As car use rebounded during the first half of this year, AM/FM radio listenership dominated the audio landscape. Edison Research confirmed yet again that terrestrial radio reigns supreme. Despite an increase in web-enhanced/connected vehicles on the road, the vast majority of listeners still prefer their favorite radio stations. A staggering 87 percent of drivers listen to ad-supported terrestrial radio — followed by 6 percent for SiriusXM, 5 percent for podcasts, 2 percent for Pandora, and 1 percent for Spotify.
How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Radio Listening Habits?
A Nielsen study reveals that when the COVID-19 national emergency was declared in March 2020, in-car listening declined immediately as more employees began working remotely from home. At the same time, by June 2020, in-home listening rose to make up nearly 50 percent of all radio listening.
As COVID restrictions began easing in the third quarter of 2020, in-car radio audiences began to increase along with a corresponding decrease in at-home listening. Throughout the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, that trend persisted — in-car listening continued to climb while in-home listening decreased.
Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Radio
Broadcast radio showed its resilience as listeners changed where they listen from. Music is undoubtedly one of the best stress relievers, news and information remain very important, and loyal radio fans pivoted so that they could listen to their favorite music and local news, regardless of location — at home, in the office, or while driving.
But, the pandemic has taken its toll on earnings. Radio revenue fell by just over 25 percent in 2020. Most experts predict about a 6 percent rise in revenue in 2021. Although radio audiences are returning to pre-pandemic levels, revenue trails, and is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Industry employment has also been affected. As revenues fell, job cuts began. No radio group, large or small, was immune. Programming, on-air talent, promotion, and sales jobs were all subject to lay-offs, and furloughs and pay cuts were instituted in an attempt to balance budgets.
Radio, just like every other business, has experienced financial difficulties during the pandemic. But one fact remains: radio audiences may change how they listen to their favorite stations, but they never stop tuning in.
Radio Audiences Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels
A recent analysis by RRC (Radio Research Consortium) shows that for the first time since the COVID pandemic began, in May 2021 the listening audience for in-car radio listening rose above the number of households consuming radio at home.
A recent blog post from Westwood One shows that recent miles traveled rose to 2019 levels, based on Geopath and Apple Maps data. Federal Reserve data also confirms that employees are returning to their offices.
One fact is clear. Cars, trucks, and vans are back on our roads and 87% of them are listening to terrestrial radio. Stay ahead of the curve and utilize this information to consider implementing radio into your communications strategy today.