How Has the Pandemic Impacted Time Spent with Audio?

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. early in 2020, Americans quickly began to experience seismic shifts in their daily routines. Many of them were furloughed or laid off, or informed that they needed to begin working from home on a full-time basis. Naturally, this changed consumer habits significantly. In particular, the consumption of media, including audio, has undergone some changes. Radio advertisers will want to take a look at the following statistics and trends as they begin planning their 2021 advertising budgets.

How the Pandemic Was Expected to Affect Radio Listening Habits

Radio broadcasting companies have long relied on the consumer habit of listening to the radio in the car during one’s commute. Americans also enjoy listening to the radio while they are taking road trips. One major concern of radio broadcasters and radio advertisers was that listening habits would significantly drop.

Millions of Americans were told to remain in their homes as much as possible. Countless people were informed that they could work from home, and many were furloughed or laid off entirely. Families put vacation plans on hold, as road trips and other long-distance travel plans were too risky.

Unsurprisingly, this raised concerns among radio advertisers. It was believed that spending a great deal less time in their cars meant that Americans would also spend less time listening to the radio.

How the Pandemic Has Affected Radio Listening Habits

Despite these concerns, the radio listening habits of Americans remained surprisingly stable. In fact, a Nielsen survey found that eight in 10 Americans reported spending either the same or more time listening to radio stations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this does represent a slight drop-off in listenership, the statistics should be reassuring to radio advertisers who had feared a much more significant decline. In fact, some devoted listeners—28% of them—report spending more time listening to the radio than previously.

How the Pandemic Has Affected Audio Streaming Habits

The Nielsen survey results do not differentiate between Americans listening to traditional radios (e.g. radios in their cars) and those who use radio streaming services or digital radio. Indeed, the consumption of radio streaming has been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic.

A full 32% of Americans are spending less time listening to the radio in their vehicles, but 26% of them report spending more time listening at home. Furthermore, 14% are listening to more podcasts, 19% are spending more time listening on mobile devices, and 12% are spending more hours streaming radio from their desktop computers. The use of smart speakers is also on the rise, with 10% reporting spending more time listening to the radio on devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Nest Audio, and Bose Home Speaker.

Other organizations report similarly favorable results from their surveys. Data from Comscore has revealed that, on average, U.S. households began listening to audio streaming by almost one hour more per day during the first six months of the pandemic. This is an increase of about 32%.

Comscore also evaluated the consumption of audio on connected TV (CTV) devices. These include gaming consoles, smart TVs, and streaming sticks and boxes. The Amazon Fire TV stick is the most popular CTV device for audio streaming. In May of 2020, listeners spent a collective 67.7 million hours streaming audio files on the stick. That’s an increase from 56.9 million hours in January of 2020.

A similar trend is seen with other CTV smart devices. On Amazon Echo, users listened to 48.4 million hours of audio streaming in May of 2020, which is a significant increase from 36.3 million hours in January of 2020. Xbox One and Google Home saw similar increases.

Why Americans Turn to Radio Stations in Times of Crisis

During times of crisis, Americans have long turned to the media for information. Tuning into media outlets also gives people a feeling of connectivity during a time when they are stressed and the future is uncertain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans overwhelmingly decided that radio stations were trustworthy sources of information and solace. Nielsen reports that 60% of Americans ages 18 and older view radio stations favorably, believing that on-air personalities can be trusted to deliver solid information.

Brad Kelly, the Managing Director of Nielsen Audio, issued this comment: “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.”

Indeed, many Americans view radio as being akin to comfort food. Trusted on-air personalities can provide much-needed solace during difficult times. During March of 2020, Nielsen asked 1,000 American adults to report whether they agree with the following statements regarding listening to radio hosts during the pandemic:

    • Makes me feel less concerned/panicked: 37% agree
    • Makes me feel less stressed: 40% agree
    • Makes me feel less alone: 44% agree
    • Makes me feel more connected to my community: 46% agree
    • Helps me know which stores are open during the pandemic: 46% agree
    • Makes me feel more informed: 53% agree

Clearly, the pandemic has encouraged Americans to rely on radio stations for connectivity and information during these challenging times. This presents prime opportunities for radio advertisers.

How Radio Advertisers Can Best Utilize Listening Trends

Investing in radio advertisements is a smart move at any time, but particularly so during global or national crises. However, it’s worth taking a look at other changes in consumer habits when planning advertising campaigns. As the pandemic has forced people indoors more often, many of them are planning home renovation projects, which makes this an ideal time to ramp up advertising for home improvement-related businesses. Advertisers can also emphasize convenient, contact-free pick-up of essentials such as groceries, pharmacy items, gasoline, restaurant takeout, and similar items.

Salem Surround is here to help you with comprehensive digital and audio marketing services to surround your target audience with consistent brand messaging. Contact our team to discuss your radio advertising objectives.

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