Tuning Out Radio

More bad news for terrestrial radio: According to industry analyst Jonathan Jacoby, the focus of this report for Radio Ink magazine, audiences for the venerable broadcasting medium continue to decrease.

Although some of Jacoby's observations about the winter 2007 ratings book are obscured by jargon, his conclusions are as straight-forward as they can be. He writes that the average number of listeners has reached "another low," adding, "The average 25-54 radio audience fell to its lowest level in at least eight years" and "teen listening continues to dissipate."

Not every radio corporation experienced listenership shrinkage: Spanish language broadcasters Entravision and Univision each registered gains. But Clear Channel, which owns more radio outlets in the U.S. than any other firm (including eight in Denver), lost 4 percent of its audience share since the same period last year, and signals associated with Citadel, Cox and Entercom did so poorly that Jacoby thinks investors who own stock in this trio of firms should look to sell asap.

Is there a comeback scenario for old-fashioned radio? Not much of one. A sizable chunk of the populace will continue to listen (especially those 40 and older), and the rise of so-called HD radio will probably induce a good number of these loyalists to stick around for a while. Nevertheless, the popularity of iPods, not to mention competition from satellite and Internet radio, suggests that the medium will slowly but steadily decline. Radio will continue to exist in decades to come (as will newspapers, which are going through their own painful period), but its days of thriving look to be winding down.

Unfortunately, this news is coming through loud and clear. -- Michael Roberts

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