The Arbitron trends are in from Summer 2005, and the News, Talk, Information format continues to gather close to 1 out of every 5 listeners in the US at any given time. With shares increasing from 17.0 to 17.5 from Spring to Summer, according to a posting today on Radio & Records online.
That doesn't surprise me, as we seem to be continuing to transform even more into a society that thrives on information and opinion. And, as we are given more and more opportunities to go elsewhere for our musical fixes.
As I've written in a chapter on talk radio for Susan Eastman and Doug Ferguson's book Media Programming, there are also technological and sociological reasons for the increase in popularity of the information programming:
One is the increased penetration of cell phones. When the only audience available to call in to talk radio were the unemployed, retired, or housebound, Program Directors and hosts were cursed by the same callers all the time offering the same (oftentimes downright weird) opinions. Now that EVERYONE has a cell, they can call in and offer their opinons whenever and wherever they want to. With the increased popularity of text messaging, don't be surprised to hear hosts encouraging listeners to text their opinions in as well--in the same way that they used to encourage faxed opinions and then email.
Another reason for the increased popularity, of course, is the increased acceptability of taboo subjects by the public. Howard Stern has led the way here...and there is no telling what will happen to the trend as the "King of All Media" heads to Sirius...but there does not seem to be much stopping our desire for titilation--even considering the increased cases of public filings with the FCC over indecency.