There is a slow but steady slippage in weekly Cume Ratings.  While radio rightfully touts itself as a reach (or Cume) medium, we shouldn’t be complacent about weekly Cume Ratings levels slipping from 95.3% in Arbitron’s Fall 1998 figures to 92% in the most recent RADAR study.  The younger demos are cause for particular concern.

Weekly Cume Ratings had been over 95% for decades.  Perhaps the slippage is understandable given radio’s competition from new media, particularly the Internet.  Of particular concern is that the next generations of radio listeners may be significantly abandoning the medium.  Cume rating for Persons 12-17 is 89%; down from 95.6% in Fall 1998.  The Persons 18-34 Cume Rating is especially concerning:  85% Cume Rating Persons 18 and 34; that’s down from 96.7Line graph% in Fall 1998.

Radio enjoys a locked-in advantage of being convenient and free.  Yet, we need to keep an eye on Cume slippage least the medium of radio become irrelevant to a large percentage of younger audience.  We cannot be complacent resting on the laurels of radio’s good cash flow margins.

RADAR provides a source for tracking Cume Ratings.  Arbitron is no longer posting Persons Using Radio (PUR) figures on their website because of the apples to oranges dilemma in comparing diary data with Portable People Meter (PPM) data.  RADAR has mixed in PPM markets in this current analysis.  Interestingly, Arbitron has pushed back their PUR release until first quarter 2010: That release had been slated for late 2008.

So on top of declining Time Spent Listening levels for radio, particularly among the younger demos, we have an abandonment of the medium by 10% of Teens and 15% of 18-24 year olds.  These figures should serve as a warning to broadcasters to rededicate themselves in making radio relevant and compelling for listeners under 35.