The Audio Boom

The audio boom is real. Everywhere one looks these days it’s easy to see more people than ever before connected to headphones; buying and using smartspeakers; using in-vehicle, voice activated AM/FM and HD radio controls — the list goes on.

At the 2018 Radio Show, Rishad Tobaccowala, futurist and chief growth officer at Publicis Groupe, addressed the radio industry and aptly stated, “The colonization of the eyes is over; now it’s the colonization of the ears.” We are living in a new audio age and, as technology continues to change, audio and radio will continue to prevail because consumers want them.

For consumers, radio plays multiple roles and fulfills various needs. It’s a very intimate medium, connecting one-to-many in a way that feels like it is one-to-one. Radio is arguably the first mass-market social and interactive medium to engage consumers on a deep level. It’s emotional, drawing people in through the power of storytelling. It’s live and local. It’s free for listeners and it’s experiential.

Radio has the ability to bring together listeners and communities with the experiences and passions they share. For marketers, that’s a tremendous opportunity.

Who’s Listening?

In short, everyone. With 227.5 million weekly listeners aged 18 years old and older, AM/FM radio boasts the greatest reach of any media, according to Nielsen’s “Q1 2018 Total Audience Report.” In fact, Nielsen found radio dominates among adults ages 25 to 54, as well as in subgroups like the highly sought after mix of older gen Zers and millennials in the 18 to 34 target and the desirable 35- to 49-year-old audience.

As new devices continue to make it easier for people to listen to audio content, broadcast radio continues to expand its distribution platforms, and that evolution is changing how people consume audio. In 2010, 10 percent of all over-the-air radio listeners streamed their stations online, according to 2017 Nielsen Scarborough data; by 2018 that number jumped to 41 percent of listeners. This is important because it demonstrates that consumers are not shifting behavior — they are adding to their behavior. People access their favorite stations across platforms and use whatever technology best suits their needs throughout the day.

But people don’t just listen — they also engage and interact with their local radio stations. According to a 2017 survey from Katz Media Group, nine out of 10 listeners have called in, texted, or in some other way engaged with their local radio station.

What Are They Listening To?

What, exactly, consumers listen to depends on who they are, where they are, their interests, the time of day, the day of the week, and many other psychographics. The variety of what they listen to includes music, news, traffic, weather, talk shows, sports, extended interviews, and more.

They listen to curated music and original content that is available 24/7 through local, regional, and national networks. They listen when content is live or on demand. They listen through smartphones, tablets, and computers. They listen in the car, at home, in the office, or on the go. They listen through headphones, stereos, and smartspeakers.

Traffic, weather, information, and news are radio staples, and AM/FM radio is the go-to source of information for local consumers from market to market across the country. In fact, according “Miles Different: In-Car Audio,” a compilation of Edison Research studies, 49 percent of adults say they regularly use broadcast radio for traffic reports while in the car, and that number rises to 51 percent as the most-often used source for traffic information.

And among those who listen to AM/FM radio, 41 percent tune in to get news, 38 percent listen because they want to know what is going on locally, and 29 percent want to hear about weather, according to Jacobs Media’s “Techsurvey 2018.”

Why Are They Listening?

According to Nielsen Entertainment’s “Music 360 2017 Highlights” report, AM/FM radio continues to be the No. 1 source for discovering new music. What’s more, 60 percent of consumers in the Jacobs Media survey say hearing their favorite songs on the radio is a main reason for tuning in. Nielsen’s Music 360 Highlights also found that 37 percent of those who listen to music on the radio say one of the things they like most about radio is the on-air talent.

Radio’s on-air personalities can be considered the original social media influencers; 58 percent of listeners in the Jacobs Media survey state that they tune in because of the on-air personalities. Radio stations from coast to coast bring marketers more than 25,000 well-liked influencers who drive conversations. According to the Katz Media Group survey, 87 percent of radio listeners know personal details about an on-air talent’s home life. Five out of 10 radio listeners follow an on-air personality or radio station on social media. Four out of 10 people have met radio station talent personally in their community. And eight out of 10 respondents to the Katz Media Group survey say they would consider trying something that their favorite radio personality recommended.

When Are They Listening?

Daytime is radio’s primetime (see Figure 1 below), but it’s getting easier for consumers to listen to radio, podcasts, and streams across dayparts because of technological advances and the fact that 73 percent of smartspeakers are located in living rooms or kitchens, according to the “2018 Smart Audio Report” conducted by NPR and Edison Research. The report found that listening to an AM/FM radio station between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. is the second most popular activity done via a smartspeaker, behind ordering an item.

According to a recent “Radio Drives Store Traffic” study by Dial Report and the Radio Advertising Bureau, which matched exposure to radio ads with location data, listeners exposed to radio advertising on the weekend and during afternoon drive time have higher average retail visits than listeners who were not exposed to the same brand advertising during those same dayparts. In one case, a quick-service restaurant brand ran weekend overnight advertising and achieved a 26 percent lift in store traffic from this daypart.

The portability and ubiquity of audio makes radio the last media that a consumer will be exposed to before the point of purchase. Nielsen Catalina Solutions uses the term “propinquity,” which rolls recency, proximity, and mindset into one word. Consumers across all demographics are listening throughout the day — every day — just before they shop, dine, refuel, get to work, and return home; when massive reach is combined with the impact of recency, brands reap the benefits of delivering their messages to an engaged audience in the right place and at the right time.


What Resonates with Listeners?

There are many companies that are now able to analyze data on behavior or exposure to radio advertising and reveal insights about what resonates with listeners. Here are a number of insights that demonstrate radio’s role at all the various junctures along a consumer’s path to purchase.

    Creative matters to ROI. According to nearly 500 studies conducted by Nielsen Catalina Solutions across all media platforms, creative is the No. 1 factor for driving sales, representing 50 percent of sales contributions. In fact, a few recent studies have revealed a number of best practices for radio creative. Disclaimers in the automotive category work to inform consumers, Veritonic’s blog Soundboard reports. And female voices can be powerful differentiators for brands, a 2018 Westwood One/Veritonic automotive study finds.
    The power of personality endorsements is undeniable. The original marketing influencers are radio personalities, and when they endorse a brand, it works. Katz Radio Group partnered with AnalyticOwl to collect radio effectiveness and attribution data for a utility company’s radio campaign. The company ran both pre-recorded personality endorsement spots and found that the endorsements performed 21 percent better than the campaign average, generating 36 new users per spot airing.
    Sound bites drive deep dives. Whether it be television shows, movies, or podcasts, radio is proven to drive tune-in, as exemplified by a Nielsen study that looked at how a major cable network recently used AM/FM radio to help launch the returning season of a scripted drama series. According to Nielsen, radio promotions drove two times higher tune-in conversions than TV alone, especially the closer one got to show time.
    The audio boom is making smarter consumers. An MRI study performed at The Gallant Lab at UC Berkeley found that when people listen to audio content, the brain works harder — and that certain types of storytelling stimulate brain activity.
    Sonic branding builds brands. As Soundboard reports, brands with music and voice that fit their identity are 96 percent more likely to be remembered, and people are 24 percent more likely to buy their product.
    Radio drives traffic and delivers quantifiable results. One recent example includes a large national retailer who partnered with Entercom and AnalyticOwl through the Entercom Audience Analytics platform to test campaign impact of live and recorded spots across more than 40 markets in 2018. More than 50,000 spots ran across Entercom’s radio stations coast to coast. There were 450,000 new users driven to the retailer’s site by radio between the months of January and October, and on the days when the brand aired a radio spot, it averaged 51,000 new users, a 20 percent lift over days when the brand did not run radio advertising.

The Rising Volume of Podcasts

Extended content and deep dives into single subjects are now available from podcasts with the touch of an app. Podcasting is exploding, both in terms of content development and consumer adoption. According to the “2018 Infinite Dial Study” by Edison Research and Triton Digital, 124 million Americans have listened to a podcast; that’s up 33 percent since 2016. And a Nielsen Fanlinks survey last quarter showed that the number of self-identified avid podcast fans rose from 13 million homes in 2016 to 16 million in 2017 (a 23 percent increase). These staggering stats aside, podcasting is a nascent business that will continue to grow. The Radio Advertising Bureau recently reviewed data from the MRI 2017 Podcast Study, which confirms that podcast listeners who also listen to AM/FM radio are among the heaviest podcast consumers. They listen to an average of four programs and six episodes per week.

What’s more, the data reveals some interesting behavioral patterns that show interest in podcast genres varies by the AM/FM radio format a consumer listens to. Those who listen to adult contemporary music are 42 percent more likely to tune-in to storytelling- and drama-based podcasts; classic rock listeners are 66 percent more likely to listen to business and finance podcasts; those listening to country are 38 percent more likely to listen to sport-based podcasts; news/talk listeners are 78 percent more likely to listen to investigative reporting podcasts; and those who listen to urban format radio are 52 percent more likely to listen to fashion podcasts.

As noted in a recent Inside Radio article, which covered a podcast-focused session at the 2018 Radio Show conference in September, broadcast radio organizations are currently investing in the podcast space and are poised to deliver niche and highly targeted content at scale.

Tammy Greenberg is the SVP of business development at the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can email her at tg********@ra*.com.



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