Radio: Ready for New Waves of Heavy Listeners?


As we collectively grapple with historic levels of unemployment and millions of people telecommuting, radio’s indomitable spirit remains.

As we fight our way back, there’s an emerging opportunity to increase average daily cume and AQH persons, the building blocks of ratings and revenue.

Despite the temptation to pursue at-home listening/streaming, radio needs to maintain its strategic focus and resources on the Heavy Listeners (7+ hours/week in PPM; 100+ QH in Diary) who generate consistent daily cume and deliver the majority of their QHRs out of home (commute/work).

As radio keeps moving forward, Heavy Listeners remain essential. Audience data across markets and formats confirms that although light users generate cume, they have minimal impact on your ratings. This insight was true before COVID-19, it’s true now and it will be true on the other side of this pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, 130 million Americans commuted to work in a car each day. These listeners are radio’s bread and butter. If there was ever a doubt that radio consumption is dominated by workers who commute, coronavirus has driven home that point.

As more segments of the economy reopen, we must continue to earn these newly available listening occasions and not assume we are entitled to them.

As Heavy Listeners head back to work, they will be joined by an emerging segment of commuters who have access to a car, but until coronavirus, relied on mass transit. As waves of these commuters get back in the car, radio stands to benefit from an increase in occasions and quarter-hours.

– About 7.5 million workers nationwide previously used public transportation to get to work.

– In the age of coronavirus, nobody wants to be on a crowded bus, subway or commuter rail.

– In every major market, the impact on mass transit from COVID-19 has been catastrophic* (data from each of the Top 10 markets further below).

  • New York – Ridership down 92%
  • Los Angeles – Ridership down 76%
  • Dallas – Ridership down 71%

There’s a risk in dismissing the impact of mass transit riders due to perceptions of relatively small numbers outside the Top 10 markets, but every PD knows the very real impact even one or two heavy meters/diaries have on your ratings.

The sustained opportunity for these commuters to remain behind the wheel can help radio offset the impact of unemployment and telecommuting during COVID-19.

As people continue to resume their commute, it’s an ongoing opportunity to welcome workers back and remind them that Radio Rides Shotgun – No Distancing Required. Will you be ready to capitalize on these waves of heavy listeners?

Get Back in the Driver’s Seat with DMR/Interactive.

– Accelerate the recovery of your core audience, win listening from your competitors, and capture heavy listening from new in-car commuters.

– Ensure your brand is top of mind before listeners turn on the radio, so that you win the listening occasion and it doesn’t go to Spotify, Sirius/XM or your competition across the street.

– Lock in your success with our 360° strategic approach to station marketing that builds relationships with the Heavy Listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

We’re continuing to qualify stations/groups for this important opportunity to get Back in the Driver’s Seat and strategize the road ahead, even if your marketing budget is currently on hold.

Schedule your confidential assessment – please contact Andrew Curran, President and COO, DMR/Interactive acurran@dmrinteractive.com. We look forward to helping you efficiently drive ratings and revenue.

* Impact of COVID-19 on Public Transportation in the Top 10 markets. Similar insights in other markets available upon request.

New York: “New York City subway ridership is down 92 percent … Long Island Rail Road ridership has decreased by 97 percent, Metro-North by 95 percent.” Link to this news coverage.

Los Angeles: “Ridership has fallen 64 percent on Metro buses and 76 percent on rail since stay-at-home orders were issued.” Link to this news coverage.

Chicago: “CTA ridership has plunged about 80 percent since Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Metra ridership is in an even bigger free-fall, projected to be down 97 percent.” Link to this news coverage.

San Francisco: “BART’s most optimistic budget projections for the next fiscal year, from this July through June 2021, show ridership averaging half of what it was before the coronavirus outbreak sent the economy into a tailspin, spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. Worst-case scenarios show ridership down 85 percent over the year. Even when those projections extend through the summer of 2022, Trost said, ‘None of them return back to normal levels.’” Link to this news coverage.

Dallas-Ft. Worth: “Compared with the same time period last year — weekday bus ridership decreased by 46%, light-rail ridership dropped 58% and Trinity Railway Express ridership declined 71%, according to Dallas Area Rapid Transit.” Link to this news coverage.

Houston-Galveston: “Bus ridership has plummeted since stay at home orders went into effect. METRO also hasn’t been charging fares.” Link to this news coverage.

Washington, DC: “Ridership at some stations currently totals just 1,200 people per weekday, less than 5% of normal traffic, Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.” Link to this news coverage.

Atlanta: “MARTA — by far the state’s largest transit system — has been hard hit. In addition to the decline in bus passengers, train ridership is down nearly 80%.” Link to this news coverage.

Philadelphia: “Transit ridership was down 79% and Regional Rail ridership fell by 96% last month.” Link to this news coverage.

Boston: “The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the nation’s fourth-busiest public transit system, is now running a modified Saturday schedule and has about 20% of its typical ridership on buses. On subways, ridership is just 8% of a typical pre-pandemic day.” Link to this news coverage.

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