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High News/Talk Numbers Have Everyone Talking

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Published: 
February 23, 2016

FROM INSIDE RADIO - February 23, 2016

Fueled by the thrills and spills of a presidential campaign unlike any other, the news/talk format posted its highest ratings in years in January, suggesting that 2016 could become a banner year for the format.

A January spike is as predictable as cold weather, but 2016 brought a more significant surge, especially among younger demos.

News/talk jumped more than a full share point from the holidays to January among all listeners aged 6+, according to a new Nielsen report, flying 8.6 to 9.7. More significantly for sales departments, the format’s share grew by 14% among the key 18-34 and 25-54 groups. The 25-54 lift added nearly a full share, up to 6.7 in January from a 5.9 in the Holiday survey. But the 3.6-4.1 jump in 18-34 listening was no less impressive. In fact, January’s 4.1 share among Millennials is the format’s best showing since November 2012—smack in the heart of the last U.S. presidential election, Nielsen says.

That said, January’s increase may have been assisted by Winter Storm Jonas, which brought a ratings windfall to news and news/talk outlets from Washington, DC to Boston. Either way, it reversed a two-year 6+ decline for the format, heading into one of radio’s biggest seasons for listening. Starting in 2013, news/talk’s four-year January trend among listeners 6+ looks like this: 9.8-9.3-9.0-9.7. Among 18-34s, the trend is 4.0-3.7-3.7-4.1. And with 25-54s, it tracked 7.3-6.5-6.4-6.7.

Sports radio also got a seasonal spike, matching last January’s 5.1 share among listeners aged 6+. Nielsen chalks it up to “higher-than-ever levels of interest in the NFL” and notes that the annual rise in sports listening “typically begins in the fall with the kick-off of college and professional football, the MLB postseason, and culminates in early February with the NFL playoffs.”