Throughout the long Democratic Primary season, one of the most consistent differences between voters for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been by education. As the Exit Polls that our company, Edison Media Research, performs for the television networks and the Associated Press have shown, Obama has won convincingly among those who have graduated from college, while Clinton has taken the vote of those who have less than a college education.
Looking at these numbers has led me to learn more about the differences between these two large groups.
A general sense for the differences is summarized in this paragraph that ran recently in The New York Times:
“The college educated and non-college educated are likely to live in different towns. They have radically different divorce rates and starkly different ways of raising their children. The non-college educated not only earn less, they smoke more, grow more obese and die sooner.”
And it turns out there is another big difference: The college-educated listen to vastly less radio than those who have not graduated from college.
In the Spring of 2007, if one aggregates all of Arbitron’s diary markets (essentially the whole country except for Philadelphia and Houston), the weekly listening was as follows:
Not a College Grad: 18 hours 45 minutes
College Grad: 15 hours 45 minutes
Incredibly, I’ve never seen this talked about before, despite the fact that it has been possible to find this data all along. But this finding actually understates the difference. That’s because the ‘non-college-grad’ group includes all the teenagers, who have always given significantly less Time Spent Listening (TSL) to radio. So look at the numbers if we look at listening among 25-54 year olds:
Not a College Grad: 21 Hours 15 minutes
College Grad: 15 hours 45 minutes
Wow. As you can see in Figure 1, below, college grads listen to five and one-half fewer hours of radio per week, on average, than those who have not attained a college education.
Looking even more deeply at the data shows the source of the difference by location. Interestingly the biggest source of the difference is at-work. Again, among 25-54 year olds, on average college graduates only listen to about 5.5 hours per week at work; non-graduates listen at work way more: 9.5 hours. Non-grads also listen 50% more than grads do at-home. It’s only in-car where the two groups are equal (and actually they are to the decimal point).
OK. So we’ve seen that there is an enormous difference in total radio listening depending on whether you have graduated college. But now, as would Emeril, let me kick it up another notch. I obtained the ratings among the college grads in San Francisco – just as one example:
25-54 San Francisco share College Grads (four book average Spring ’07-Winter ’08):
KQED (Public Radio): 11.1
KFOG (Eclectic Rock): 6.2
KOIT (Soft Adult Contemporary): 4.9
Once again: Wow. KQED is five points clear of the field, and has the same share as the next two stations combined. And as we know, the public stations, with their Morning Edition/All Things Considered tent poles, are doing great numbers among college grads in pretty much every market in the country.
The significance of these numbers simply cannot be overstated. What this means is that if you combine the differential in total weekly listening with the fact that quite a lot of listening among college grads is going to Public Radio – you see that the difference in listening to commercial radio is enormous. Simply stated, college grads are now accounting for only a small minority of total commercial radio listening.
There are some obvious strategic directions that a radio station could take based on this information. The most clear would be to isolate the location with the most importance – at-work listening by non-college grads. There is more listening to be gained by targeting at-work among non-grads than any other ‘location by education’ cell.
The other direction one could consider would be for those stations that do perform well among the college-educated to start promoting the rankings among this group. While I know stations do use qualitative to sell, I’ve not heard of stations positioning around delivering high numbers of college grads and their incomes.
But I don’t want to camouflage the most essential question here: Why exactly is the portion of America that has graduated from college listening to so much less radio; and in particular to so little commercial radio?
Is it that the programming available from commercial radio is just not appealing enough to college graduates? Has our programming simply chased college grads away from the dial? Or is it that college graduates just have less time available for radio listening and more income to buy replacements like iPods and Satellite Radio, and it is not a function of the programming?
We will be releasing more data from our Internet & Multimedia studies that will help to give us a sense for why this phenomenon exists. The industry as a whole needs to start thinking about why college grads consume so much less radio, and what, if anything, can be done about it.