internet, they regularly consume news and information.

Share of Ear measures audio consumption of those aged 13+ in the U.S., so those aged 13-24 were used to represent Gen Z in this study. Over half (55%) of 13-24 year-olds in the U.S. are reached by AM/FM radio daily, just surpassing the reach of streaming (53%).

"Perhaps fact that Gen Z listens to any AM/FM radio surprises you," said Vartan. "Many people believe that no young people ever listen to the radio any more. This is simply not true. Especially when they are in their cars, but even in other places - young people do listen to the radio."

Gen Z listeners spend 50% less of their total share of time listening to AM/FM radio than the average 13+ population, so even though 55% of Gen Zers are reached by radio daily, they spend less time with radio when they tune in.

Gen Z listens to AM/FM Radio most when they are in the car. Almost 50% of the time spent listening to audio in the car among 13-24 year-olds is to AM/FM radio, surpassing streaming audio, YouTube and others.

Gen Z listeners are much more likely to listen to audio on a smartphone than a traditional device. Gen Z uses a radio receiver 50% less than the average 13+ population, and they use their phones for listening 75% more than the average 13+ population.

Gen Z listeners spend 58% more of their total share of time listening to streaming audio than the average 13+ population. Their share of YouTube listening, which is surveyed only for music and music videos, is 98% higher than the average 13+ population.

Despite Gen Z's love for streaming and for their smartphones, 89% of their listening to AM/FM radio is done through a traditional radio receiver. Eleven percent of Gen Z's AM/FM radio listening is going to the streams. Even among this young, digital-first demographic, they are simply not listening in big numbers to radio streams.

"Stations need to remind these digital natives that FM radio is available digitally" said Charneski. "This is the generation that was swiping before they were wiping... and yet, somehow they're not thinking of FM radio as that's available on their phones and mobile devices."

Qualitative interviews with Gen Z radio listeners found some of the reasons they enjoy radio:

  • Radio provides a human connection, particularly during quarantine

  • Radio offers the surprise of songs that have not been curated in streaming playlists

  • Radio is a source for additional information about music and artists

  • Radio is a source for news and information

  • Radio is associated with nostalgia and good memories

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