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Radio Dominates Hispanic Listening in the U.S., According to New Nielsen Report

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While radio may no longer be the only game in town when it comes to promoting and playing music, its importance is still outsized, according to Nielsen’s newly released Audio Today 2023 report focused on Hispanic consumers.

According to the report, which took into consideration listening by adults (18 plus) in more than 250 U.S. markets, radio reaches 94% of Latins every month, more than any other linear or digital media platform. That includes live and time-shifted TV (85%), smartphones (89%) and PCs (67%).

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In terms of audio services only, the difference is stark. While radio reaches 94% of Hispanic adults 18 plus, its closest competitor, YouTube Music, reaches 44%, followed by Spotify (31%), Pandora (23%), Amazon Music (15%), Apple Music (14%) and satellite radio (11%).

And while listening numbers for radio’s competitors vary between age segments, radio consistently reaches 90% or more of listeners across demographics. Among the 18-34 demo, for example, it reaches 91% of listeners, followed by YouTube Music at 44% and Spotify at 41%.

That dominance also holds true among non-Hispanic listeners, though it’s a little less pronounced. Radio reaches 90% of all non-Hispanic listeners 18 plus (compared to 94% for Hispanics) and 82% of non-Hispanics 18-34 (compared to 92% for Hispanics).

Radio additionally leads in terms of listening time. The “share of ear time” for radio among adults 18 plus is 30%, followed by streaming audio at 21%.

Radio’s massive consumption comes down to accessibility and culture, says Stacie de Armas, Nielsen’s senior vp of diverse intelligence & initiatives.

“Radios’ reach is exceptional and always has been,” notes de Armas, who says the numbers weren’t surprising for her. “In fact in the past 10 years, it’s only dropped three percentage points. And that means that radio is a deeply embedded part of Hispanic life. It’s accessible everywhere, and a very important part of the Latino experience in a way I don’t see replicated in other groups. Radio serves a unique role in the lives of Hispanics. Radio is local. It gives people touchpoints into what’s happening.”

Accessibility has also given radio staying power among Hispanics, and it has a major bearing on the strength of YouTube Music, one of the first platforms to offer a multiplicity of content in Spanish.

Historically, says de Armas, Spanish language television has long been a part of the Hispanic experience in the United States with Univision and Telemundo. But cable was inaccessible for many people because the consumer had to pay, and there was an additional cost for Spanish programming. YouTube, on the other hand, was free, as long as you had Internet access.

“So, a lot of shifting went to YouTube. It was very easy to introduce YouTube Music,” says de Armas, noting that Hispanics spend 51% of their TV viewing on streaming, and 16% of that streaming comes from YouTube (although Netflix is a close second at 13.1%).

By the same token, Pandora is the third most listened-to option (after radio and YouTube) among the 35-49 and 50 and over segment of the Hispanic population because it was the first audio streaming service to focus on Spanish. But it doesn’t have the same accessibility as radio or YouTube.

Despite the numbers demonstrating radio’s continued reach, the format has been all but dismissed by some in recent times — in part because it wasn’t as measurable as other platforms. But, says de Armas, when advertisers make the effort to measure radio’s audience, they see results. “There’s engagement potential there that’s being lost on brands that are under-utilizing radio,” she says.

It’s not lost on the user, however.

“Community engagement is key,” de Armas says. “The cultural connection with radio hosts, for example, which fosters a sense of community. There’s a trust factor we’re underestimating, and I don’t think it exists in the same way with streaming platforms. And there’s also nostalgia and habit.”

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