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Radio’s Rebound

October 7, 2021

One measure of radio’s long-term health is listening levels. On an AQH basis, how many people are tuning to radio? This can outline who is using radio and how overall listening is shifting. Previous blogs have implored radio programming and salespeople to pay attention to this important measure for their market and constantly track it.

While local market PURS (for diary markets) or PUMMs (for PPM markets) are an important measure, they are also valuable to look at nationally. In other words, what is going on with radio listening around the country?

Here the news is good…

Twice a year, Nielsen provides a service called Nationwide. Nationwide tabulates all their radio surveys, both diary and PPM, and combines them into a single survey that represents the country. It uses more than 330,000 respondents for each release and is conducted over a 12-week period. This service has been available for decades and is the best view of shifts in radio listening.

When the pandemic shut down the economy, radio listening declined. The question many raised was if this was a permanent loss, or would radio recover? We predicted a “Nike” recovery. Down really fast, which did occur, and a slow, steady climb back to previous levels. While the drop was sudden, we felt that people’s lifestyles, along with their radio listening, would slowly return to normal.

The Spring 2021 Nationwide survey was recently released, and the news supports what we at Research Director, Inc. predicted. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected just about everyone’s life and lifestyle. This resulted in a decline in the amount of time people spent with radio. However, as things rebound, radio listening should increase.

According to Nationwide, which was widely publicized by Westwood One, AQH AM/FM radio listening in the Spring of 2021 grew 7% compared to the Spring of 2020. This year-to-year growth is an indication that, as society and the economy stabilize, radio listening will also rebound.

The biggest change was with Women. We’ve seen reports that Women’s lifestyles were more impacted by COVID-19 than Men of similar demographic groups. When compared to the Spring of 2020, radio listening by Women 25-54 was up 13%. That is an encouraging sign.

This rebound has been slower and harder to measure than we might have thought just a few months ago, especially with the impact of the Delta variant. However, the growth demonstrated in the latest Nationwide release is an indication that radio listening is on its way back. We at Research Director, Inc. hope and expect that this trend will continue, and the next Nationwide release, to be released in April of 2022, will tell an even better story.

Until then, we should all continue to position radio as a strong and vibrant entertainment and advertising vehicle.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner