Non-Latino Listeners of Spanish Radio

At first blush, this seems to be a strange idea.  In the United States, no matter where one is, there are many radio stations that are available on the dial.  Clearly, it would make no sense for all of them to be talk radio.  The strength of radio is that each radio station can serve a niche audience and still be commercially viable.  So, in any market, we will find talk radio, soft rock music, hard rock music, light music, classical music, jazz music, and ethnic radio.  In cities like New York City or Los Angeles, one of the astonishing developments in the last decade is that the Spanish radio stations have been the number one rated station in the market.  The most common assumption is that these markets have large Spanish-speaking populations who like to listen to Spanish stations.  That is obviously true.  But it does not mean that all Spanish radio listeners have to be Spanish-speaking.  While it would make no sense for a non-Spanish speaker to listen to Spanish talk radio, non-Spanish speakers can still enjoy musical styles such as salsa, merengue, samba, rock espaņol and so on.

We will now refer to some survey data from the 2004 MARS study.  This is a mail survey of 21,054 adults in the United States conducted during the first quarter of 2004.  Within this study, 1.0% of the survey respondents answered "No" to the US Census-like question "Are you Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?" and yet indicated that they have listened to Spanish-language/Latino radio programs in the preceding seven days.  One percent may seem a tiny percentage, but since the population is 214 million, this translates to 2.1 million adults.  This is not a small number in terms of absolute size.

Who are these people?  In the next table, we show the incidences by age and gender.  They are a lot younger and they are slightly more likely to be females.

(source: 2004 MARS study)

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Spanish radio is not universally in all markets in the United States.  As much as someone wants to listen to Spanish radio, it has to be available in where they live.  The next chart shows the incidences by various definitions of geography.  First, county size is a standard way of characterizing the urban nature of geographical areas.  The United States is divided into more than 3,000 geographical areas known as counties, and they are of various physical sizes and population counts.  At one end of the scale, the "A" counties are those in the largest metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc.  At the other end of the scale, the "D" counties are those have small populations and away from large metropolitan areas.  Spanish radio stations are more likely to be present in large markets with Spanish-speaking populations than in rural areas.  Second, we show the top 12 Designated Market Areas defined by Nielsen Media Research.  The total size of the market is not a sufficient determinant by itself -- New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Houston have large percentages of Spanish-speaking populations while Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta and Seattle-Tacoma are large cities with much smaller percentages of Spanish-speakers.  Third, the US Census Bureau divides the country into nine regions.  The incidences are highest in the northeast (where New York City, Boston and Washington DC are) and on the Pacific coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco).

(source: 2004 MARS study)

Just who are these people then?  Without getting into too much details: these non-Latino listeners of Spanish are apt to be affluent and better educated; they listen to more of other types of radio formats (except country music!); they spend more time on radio than average.  For an advertiser, these are appealing characteristics.  But among all Spanish radio listeners, they are only about 20%.  An advertiser would not want to use Spanish radio solely to reach these people since they also tend to listen to most other formats.  However, these people do represent a seemingly paradoxical curiosity.

(posted by Roland Soong, 7/24/2004)

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