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Radio Dials Up the Audio Experience Post-Pandemic

The challenges that the marketing, advertising, and media sectors faced throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021 have been unlike any business has experienced before. But many companies have shown remarkable resilience, setting up enormous marketing opportunities post-pandemic.

For radio, the next frontier is being shaped by the lessons learned during the past 18 months. Consumers, businesses, and brands have leaned in to audio across all platforms as the soundtrack to their daily journey, as depicted by a Katz Radio Group infographic that includes Nielsen and Edison Research data indicating 73 percent of consumers are tuned into audio while working and 75 percent of consumers are tuned in to radio while in their car.

In early- to mid-2020, there was an incredible surge in binge TV watching, which then hit a plateau before it started to decline due to screen fatigue. As COVID restrictions began lifting late last year and consumers started to circulate again, radio harnessed what makes it such a special medium for consumers, with a renewed focus on creating immersive experiences built on trust.

In March 2021, Audacy released a study to define and measure engaged impressions across media channels, with immersion as the key metric because it is predictive of action.

According to the study, audio — comprising over-the-air, streaming-over-the-air, and podcasts — is more immersive than other media, including linear TV, social media, Google search results, print media, and AI-driven pureplay platforms. Audacy also found that its listeners trust audio brand recommendations more than non-Audacy listeners and that trust is earned by consistently delivering relevant and local content.


The Original Social Channel

One of the most prevalent media trends of the past year has been the rise of social audio platforms such as invitation-only Clubhouse, Facebook’s impending launch of a suite of social audio tools, Twitter Spaces, and dozens more.

The success of social audio stems from what radio has long known and provided. Radio is the original social medium, connecting communities of like-minded listeners with radio personalities who initiate and steer the dialogue and keep people glued to the station.

The conversations, the storytelling, the connection to local and national news and information, the entertainment, and the live play-by-play sporting events that put listeners in the middle of the game, deliver the social connections consumers crave.

Radio’s social connections extend well beyond the broadcast, seamlessly moving to digital platforms and back again. Broadcasters have embraced social audio technology by bringing its trusted and brand-safe equities to these platforms.

By hosting conversations on Clubhouse, driving increased engagement on social media platforms, and advancing technology on their own digital apps and online platforms, radio broadcasters will continue to innovate technologically and provide additional opportunities for brands to connect with listeners.

Radio-Sponsored Events Excel

Each year, millions of people attend radio-hosted and brand-sponsored small and large events in local markets across the country. But the pandemic upended live events, and radio broadcasters were quick to reinvent the wheel.

Throughout 2020, radio broadcasters produced events and experiences that ultimately boosted both appeal and engagement, delivered exceptional content, and united communities when they needed it most.

Take Connoisseur Media’s Chaz & AJ in the Morning show. The morning show, which airs on 99.1 WPLR and 95.9 The Fox in Connecticut, has traditionally raised funds and gathered toys to donate to countless families across the state through a series of events leading up to a December Toy Drive.

In 2020, the Chaz & AJ Toy Drive event kicked off in September with a first-ever Food Truck Festival. The two-hour culinary extravaganza invited attendees to sample some of the best food trucks in Connecticut from their own vehicles, served by the station’s on-air personalities.

The event sold out instantly. It helped showcase many of the local restaurants struggling during the pandemic and brought people together for two hours of pure joy. The Chaz & AJ show always hosts multiple events leading up to the toy drive in attempt to raise money going into the big event, but in 2020 and to date in 2021, listeners have been more giving and more generous than they have ever been before. This pays tribute to the deep connection that DJs Chaz and AJ have with their audience; when they get behind something, the audience follows.

Strengthening Commitment to Communities

The extraordinary events of 2020 put the spotlight on the growing importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all brands and organizations.

Radio has always and will continue to be inclusive; meeting with, entertaining, informing, inspiring, connecting, and supporting diverse audiences in the communities in which they live. But it certainly does not end there and there is more work to be done. Throughout 2020, radio stations across the country rallied more support for local communities and small businesses than any other medium.

Case in point: the “Celebration of Service to America Awards,” which was presented by The NAB Leadership Foundation and highlighted the significant impact radio stations have on the lives of those in the communities they serve.

Moving forward, radio’s unwavering commitment to supporting the communities it serves will continue to inspire and create positive change that improves the lives and livelihood of both people and business.

Radio advertising could be on the crest of a new wave. A Katz Radio Group analysis of Apple Mobility Trend Report data shows that, as of April 2021, driving levels among Americans are up 76 percent, compared to the same period in 2020.

Increased consumer mobility sets the stage for more radio listening in local markets, as 75 percent of consumers say radio is the audio source used most often in the car, far exceeding any other audio option, according to the RAB.

What’s more, AM/FM radio enjoys an 88 percent share of ad-supported audio time spent in the car, per the Edison Research Share of Ear study.

So now that the country is on the move again, how is time spent in a vehicle with AM/FM radio shaping up? Pretty nicely, with radio in the driver’s seat for advertisers.

  • According to a study on USPS data, more than 15.9 million people moved their primary residence during the pandemic. Coupled with increased sales in 2021 for used and new automobiles, expect more shuttling of children, more errands outside of walking distances, and more driving in general.
  • Road trips are expected to grow significantly this year. A recent survey by Erie Insurance found that 56 percent of consumers plan on traveling more than 100 miles from home, with the vast majority (80 percent) saying they will travel by car, SUV, or truck. A little more than half (51 percent) of the respondents said they plan on taking at least one road trip in their own vehicle this year; among those who will travel, 55 percent plan to drive more than 500 miles from their home.
  • Personal vehicles will dominate the work commute. A survey referenced by NBC News revealed that among those who will go back to their offices, more than 60 percent plan to swap public transportation for their own cars. About a quarter of the respondents have purchased a car during the past six months, with more than half of those saying they did so specifically because of the pandemic.
  • The flexibility that will be offered to employees to continue working from home part time or full time also means more times spent in a vehicle. According to Slate, teleworkers tend to travel quite a bit — because their schedules are less regimented — and the places they go to tend to require drive time, as opposed to sitting in an office.

The dayparts that listeners spend in their vehicles listening to radio will also continue to evolve. Radio dayparts have long played a key role for efficient media planning.

However, in a post-pandemic world, dayparts will become even more important, as commute times start to vary, weekend road trips increase in popularity, and daily shopping, dining, and other leisure activities give way to pent-up demand.

Audio Growing at a Rapid Clip

Audio was experiencing tremendous growth prior to 2020, as digital platforms continued to expand, podcast consumption exploded, online and mobile listening grew, and listening through voice assistants continued to climb.

Despite the pandemic, growth in audio continued in 2020 and has picked up at an accelerated rate this year because it offers people an immersive and intimate experience they came to rely on during the crisis.

With its unrivaled reach via over-the-air broadcast, streaming, mobile, podcast, and voice-enabled digital platforms, radio is not only the leader in the audio space, but it also provides the most reach among all media, to the tune of more than 235 million people ages 12 and older, every week.

In many ways, 2020 was like a masterclass on flexibility, understanding, and purpose. The post-pandemic future for radio is bright, and marketers poised to leverage its strengths have the opportunity to connect in a more immersive and inclusive way with a wide array of consumers.

Matter of Fact


Tammy Greenberg Picture
Tammy Greenberg

RAB Business Development

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