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How Black audiences are engaging with audio more than ever

4 minute read | February 2022

For African Americans, content is the common language. The U.S. Black population spends more time with media than any other group, with content engagement that consistently drives breakout hits and trending topics alike. Increasingly, Black consumers are taking control of both the economic and media influence they wield and using it to invest in Black experiences, Black communities and Black content. And as a collective, the Black community represented nearly $1.6 trillion of buying power last year. As the media industry looks to be more inclusive of Black storytellers, while growing its bottom line and brand awareness with Black audiences, understanding who they are, where they’re connected and how they’re changing is as important as ever. And for Black audiences, they are connecting with audio.

Tuning into radio’s potential 

Among Black listeners, radio continues to reach a significant portion of the Black community: 91% of the Black population in a month. In fact, Black listeners spend more time with radio than any other group—20 minutes longer than the average of the total population.

Weekly reach metrics among Black persons 18+

  • Radio: 86%
  • App/web on smartphone: 81%
  • Live/time-shifted TV: 78%
  • Streaming audio on smartphone: 48%
  • Satellite radio: 15%

Source: Nielsen Comparable Metrics, Q3 2021

And Black-owned radio stations play a key role in that engagement, delivering more than 6.4 million African American listeners every week. Jim Winston, President of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters emphasized the important connection to Black-owned broadcasters: “Nielsen’s latest report helps to quantify the unique impact Black-owned radio has within our communities. It’s a reminder of the opportunity for brands to engage and partner with Black-owned broadcasters to connect with Black consumers in an authentic way. Advertising with Black-owned television and radio stations offers an important and unique opportunity to connect with our communities and deliver messages for brands from voices Black consumers trust.”

Buying ads with Black-owned media gives advertisers a chance to partner with companies that hold a unique position and expertise within Black communities and culture.

Importantly, Black radio listeners value brand reputation. For home care, 84% are more likely to switch based on new brand reputation and for personal care, 37% are more likely to switch based on new brand reputation. And there is ample opportunity for new providers, with many Black radio listeners keeping their options open. For example, 44% of listeners are more likely to switch cell phone carriers in the next 12 months and 15% are more likely to switch auto insurance in the next 12 months.

Positive momentum of podcasting

Podcast listenership and engagement is growing significantly among the Black audience, which is a notable opportunity for brands and media owners. In the past three years alone, the number of Black consumers using podcasts has increased by 70%.

The positive momentum of podcasting is enticing more celebrity involvement and attracting big ad dollars. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is predicting that ad revenue will hit $2 billion by 2023, nearly 2.5x the $842 million generated last year. 

Importantly, podcast advertising—particularly when read by the host—drives stronger brand recall punch than more traditional forms of advertisements. For example, Nielsen’s Podcast Ad Effectiveness (PAE) solution has found that host-read ads drive a brand recall rate of 74% for Black audiences.

brand recall rate

Additional Nielsen PAE data found:

  • Exposure to podcast ads generated a 16% increase in awareness (higher than the Nielsen norm of 14%)
  • On average, 68% think that the ad/sponsorship was a good fit with the podcast
  • 70% plan to seek similar podcast content, and 62% plan to share the podcast content with friends
  • Half (50%) were able to recall the ad on an unaided basis
  • Six in ten (60%) of podcast listeners found the content most interesting, nearly half (46%) found the content to be entertaining, nearly four in ten (39%) found the content to be authentic, and more than a third (36%) found it to be credible 

For Black audiences, audio is not only used for entertainment, but especially during the pandemic, it has been an essential resource for news and information, and an escape from the stress of the day to day. Brands and agencies have an immense market opportunity to prioritize marketing strategies and campaigns to meet this valuable audience where they are connecting—on audio.


The data underpinning this article is pulled from:

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