I recently came across an article that described radio as “resilient”. There has never been a media that has been written off more than radio. Talking movies were supposed to kill radio, they didn’t. With the growth of television radio was thought to be finished. Not. Radio was toast when portable music players like Walkman’s became the rage. Didn’t happen. And surely digital was more than radio could endure. But radio – the resilient media continues.

Post Covid Ratings

Not surprisingly, during the first six weeks of the pandemic radio ratings dropped dramatically. Drive time listening was impacted the most but listening in other dayparts was affected as well. April was the low point in ratings. Ratings were impacted the more in large markets while in smaller markets the impact was far less. The road to recovery quickly started in May. People began to return to work, get out to shop etc. As that happened, listening increased. As of October, listening was at 97% of pre-Covid levels.

In Home Listening

While listening outside of the home was down, listening in the home spiked. In home listening has been helped by streaming audio and smart speakers. With the growth in audio platforms listeners have more options to choose from. Beyond the early streaming players such as Pandora and Spotify almost every terrestrial station now has a website that streams. Many stations have apps that can be downloaded to smart phones and smart speakers for listening anywhere. And there are large aggregators such as iHeart.com and Radio.com.

Podcasting has also benefited from the growth in streaming. In 2021 some forecasters predict that podcasting will become a billion dollar a year industry. The interest in the spoken word has never been higher.

Measurement Changes

There are other changes coming to the industry that will be more “behind the scenes”. For the last few years agencies have been exploring buying ad time based on CPM’s, not on the traditional ratings, GRP method. This will bring radio into alignment with digital advertising, which is impression based. Agencies want to measure all media the same, which will allow for better cross-platform metrics.

And, as radio works to improve attribution, measuring listening with the same metrics as other media will benefit stations and advertisers alike. Sales, data and attribution go hand-in-hand. Radio is working on campaign attribution studies which show engagement and will help measure KPI’s like brand awareness, sales and revenue growth.  In working with third-party vendors, stations will be able to track and find ways to optimize creative and schedules to get more engagement and increase the return on ad spend. Radio companies are currently working with both 1st party and 3rd party attribution companies to make this happen.

Nielsen Reporting

In another move that will impact advertisers Nielsen has announced that it will only report on stations that are subscribers. For years stations and station groups have battled with Nielsen over their fees. But, because Nielsen still reported on them, they were able to take advantage of those numbers. No longer. Nielsen will not show any ratings information in their summary data for non-subscribing stations. That means agencies and competing stations will not have numbers for stations who don’t subscribe to the reporting service. Nielsen will exempt smaller not-for-profit and minority owned stations.

Radio The Resilient Media

As it has for years radio is continuing to evolve and morph in new ways. Like many media trends, the Covid-19 outbreak accelerated behaviors that were already on display.  Just as “viewing on demand” is fueling the growth of streaming TV, radio listeners want the same flexibility. So, streaming radio continues to grow. What has remained constant is radio’s popularity across demographics. Young, older, more and less affluent, radio remains one of the most popular media. There is programming to suit everyone’s interests. And now, it is more available than ever. And that is why radio remains the resilient media.