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Radio Formats

News & Talk

News / Talk - Target Demo: 25+ - Stations with news/talk programming feature a heavy concentration of news - local, regional and global news, as well as sports, weather and traffic. Along with the news, stations will feature talk programming, including the presentations of views and listener participation call-in segments and shows. It is also common that many news/talk stations also carry live local sports coverage in the evenings and during the weekend. A variety of this format is the full service format. Popular many years ago, the programming of these stations included a mix of news, talk and music in a conservative fashion. In larger US markets and markets located near the Mexico-US border, it is also common to have one or more news/talk station in Spanish. Most all news/talk stations can be found on the AM dial.

News / Information - Target Demo: 25+ - Similar to the news/talk formats, this format has little listener participation and call-ins. Stations with this format are usually linked through satellite and originate from a regional or national level rather than consisting of local programming. An example of this format includes BBC's overseas broadcasting.

Sports - Target Demo: 18+ - This format features programming related to the sporting world. Most stations with a sports format include sports news, sports talk shows and of course live coverage of both local and national sporting events. A large majority of sports formatted stations are found on the AM dial.

Talk - Target Demo: 25-65 - Stations with this format concentrate on a variety of talk programming. (News still can be heard at least at the top of the hour during the AM and PM drives.) Many of these stations will carry popular syndicated talk show hosts, such as Mancow, Limbaugh, and Stern throughout the day, as well of segments of local call-in periods. Varieties of this format include a hot talk format and a gay/lesbian issues talk format. Most stations are found on the AM dial, but it is common to also be on the FM dial in larger markets.

News / Talk-Business - Target Demo: 25-65 - Also known as news-talk-financial, this format is the most popular offspring on the news/talk format. Stations with this format concentration their news, information and talk segments to the business world. Stations with this format are usually in larger markets and on the AM dial.


Country - Target Demo: 25-54 - As one of the more popular, there are more stations with some type of Country format than any other type of format. Country music origins date back to the 1920's, but has progressed over the decades to include such styles as western swing, bluegrass, honky tonk, urban cowboy, and today's new county.

Hit Country - Target Demo: 25-54 - As a variety of the Country format, hit Country stations will concentrate their play lists on current Country hits of today and the last few months. Alternate names to this format include new Country, hot Country or young Country.

Classic Country - Target Demo: 25-54 - As another variety of the Country format, classic Country stations will concentrate their play lists to classic Country hits, also referred to as gold Country or oldies Country. These play lists would include Country songs from the early 90's, 80's and/or 70's.


CHR - Target Demo: 15-30 - Dubbed mainstream pop music radio, CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) stations play a variety of popular music of today and the past few years (or decades). There is little emphasis on new and cutting edge music. Today, a good majority CHR formatted stations, especially in larger markets, slant their music playlists toward another music format (rock or urban). These are defined below.

CHR Pop - Target Demo: 15-30 - Also is referred to as CHR-Top 40. In comparison to CHR-rhythmic, the basic elements are the same, but there is a slant more towards rock and alternative songs. Play lists consist of new cutting edge music, current hits and popular hits of the last 6 to 12 months.

CHR Rhythmic - Target Demo: 15-30 - Although a good number of songs will be played on both CHR-pop and CHR-rhythmic stations, the difference between the formats is that CHR-rhythmic leans toward more hip-hop, rap and dance songs, rather than rock and alternative. Play lists consist of new cutting edge music, current hits and popular hits of the last 6 to 12 months.

CHR Dance - Target Demo: 15-30 - This is another flavor of popular music with the slant toward dance hits and dance remixes of popular songs. Play lists consist of new cutting edge music, current hits and popular hits of the last couple of years.

CHR 80s - Target Demo: 25-35 - This format is one of the newest and is quickly gaining in popularity across the US. One can also argue and win that this belongs in the oldies formats. The music played on stations with this format is just as it sounds, pop music popular during the 1980s and sometimes the early 1990s.

Adult Contemporary

Adult Contemporary - Target Demo: 25-49 - Simply referred to as 'AC', adult contemporary music stations are aimed at people age 30 years and older. These stations offer lively contemporary music of the past decade or two without cutting edge music, rock or rap music. Such artists popular on these stations include Madonna, Lionel Ritchie, Mariah Carey, Elton John and Amy Grant just to name a few.

Hot AC - Target Demo: 18-44 - Stations with this format have a slightly younger target audience than the ac format. More upbeat music and more cutting edge music is prevalent. Hot AC is a hybrid between pop and AC music with an almost exclusive concentration on current hits and music of the past 12 months.

Modern AC - Target Demo: 25-54 - Stations with this format have a slightly younger target audience than the ac format. More upbeat music and more cutting edge music is prevalent. Modern AC is a hybrid between hot ac and modern rock music with an almost exclusive concentration on current hits and music of the past 12 months.

Soft AC - Target Demo: 25-54 - Also known as easy listening or beautiful music, this format is targeted to people 35 years and older. In comparison to the ac format, music can span from the past 4 decades and consists of a large majority of love ballads from popular artists, and less upbeat type music.

AC Oldies - Target Demo: 35-64 - This format is a blend of AC music and Country music. The format is aimed at people 30 years and older and is usually found in smaller markets or rural populated areas. Music offered on these stations ranges from the '60s to the '90s.

Adult Hits - Target Demo: 25-64 Stations that program segments that do not adhere to one specific format or style but rather a true mix of programming styles or genres. Think Jack FM and their many clones.

Rock & Alternative

Modern Rock - Target Demo: 15-30 - Also known as new rock or alternative rock, this format is mainstream alternative rock music. There is a high concentration on cutting edge and current hits and music on the past 6 to 12 months.

Active Rock - Target Demo: 18-34 - Stations with this genre concentrate their music on popular rock songs of today and a variety of popular rock and classic rock songs of the past two decades.

Adult Album Alternative - Target Demo: 25-54 - Also known as AAA (Triple A), this genre offers a hybrid of modern rock, progressive, alternative and classic rock music aimed at an older target audience with both modern rock and active rock.

Alternative - Target Demo: 18-34 - A format that grew up in the '80s on college radio stations, alternative music can still be found on non-commercial and college or student run radio stations. Music is usually cutting edge, less mainstream, include local artist, and may include some punk, dance, industrial or heavy metal music.

Classic Rock - Target Demo: 25-54 - This is one of the more popular music formats throughout the United States. Most markets contain one classic rock station, but it is common to have two stations with this format. Classic rock stations' play lists include popular rock hits of the '70s, '80s, '90s and possibly a few hits from today. A variety of this format is album-oriented rock or AOR. The difference between these two formats is that classic rock stations play released singles, where AOR stations will play music from popular artists, including those cuts that were not released as singles, known as album-cuts.

Americana - Target Demo: 25-54 - Such a genre features an eclectic mixture of adult alternative, Blues, and progressive Country music.

Heavy Metal - This format is one with a much harsher, louder sound (listen at your own risk) than rock itself. Such music could be found on college or student run stations and several Internet only stations.


Urban Contemporary - Target Demo: 18-34 - Usually listed simply as "urban" and may also been known as R&B (rhythm and blues), the urban contemporary musical genre reflects a large number of black music recording artists with such music as rap, hip-hop, house, soul and new artists. Urban formats are generally aimed at younger audiences.

Urban AC- Target Demo: 18-49 - Urban ac stations are aimed at an older audience. Play lists found on these stations are more soul, ballads and less rap and hip-hop music.

Rhythmic Oldies - Target Demo: 35+ - Nicknamed jammin' oldies, this format is relatively new in the radio format world. Play lists found on stations with this format include urban oldies, Motown hits, and a number of upbeat disco and dance retro hits of the late '70s, '80s and early '90s.

Urban Oldies - Target Demo: 25-49 - This genre features black music recording artists such as Motown from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Jazz & Classical

Smooth Jazz - Target Demo: 25-54 - Also titled 'New AC (NAC) / Smooth Jazz', and sometimes nicknamed New Age Jazz, this genre is more of a format rather than a music style. Today, most major markets contain one station with this format. The style of music played on smooth Jazz stations includes recent and current adult contemporary hits, as well as new and recent upbeat Jazz recordings. It is also common to have programming segments to include ambient or world beat music.

Jazz - Target Demo: 25-54 - Traditional Jazz music can normally be found on public radio stations and college run radio stations. Jazz music found on these stations play a variety of Jazz music recorded throughout the past few decades. Latin Jazz stations can be found throughout Latin America with a heavy emphasis on Latin Jazz recordings.

Classical - Target Demo: 25-54 - Classical music is known as serious music to those who enjoy. Classical music can normally be found on public radio stations and college run radio stations, but most major markets feature one full time commercial classical music station.


Oldies - Target Demo: 35-64 - The type of music one can expect to hear on stations with this format include hit songs from the '50s, '60s and sometimes the '70s, including such artist as Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and Motown music. A large majority of oldies formatted stations focus on the '50s and '60s music, but with the popularity of the oldies format over the past decade, many stations now specialize to a certain decade, or music type. Two of the more popular formats are listed below.

Classic Hits - Target Demo: 25-54 - Generally playing '70s and '80s pop and rock music, these stations tend to be a hybrid of oldies and classic rock.

Adult Standards - Target Demo: 35+ - Also known as Nostalgia, this format plays contemporary, soft music popular between the '30s and '60s but may include big band and swing msuic. Such artists include Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, and Barbara Streisand. A majority of adult standard stations are found on the AM dial.

Big Band - Target Demo: 55+ - Also termed swing (depending on the decade), this format is similar to standards, except the music spans from the 1920s through the '40s and is more upbeat A large majority of this music is programmed within non-commercial stations, college run stations or Internet radio stations.

MOR - Target Demo: 45+ - Stands for 'Middle of the Road', this format was popular in decades past but has become all but extinct in today's radio world. This format combines news, information and music together. Music would include popular songs of the time (most of which are played on oldies and Adult Standard stations today).


Religious - Target Demo: 25-54 - Religious formatted stations vary in tone, presentation and denomination, but the basics are preaching and instructional programming and may include some music.

Contemporary Christian - Target Demo: 35+ - Contemporary and pop music that is based on Christian based music and artists.

Christian Rock - Target Demo: 18-25 - Rock and alternatives music that is based on Christian based music and artists.


Brokered - Target Demo: 25-49 Stations under this category are programs that sell segments of time to other broadcasters or radio program producers.

Other formats such as Blues, Gospel, Nostalgia and more can be found here.

Source: tvradioworld.com, radio-locator.com

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