The Recovery is Outpacing Listening

The holidays were 3 months ago, vaccines are rolling out at breakneck speed, more school districts are reopening.

Yet as FEB PPM data arrives this week, listening levels are flat to down in many markets. Not just year over year, but compared to last month. 

Across all levels of government, there’s an intensity around vaccine delivery, which needs to be replicated by radio when it comes to listening habits.

After a year of uncertainty, the quickest way to recapture ratings and revenue is with a relentless focus to rebuild listening habits in the car and at-work.

As an industry, we’ve become conditioned to gradual year over year declines in AQH Persons. The next 12 months represent an opportunity to punch our way out of that corner and reverse the trend.

For decades, positioning statements such as “the most music every hour” or “the no repeat workday” have helped stations define their appeal based on how they are differentiated from competitors.

As the recovery accelerates, it’s about understanding the needs of the audience and communicating your value proposition. The opportunity exists for stations to be differentiated for consumers.

In the best of times, listeners spend 96% of life away from the radio. Using all the tools at your disposal to win more occasions is job No. 1.

It’s all hands on deck.
Station social media posts and e-mail newsletters are heavy on celebrity news and podcasts, but light on promoting on-air listening occasions. Consistently highlight your talent along with drive time and at-work listening occasions.

It takes a village. Solicit crowd-sourced content from your audience and advertisers, including life hacks around timely issues – how to nail a virtual job interview, relearning how to balance family life and a commute. Your station doesn’t and shouldn’t have to do it all, but the brand and its air talent get credit for cultivating the topics, inviting participation and sharing the results.

Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Your female listeners have absorbed the brunt of childcare and remote learning during this pandemic. Local stations can show empathy and demonstrate leadership to facilitate conversations about how we can chart a better path forward.

More Wind at Our Backs

Although there’s trepidation around the future of commuting, billion dollar commitments to new office space by large companies such as Amazon and average commercial leases lasting 10 years should help assuage some of those fears. More importantly, the past year has created tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs not typically found in the midst of economic turbulence. In Q3 of 2020 alone, there were more than 1.5 million new-business applications, twice as many as the same period in 2019.

Even consultants McKinsey & Company admit, “we didn’t see this coming. After all, during the 2008–09 financial crisis, small-business formation declined. This time, though, there is a veritable flood of new small businesses.”

In fact, “the volume of ‘high-propensity-business applications (those that are likeliest to turn into businesses with payrolls) has also risen strongly – more than 50 percent compared with 2019.”

While Fortune 500 companies dominate the headlines, the backbone of the economy is small business.

In fact, when it comes to radio-friendly workplaces, small businesses are your station’s best friend and workplace calling is an essential element of a 360° marketing strategy to win heavy listeners.

Let’s rebuild listening habits and outperform your market by super serving those who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and driving radio forward.


Andrew Curran
President and COO

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