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What the 2022 Jacobs Media Tech Survey Really Means for Radio

May 19, 2022

The recently released 2022 Jacobs Media Tech Survey contained – as always – a treasure trove of insight into the attitudes of radio listeners. What makes this annual release so valuable is the trending information it provides. While radio remains a strong player in the audio entertainment landscape, there are some concerns.

Here’s what I found most concerning about this year’s survey. We know the primary sample comes from radio station databases. These are people who – at some point – volunteered to receive e-mails from a radio station they like. The fact that they consented to participate in the survey implies they are still actively listening to their “favorite” radio station. That’s a good sign as many likely signed up for e-mails years ago.

What should be of concern to our industry is the average age of the sample. For the first time, it left the coveted 25-54 demo. Yes, the average age of the participants was north of the 55-year-old mark.

This was not a surprise to The Ratings Experts, as we have seen this trend evolving – in market after market – for years. Stations continue to be graded on their 25-54 performance, but the true core of radio listening lies outside that 30-year range.

If you are in a PPM market, I urge you to run a few Tapscan reports. You’ll see that Average Weekly Time Exposed (AWTE) for the 18-24 or 25-34 segments in your market is almost always far behind any of the 35+ demo cells. Yes, there can be market variances that deny this trend, but they are generally outliers. (If you want to fall further down this rabbit hole, break it out by gender. You’ll see men generally listen more than women.)

There is a lot of industry buzz that suggests we have “lost” the younger generation of listeners. Are they listening less than their older counterparts? Absolutely. They have grown up with more viable – and more convenient – alternatives to over-the-air radio. Older generations were offered 8-tracks, cassettes, and CD players, but these were not nearly as compelling an alternative as Spotify and the like.

For younger listeners, radio may not be their number one audio option anymore, but it is still on their list.

This brings me back to the Tech Survey. Since the vast majority of participants are outside of the “money” demo, the results are a bit more startling. The survey clearly shows that radio listening is on the decline with our corest of core listeners. The people that grew up with the medium and turned radio listening into a habit are losing their passion for our product.

My intention here is not to paint a “radio is dying” picture. Radio continues to be a viable entertainment and advertising medium. As the survey effectively points out, our personalities are one of the key reasons people continue to listen. There are countless studies showing how important endorsements are for businesses. In short, radio is not on life support or even close to perishing.

However, there are warning signs on the horizon. Radio needs to heed them. I leave it to brighter minds than mine to figure out how to do that.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant