10 Radio Terms You Should Know

10 Radio Terms You Should Know

Every advertising medium has its own jargon. Knowing the language will help you get the coverage and market in radio advertising you really want without being overwhelmed. Even more importantly, it can help you measure the success of your radio-based campaign. Start with these ten terms that are some of the most important to understand as you dive into radio marketing.

1. DMA (Designated Market Area) and Metro

DMAs are different geographic regions split up by access to local TV and radio broadcasts. There are 302 radio metros, or DMAs, in the United States. Many radio stations overlap across multiple DMAs, and not everywhere in the country is covered by a DMA. Nielsen ranks Chicago’s DMA as third in the country, covering 3.043% of the United States.

2. AM /PM Drive

A large segment of dedicated radio listeners is based on commuters. The long drive to or from work or school in the mornings and evenings is a reliable block of business with large audiences. Radio has termed these markets ‘AM drive’ and ‘PM drive’ to represent the audiences. This is when radio shows and prime advertising are at their peak.

Pro Insight:

The PM drive tends to have the biggest audience, with 73.5% of Americans listening to the radio at some point between 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The AM drive has about 66.5% of the population, and the later evening hours dive all the way to 48.2%. Plan your marketing accordingly.

3. Cumulative Audience

If you want to go heavy on the jargon, call this ‘cumes.’ The cumulative audience is the total number of people who listened to a specific radio station for at least 15 minutes during a certain block of time. There can be cumes for a specific radio show, a segment of time like the area’s AM drive, or other time periods. By measuring the cumulative audience, the radio market can rank programs, determine station loyalty, and sell advertising time.

4. Rank

Rank establishes the listenership of different radio stations by calculating the number of listeners and more complex statistics regarding marketing value. Since 1942, the Nielsen Radio Index has ranked the top radio stations based on:

  • Total audience
  • The average audience for days or specific blocks of times
  • Cumulative audience (as discussed above)
  • The number of homes reached divided by dollar spend

Chicago is ranked third in the 2020 market rank, with nearly 8,000,000 12+ listeners. Both Nielsen and Eastland rank and rate the over 300 United States radio markets.

5. Rating

A radio station’s or program’s rating is a percentage. It’s the total number of audience members who are tuned in to the broadcast (whether they’re actively listening or not) divided by the total number of potential listeners. For example, Eric in the Morning on MIX (WTMX-FM) was ranked #1 with ages 25-54 in the September/October/November Nielsen Ratings period with a 7.6 share.

6. Endorsement 

A radio endorsement is a type of advertisement. But rather than a commercial, it’s a specific personality or celebrity talking about and promoting a product or service. The radio show host will positively talk about the product to their audience. This type of promotion can be far more engaging and personalized than stand-alone commercials. However, it’s crucial that your endorser can speak authentically about your brand in a way that will resonate with their audience. This is analogous to influencer marketing on social media.

7. Sponsorship

Sponsorship is not a direct promotion of a company’s products or services. Instead, your brand sponsors a radio show segment by providing funding or by giving out prizes to the radio’s listeners. Sponsorships can help companies reach new audiences and build familiarity with the company brand. Instead of soliciting sales, companies can use sponsorships to highlight values, beliefs, or motivations. For example, a company can sponsor a weather segment (thereby having its name mentioned by the radio host) or can provide prizes for a themed giveaway.

8. Frequency

The number of times a company’s advertisement (or other marketing content) reaches the average listener is called its frequency. While companies can’t completely control the frequency of exposure to their ad, they can optimize it by carefully selecting the time slots and radio programs that best align with their target market.

9. CPP (Cost per Point)

Cost per Point is the cost of the media divided by its Gross Rating Points (GRPs), or the measurement of the campaign’s impact. It’s a calculation that allows companies to measure the effectiveness or efficiency of a campaign.

Pro Tip for Thinking About CPP:

It’s generally better to have a low CPP than a high CPP, but this varies depending on the target market and the cost of the advertised product. For example, the CPP for a high-value mattress may be higher than the CPP for a pillow but still result in more profitable sales.

10. Daypart

Dayparts are the different segments of time in a radio broadcast day. Splitting up the day into defined periods, such as the AM or PM drive, the mid-day lunch period, or other periods of time, allows radio stations and marketers to focus on different audiences throughout the day. For targeted advertising, companies need to find the daypart that best matches with their target market’s listening hours.

Why You Need to Know These 10 Radio Terms

The more you know about how radio stations and marketers analyze listenership, the better. Having a working understanding of these terms will help you research the right times and advertisement methods for your company. It will also help you more knowledgeably negotiate for what you know your business needs in your next successful radio campaign.

Share This


Stay on top of industry news and trends.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Posts



There's so much more to talk about.

They say word of mouth is the best advertising. Well, we’ve got a big mouth. But in a good way. A way that drives interest and demand in your business. Check it out!