If you had to know one thing about Hispanic radio, it is this: There is no such thing.
There are, in fact, at least 20 forms of Latino radio in America, reflecting the 20 countries of origin of this country’s Hispanic population, each different. That explains the vitality of Hispanic radio and its rich diversity.
It also explains the vitality and diversity of Hispanic culture in America.
Here’s something else you should know. Hispanics love radio.
According to Nielsen, 98% of Hispanics age 12 or older tune in each week. That compares to 93% of Americans overall. They also listen longer.
There’s a reason. Radio, more than newspapers, even TV, connects listeners to their heritage and community.
Hispanic radio has been around since the 1920s, primarily in the Southwest. In 1945, the first full-time Hispanic station launched, San Antonio’s KCOR-AM.
In the time since, with the explosion of the U.S. Hispanic population—Latinos now account for nearly 18% of the total—Hispanic radio has blossomed, with more than 500 station broadcasting in Spanish.
As you would expect, each radio market has its own characteristics. The audience of Miami’s Spanish-language stations is 75% foreign-born. Almost 85% of San Antonio’s audience are U.S.-born.
Here are 5 things you should know about Hispanic radio.
1. Hispanic radio is closely aligned with Hispanic television. All of the top five Hispanic radio station groups are affiliated with a Spanish-language broadcast or cable property, with the exception of iHeartMedia.
2. Hispanic radio pulls in nearly a billion dollars in revenue each year.
3. Hispanics love radio. 98% of those 12 or older tune in each week. The number of listeners has been growing. That’s not a surprise, given the increase in the Latino population.
4. No two Hispanic radio markets are the same. New York’s Spanish-language radio stations serve a community of 57% foreign-born Latinos. In Los Angeles, half are U.S.-born. Hispanics in McAllen overwhelmingly claim Mexican-American heritage. Over half of Orlando’s Hispanics are of Puerto Rican descent.
5. Language plays a big part in radio usage. Spanish-dominant listeners spend 13 hours and 12 minutes each week with radio, compared with 11 hours and 48 minutes for English-dominant Latinos.
6. The top U.S. Hispanic radio format is Mexican regional. No big surprise here. Country radio is the most popular radio format overall for the country when measured by total listening. Mexican regional music shares many traits with country music. Both formats emphasize tradition and family.
Court Stroud is a writer, consultant and former media executive. Join him in the social media conversation via Twitter and Facebook.