A cynical but not inaccurate way of thinking about radio formats is as a tool to segment the population for advertisers. Ancient and unglamorous as it may be, radio remains a potent vehicle for advertisers to access consumers. According to a 2015 Nielsen Audio Today report, 91 percent of Americans age 12 or older listen to the radio each week, and the vast majority of those listeners are in the work force (which means they have money to spend). According to another Nielsen study, advertisers achieve more than $6 of incremental sales for every $1 spent on the radio. For radio-station owners, the business plan is simple: Attract the broadest possible audience to your programming and then do everything you can to keep them listening. This is why radio professionals talk about musical genres in ways normal human beings do not; no one believes she listens to rhythmic adult contemporary, but in aggregate, millions of people between the ages of 25 and 54 do.
Alex French, “Back in the Day”, The New York Times Magazine (19 July 2015), 28.