What are the impacts of the Corona crisis on radio? While radio companies report falling advertising sales, listening seems to be holding up. There is an increase in internet streaming of radio in some markets, while music streaming seems to be down.
In the US, 28% of Americans say they are listening more to radio, while 17% say they are listening less. This is the result of an online Nielsen Audio survey made March 20-22. The four main reasons for Americans to listen to radio are: getting critical information (53%), getting to know where to shop (46%), feeling connected to the community (46%) and feeling less alone (44%).
“In a time of heightened uncertainty and disrupted routines, consumers are turning to radio as a trusted source of information and community connection, mirroring patterns observed during past regional and national disasters and weather events” said Brad Kelly, Managing Director, Nielsen Audio.
Figures from Scandinavia, where PPM reports are released every week, show that daily reach is down only slightly in the last few weeks. In Sweden, time spent listening is sharply up, according to the latest PPM figures from Kantar Sifo.
Total daily reach for radio is down just 0.6 to 69.2% in Sweden in the past two weeks. At the same time, time spent listening is up 7 minutes to 115 minutes and up 12 minutes to 167 minutes among radio listeners.
In Denmark, daily reach is down from 72.5% to 68.5%, while time spent listening is down 2 minutes to 105 minutes. A reason for the larger fall in Denmark could be that public service broadcaster DR temporarily closed down its regional programming (they’re restarting these shows on Monday). In Norway, reach is up .5 to 62.5% and time spent listening down 1 minute to 84 minutes.
Looking at individual stations, it’s not surprising that stations with a strong news content are winning. In Sweden, there is a clear increase in listening for the public service news/talk station P1, which has seen its daily reach go up from 14.8 to 16.7% in the last two weeks. P4, a full service public radio with a lot of news coverage, is also up, while commercial radio has lost some listeners (down from 37.7% to 33.7% in daily reach). A similar trend can also be seen in Denmark and Norway.
In the UK, market-leading commercial broadcaster Global reports that listening via the internet is up. Daily reach increased 15% during the period 9-17 March, while time spent listening was up 9%. The big winner is news and talk service LBC, which saw its daily reach up 43% and TSL up 17%.
In a UK survey done for Bauer Media, 17% say they listen more to radio than usual. 83% mention that radio keeps them informed. 15% have increased their use of connected devices such as smart speakers to listen to radio.
BBC says that listening to its streaming platform BBC Sounds is at an all-time-high, with an increase of 18% in internet listening to its radio stations.
As for music streaming consumption, figures from three countries show that it may be on the way down.
According to BuzzAngle, music streaming in the US is down 8.8% and Spotify’s top 200 songs reached 14.4 million listeners – down 3.9 million. In Italy, there was a 23% drop-off in listening to the top 200 songs on Spotify. In the UK, Music Week reports that album streaming is down 6.2%, while single streaming is up 0.5%.
“People who stream music in the office also seem to be turning off and watching Netflix instead and there’s a big rise in radio listening – suggesting we’re seeking companionship alongside our music” BBC News music reporter Mark Savage says.
Podcast platform Acast reports a 7% increase in listening.
Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media and Westwood One writes in a blog post that terrestrial radio has a strong hold of those who now work from home – at least in the US. 75% of these listen to FM and AM radio, while the share is lower – 68% – in the general population.
“AM/FM’s at-home share of ad-supported audio is actually a bit stronger at home versus at work. In both locations, AM/FM radio is the dominant audio platform” Bouvard says.
Writing in Inside Radio, Anna Washenko believes that audio consumption could grow.
“Audio can likely expect to see some boosts in consumption. Particularly for people who want to limit their screen time while housebound, listening to lots of music or binging a few podcast seasons may be an appealing option” she writes, but also adds that the fall in commuting can lead to a loss of audience.
”Despite the likely overall uptick, audio outlets should be aware of the reasons why they may also have a decline in audience. The biggest changes may be related to massive cuts in commuting. AM/FM radio listening in particular is closely tied to time spent in cars. Podcasts and audiobooks can also be a to-go for commuters, but those formats are also often enjoyed as background listening during chores or work. Their impact could go either way.”
In Radio Info, Pat Bryson gives some advice for commercial radio’s sales departments. Radio should expect advertisers to want to cut back on advertising in a situation like this. He proposes that radio should contact businesses that could be hurt by the crisis before they start to cancel campaigns. Some buyers of advertising may also have to change their marketing message, instead of cancelling spots. He adds that there is opportunities for advertisers to be bold.
”In every economic interruption, whatever the reason, research over the last 90 years has shown that those clients who continue to advertise will weather the challenge better. As their competitors go silent, this offers the bold company a unique opportunity to increase market share. They can acquire a larger “share of voice” for less money because there is less competition” Pat Bryson writes.
Here are some articles about the impact of Corona on the radio business. We will update with more links when new articles are published.
Thank you to Katerina Borovska at a EGTA in Brussels for providing links.