Radio Maps II: Nielsen BDS Stations

In part I of this series of posts I made this neat looking map of all FM radio station transmitter coverage in the US:

This is basically a population density map of course, but the data is intriguing for many reasons and the subject matter of listening to the radio on road trips is full of nostalgia.

Once I started making this map I immediately knew that I had to do a few studies on this fascinating dataset! My next goal was to start grouping the stations by genre information. As a first example of this, I am looking at the ~1600 stations that the Nielsen company monitors (excluding AM and Canadian stations, so actually closer to 1200 stations). Here I'm matching/joining the FCC's transmission coverage data to the Nielsen BDS stations using their call sign (e.g. KUOW). I then grouped the stations by genre/format, and used the Python Basemap package (very sloppily) to draw the geographies

Here's the first image in the set:
Your first reaction might be: is this just another population density map?

Answer: no. The Nielsen BDS stations listen to targeted music/programming in certain markets. They don't listen to every Adult Contemporary station throughout the US, only selected stations in key markets. How these markets are determined is beyond me, and probably a matter of trade secrets or voodoo, I'd suppose...

So what we have in these maps is more like the geographic regions where each radio format/genre is considered important, or are good predictors of sales/popularity.

All caveats aside, there are some very interesting trends in the geographies vs genre, which largely track racial and socioeconomic distributions.

Here's an album of all the images (direct link here incase the widget isn't working well)

For my next post on the distribution of radio stations in the US, I'm working to compile a larger database of most every station with a known format. So far I'm aggregating tables from wikipedia, but if you have a line on a more complete list drop me a line! Then I'll be able to discuss the actual geography of musical tastes in the US.

The long term goal for this ongoing project is called RadioTrip, where users could get map directions and radio suggestions along the way based on musical taste. If you want to help with this project, let me know or ping me on GitHub!

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