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We know you have some knowledge of radio. You listen to it on the way to the office and on the way home. You know that it remains one of the most popular mediums to date. However, when it comes to advertising, it’s important that you understand and get familiar with radio formats. This can be a big help when you want to place ads on the air:

What are radio formats?

Radio formats are pretty much templates for the overall content a station broadcasts. These formats are defined by content that appeals to certain audiences; this content can either be a style of music or it could be sports, news or some other programming.

It’s important to note that formats can be ever-changing. A station program director can constantly tweak their format to respond to changing tastes in content.

How do radio formats work?

Please note that every radio station has its own approach to marketing, its own on-air talent and even its own jingles. That being said, all stations adhere to a specific programming format which refers to the overall content of the station. Radio developed programming formats to compete with television’s rise in popularity. These formats focused on the different preferences of a particular audience (or demographic), allowing them to tune in according to taste. Over time, formats were further tailored to appeal to specific audiences. And by defining format, stations were able to sell advertising based on the demographic of listeners. An example of this would be if someone wanted to place an ad for a new, trendy restaurant, they would probably want to place an ad that would broadcast to a younger audience. By researching the formats of their local radio stations, they could easily pinpoint the station whose listeners fit that description. When advertisers and media buyers look to place ads on the radio, they need to know what kind of content a station broadcasts. This helps them decide how to tailor their message to reach a specific audience.

Types of radio formats:

Now that you have familiarized yourself with radio formats, now let’s get into the several types of radio formats out there:

  • CHR: CHR stands for contemporary hit radio; it is often referred to as Top 40 Radio, and has a young demographic made up of teenagers and young adults. This format plays music that is popular today and while it mostly consists of pop/dance music, CHR plays other genres as well.

  • Country: This radio format plays country music, old and new. This is a popular format to place ads on as there is a broad appeal in age demographics.

  • Urban: This format is like CHR stations in that they tend to have younger listeners and play music that is popular amongst the masses. The only difference is urban stations strictly play R&B and hip-hop/rap as opposed to several genres.

  • Christian/Gospel: These stations play Christian and gospel music; this format can be tricky as it targets different demographics with programming at different times (ex: a Christian/gospel station can produce content to reach older audiences during the weekdays and younger audiences during the weekends).

  • AC: AC stands for adult contemporary. This format is pretty hard to define in terms of content because the target audience prefers a variety of music. However, for the most part, this station tends to reach an older audience and plays soft-rock, pop and country, both new and old.

  • News/Talk/Sports: This format is pretty self-explanatory. This format broadcasts local/national news and sports and tends to reach older men in particular. Many automotive businesses advertise on stations with these formats.

  • Nostalgia: Also known as “oldies.” Like AC stations, content can vary, but nostalgia stations strictly play music from the ‘60s-‘90s.



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