Do People Still Listen to AM Radio?

Many people think of AM radio and imagine old-timey stations, scratchy reception, and staccato news broadcasts.

However, that’s merely a perpetuation of AM radio.

In reality, it’s a means of transmitting radio waves using amplitude modulation. But does anybody listen to it?

About 82 million people listen to AM radio per month across America. At least 6,000 AM radio stations exist as of 2021, and each attracts listenership in the thousands, if not higher.

If you’re eager to switch that radio dial from FM to AM, you can’t miss the information we have for you ahead. You’ll be in good company listening to AM radio!

What Is AM Radio? How Is It Different Than FM Radio?

AM radio with a plant in the foreground on a cat tablecloth
AM radio existed before FM, and although it doesn’t have the same listener base, it is anything but unpopular.

Let’s begin by briefly delving into AM radio so you can better appreciate it before listening to it.

AM is short for amplitude modulation, which refers to the transmission type.

Electronic communication uses AM modulation to send messages through radio waves.

The amplitude in AM refers to how varied the signal strength is based on the message signal strength.

AM radio is an early means of modulation. Reginald Fessenden, an inventor from Canada, and Roberto Landell de Moura, an inventor/priest, tinkered with the radiotelephone at the start of the 1900s.

These two inventors are credited with creating AM radio in the early 20th century.

However, it wouldn’t be until the 1920s that broadcasting became AM radio.

This ushered in what is known as the Golden Age of Radio, which lasted until the 1950s.

Technology continued marching on, and as televisions were first invented and then widely featured in households across America, AM’s advent ended.

Of course, we can’t give TV all the credit. As impactful as it was at the time, FM radio also played a role in decreasing AM’s listenership.

AM vs. FM – What’s the Difference?

FM broadcasting, known as frequency modulation, was invented by Edwin Armstrong, an engineer, in 1933.

How does FM differ from AM radio? Let’s explore.

  • Better fidelity: One of the reasons that society at the time gladly jumped from AM to FM radio was the improved fidelity of the latter. This refers to how well the sound from the original broadcast is reproduced.
  • Less interference: AM radio is full of interference. If you ask some people, that’s part of its charm. However, the pops and static hisses can distract other listeners, so it’s advantageous that FM radio has much less of it.
  • Lower costs: AM remains the cheaper of the two types for broadcasting, which is still one of its biggest benefits today.
  • Longer distances: AM can also broadcast over greater distances than FM radio, so you won’t have to deal with annoying station cuts while driving far. However, the further you get from the source of emanation, the greater the risk of static with AM radio.

Does Anyone Still Listen to AM Radio?

Ford truck up close
AM radio has somewhere in the ballpark of 82 million listeners, and Ford owners comprise a lot of them!

AM radio is the OG, but it’s not without its flaws.

Bearing that in mind, and given its age and antiquity over FM radio, does anyone bother with AM in the 2020s?

They most certainly do!

AM radio has its staunch supporters. A Nielsen Fall 2022 survey with data extrapolated from Cumulus Media found that 82,346,800 US residents listened to AM every month in 2022.

Also, there’s something about owning a Ford vehicle and enjoying AM radio.

The Cumulus article cited data from MRI Simmons that reported that 20 percent of all AM listeners in the US drive a Ford.

Not only that, but they prefer to listen to AM more than FM.

This is quite curious, considering that many automotive manufacturers have phased out AM radio access due to its perceived lack of popularity. However, Ford is certainly not one of them!

Radio manufacturer Sangean reports that 6,000 AM stations exist on the airwaves in 2021.

By comparison, a Statista chart states that the United States had 15,445 FM stations in 2020.

AM stations are just under half of FM stations, yet we’re all so used to listening to FM radio that we might not have even known.

What Can You Listen to on AM Radio?

This article may have made you curious about AM radio. You’ve never changed your radio dial from FM, but what exactly can you listen to if you do?

Let’s go over it now.

News Broadcasts

When breaking news happens, you don’t have to turn on your television to learn about it first.

You can always tune into an AM station for more on what’s happening with your country or neighborhood, depending on which station you listen to.

Cumulus Media states that 57 percent of AM listeners tune into news broadcasts.


Do you want the latest recaps on all the games, including those you don’t have time to watch (or can’t watch because they’re out of network)?

AM radio is a fantastic source of sports radio.

You can hear the latest play-by-plays and interviews or even listen to some games live in certain instances.

This may evoke the days of listening to old-timey baseball in lieu of seeing it in the stadium.

You don’t have to miss the game entirely if you’re on the road for hours and can’t access a TV (or a smartphone, tablet, or computer).

You can always listen to it.


Whether you want to hear political talk, religious talk, or any other kind of talk in between, AM is a treasure trove for that sort of thing.

You might reduce your podcast listening to enjoy the charm of AM talk radio.

Eager to improve your radio reception when listening to AM? Check out this article!

Bottom Line

AM radio has not died; quite the contrary!

It’s alive and kicking in the 2020s with about 6,000 stations and 83 million listeners (especially Ford drivers!).

AM radio is beloved for its talk radio, sports, and news selection.

Why not tune into an AM station today and see what kinds of audial joys you discover?

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