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Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

May 21, 2015

When Bobby McFerrin’s #1 song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” hit the airwaves in 1988, it is doubtful that he was thinking about the medium that was playing his tune. But perhaps he should have been. A 2011 study – Media and the Mood of the Nation – conducted by Sparkler Research in the U.K., concluded that “listening to the radio makes people happier than watching TV or surfing the Internet.”

So why is this?

The findings came as no surprise to Michael C. Keith, a professor of history and electronic media at Boston College. In an interview with The Huffington Post he stated, “People don’t listen to radio to be depressed … the whole idea of listening to radio is to provide companionship, to soothe, to reassure, to make [us] happy.”

And while both TV and the Internet were credited with mood-enhancing qualities, neither scored as high as radio on the happiness scale. In fact, when compared to people who used no media at all, radio was attributed with lifting happiness levels by 100 percent and energy levels by 300 percent.

Another factor that contributes to radio’s happiness measure versus TV or the web, is how it is used. Radio supports peoples’ daily lives – it’s in the car on the way to your kid’s soccer match; it’s there when you’re washing the dishes; it’s there to get you past the three-o’clock slump at work.

The internet, while also omnipresent if you’re a smartphone user (and who isn’t these days?), will sometimes present you with an uncomfortable moment – like checking your bank account statement after that wonderful, but pricey vacation; or reminding you that you still haven’t received that email you were hoping for about that job promotion.

TV, though it does receive high marks for escapism, and therefore temporarily shifts your mood into the positive column, doesn’t do as well with keeping people there. Respondents to the survey claimed that they experienced a “low after watching their favorite programs as they were suddenly plunged back into ‘real life.’”

So what does this mean? The Radio Advertising Bureau, after reviewing the British study, came away with these thoughts for advertisers. Radio, the “happy” medium:

  • offers the most cost-effective way to enhance positive perceptions of advertisers’ brands
  • provides a unique opportunity to exploit the happiness factor at important times for brands
  • influences how the listener feels about advertised brands

So … don’t worry, be happy? Absolutely, with radio!

-Barbara Krebs, Quality Assurance