Tag Archives: formats

20 Different Radio Formats with Top 5 Success

One of the things I love about my job is the broad perspective gained from helping a diverse array of clients in a diverse array of situations: different places, different demographics, different content types, different platforms. We’ve always felt that such a variety of experiences allows us to better serve our clients, as learnings build upon one another, sometimes in surprising ways.

Our work in radio takes us to many markets, and while there are certainly themes and trends that are widely evident, it’s also fascinating to see how different the successful brands of one community can be from the successful brands of another. If you think there’s a one-size-fits-all profile of winning in radio, let’s go ahead and debunk that theory with a year-end review of Nielsen Audio ratings. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s define “successful” as being a Top 5 station among 18- to 54-year-old persons, Monday-Sunday 6a-12m, across the average of January 2023 through December 2023*.

Looking at 15 of the largest markets in the U.S., we find no fewer than 20 different formats represented among the Top 5 stations in these markets. There are CHR, Hot AC, Mainstream AC, and Soft AC stations. There are Urban Contemporary, Urban AC, and Rhythmic/Throwback stations. Classic Hits and Adult Hits are represented, as are Classic Rock, Active Rock, Alternative, and AAA. Also included are Spanish Contemporary, Regional Mexican, and Tropical, plus Country, Contemporary Christian, News/Talk, and Sports. In almost any format, if you’re looking for a success story, you can find one somewhere out there.

The format path to Top 5 radio success doesn’t point in one direction. (Source: Shutterstock/StunningArt)

Of course, this doesn’t mean that any format will work in any situation. Market demographics (e.g., age, ethnicity) and culture (e.g., sports teams, music history) play a role, as do competitive dynamics (e.g., others in the format, others in adjacent formats). Moreover, even when you’ve got a format with high potential, success can hinge on the proper execution of day-to-day programming and marketing.

It’s not easy to get into the top tier of performance, but isn’t it kind of encouraging to know that there are many different ways to potentially get there?

*Source: Nielsen, Average Persons 18-54, January-December 2023, Monday-Sunday 6a-Mid