In a new post, Nielsen takes a look at the top radio format stories of the first five months of 2018. Using PPM data from January through May, Nielsen has found that:

  • Adult Contemporary is on the rise: The leading storyline in 2018 for radio formats has been the rise of the AC format. The format that identifies squarely with mass-appeal music, AC has been consistently trending upward since 2015. At the same time, other formats that compete for the same audience have cooled. Hot AC peaked in 2015 in terms of share of audience in PPM markets but has declined every year since. But now, it’s back to 2013 levels.
  • Pop CHR is trending downward: Pop CHR is one of the biggest radio formats in America, and it’s also known for mass-appeal music, though with a younger skew and a direct focus on current popular music. Nielsen notes that currently Pop CHR has its smallest share of audience since the beginning of PPM measurement in 2011. Since 2015, Pop CHR has seen its share of audience shrink 15 percent and its rank among all music formats drop from second place to fourth place this year.
  • Country is a more consistent format: When you step outside the top 50 markets and consider the nation as a whole, Country is the top-ranked format, even ahead of News/Talk when it comes to total audience. In the larger PPM markets, Country trails News/Talk and AC, but has been up and down in the past decade before turning more consistent in the past two years. 2014 was a high point for the format, but only two years later the share had declined by almost 10 percent. In 2017, and now in 2018, Country has stabilized and become the second-highest ranked music format.
  • Alternative radio is reaching new heights: Alternative is the second-highest-ranked rock format in America, right behind Classic Rock. The Alternative format is more focused on showcasing the new, popular rock music of today, while simultaneously relying on acts from the 1990s and 2000s at its core.
    Nielsen notes that it’s rather interesting to see that while Pop CHR is declining, Alternative is recording some of the best audience share numbers in PPM markets. The format’s share of audience among 25-to-54 year-old listeners has been at an all-time high since February, when Alternative garnered 4.2 percent of all radio listening, the first month its share of listening had ever been north of 4 percent. It has remained there every month since.