Radio is a powerful advertising vehicle for many businesses. Radio reaches over 93% of the population in America. It is popular with people of all ages, reaching at least 90% of all age groups from Gen Z to Boomers to The Silent Generation.

And radio is an intimate form of advertising since many people listen alone, i.e. jogging or driving. Because of this, listeners develop strong relationships with their favorite stations, identifying with the music and bonding with on-air personalities. Radio loyalty translates into trust. News delivered via radio was considered the most trusted news medium in the United States in 2021.

Ad Lengths

It has flexible ad lengths, ranging from 60 seconds down to 2-3 second adlets. Radio is an “everywhere media”. It is in the home, car, even on your phone. Radio offers “recency”, since it is often the last thing heard by a consumer before they enter a store or place of business. At its best, radio is “theater of the mind” creating images and beliefs of products and services that move consumers.


To get started with radio you need to know your target audience. Who are they? Start with basic demographics such as age and gender. And with this particular media, it is ok to have an age range. Common ranges are 25-54, 18-49 etc.  You can define ages more narrowly if you choose.

Where do they live? Are they mostly from a single town? County? Metro? Adding behavioral characteristics is possible through third party surveys that question thousands of listeners in markets to learn important details about interests, activities etc. Ideally, you will be able to say that your target audience is Adults between 25-54 years of age, and they live in county “X”.

Now you will need to find the right radio station. Radio stations will be able to provide you with data to help the selection process. Ask to see their coverage map, which shows where their signal is heard. Look for stations whose coverage most closely outlines your business area.


Examine their rankings in your demo. How many listeners do they have in each daypart?  What dayparts make the most sense for you? If you are buying an adult demo, like Adults 35-64, you don’t want to buy evenings. Most adults are home at that time watching TV or reading. Get the cost for each daypart and calculate the CPM or cost per thousand listeners. (Calculate CPM by dividing the listeners in the daypart by 1,000. Divide the cost of the ad by that remainder to get your CPM. If your ad generates 10,000 impressions the remainder is 10. If the ad costs $160 divide it by 10 to get your CPM of $16) Use this number to determine which stations are delivering your target listener most cost-efficiently. With this information you can buy the radio station(s) most likely to help your business.

Streaming Radio

It is possible you will go through this process and conclude terrestrial radio will not work. Sometimes, a business is not located in an area where there are strong local radio stations. Or, you live in a metro with big stations but they cover much more geography than your business and are cost prohibitive. In other cases, companies have a very specific target and don’t want the broad reach of radio but do want an audio message. This is when streaming radio comes in.

Streaming radio from providers like Pandora, Spotify and iHeart offer radio delivered by the Internet. Delivery over the Internet provides some unique advantages to terrestrial radio. The first advantage is it is subscription based, so the provider knows your age, gender and the zip code from which you subscribed. As an advertiser, you can deliver your message to people in the zip codes you serve, and to the exact demographic you value most. That means little to no waste. Streaming radio also has less advertising than terrestrial radio, so there is less chance of being lost in clutter.

One of the big recent advancements in streaming radio is its ability to integrate third party data and behavioral characteristics so they can provide additional layers of targeting. Let’s say you just want to target homeowners, or you have a household income threshold that needs to be met, streaming radio can very accurately target listeners who meet those profiles. As the need to target strategically becomes more important streaming radio is advancing to meet those needs. And, as more people have smartphones and high-quality ear pods or headphones streaming continues to grow in popularity.

How To Buy Radio

Radio has always been a great way to advertise, and it still is, if you know how to buy radio. With careful planning you can select the correct stations. Use some thought and creativity to come up with a commercial. Then, let radio do the work.