Radio: Ready for New Waves of Heavy Listeners?

May 18, 2020


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.


Radio: The Soundtrack of Domestic Front Lines

May 11, 2020


During past conflicts, our heroes shipped off to foreign lands with the Armed Forces Network serving as the soundtrack and trusted voice.

Think of Robin Williams uttering that most famous of phrases, “Goooooood morning Vietnam!”

The movie was based on the real life of Air Force Sergeant Adrian Cronauer. In addition to a memorable show opening, after he died back in 2018, his family recounted that he loved to personally engage with his audience.

Today our COVID-19 heroes remain stateside, which means they aren’t tuning into AFN for companionship. Instead they are listening to their favorite local stations.

AM/FM radio is entertaining and inspiring these listeners who never stopped commuting. In addition, with each Hometown Hero salute, radio continues to super-serve our core heavy listeners.

For cashiers, health care workers, delivery drivers and all of those on the domestic front lines wearing PPE, radio remains their #1 choice and the 800-pound gorilla in the audio space.

As more people return to the workplace, listening will increase, but it won’t all happen overnight. It will be more like waves of marathon runners crossing the “resumed my daily commute” finish line.

As that happens, being ranked in the Top 5 will become more essential to getting on ad buys.

Your station’s ability to connect and engage off-air with the employed, heavy listeners who matter most is the #1 way you can generate the daily cume necessary to drive ratings and win revenue.

This approach doesn’t reflect some opportunistic shift based on COVID-19 research, but rather it’s the foundation of our strategic approach that’s driven client success for over 30 years.

As you review the latest ratings and prepare to reopen your market, we’re building and executing customized shovel ready plans. Reach out to myself, Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, or Jen Clayborn to set up a confidential conversation regarding your competitive situation.

Radio’s 100th anniversary is going to be unlike any other year in our history.

On behalf of everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


Don’t Let Perfect (your budget) Be the Enemy of Good (your marketing plan)

April 13, 2020

It’s already been a month since COVID-19 turned things upside down.

That also means we’re one month closer to restarting the economy.

When the time comes, will you be ready to capture an even larger share of listening and help make up for lost ratings and revenue?

Whether it was post 9/11 or after the Great Recession, we’ve never peddled a shiny new object or touted a magic bullet.

Coronavirus will be no exception.

In fact, during these difficult times, we sharpen our unrelenting focus on building relationships with the employed heavy listeners who matter most to your success.

As weeks turn into months, the strategic initiatives that you commit to during this time will help you win long term on the other side. For our part, we’re increasing our commitment to you – further details below.

In the meantime, as you continue to put out fires and analyze ever changing budget scenarios, it’s not about ignoring the urgent in favor of a virtual corporate retreat, but it’s important that you stay ahead of the curve.

One of the difficulties in making this mental shift is that there continues to be so many unknowns – starting with, when will life get back to normal?

With no definitive answer, your strategy to maximize this downturn doesn’t need to have every “i” dotted or “t” crossed.

According to Voltaire, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

Perfection, according to Psychology Today, “‘may exist as a concept’, but it’s not a reality. After all, its definition is entirely subjective. ‘Achieving perfection’ is entirely a judgment call, depending on who’s trying to achieve it and who’s watching.”

Meanwhile, as Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

When it comes to taking action, significant academic and professional research has been done about the importance of maintaining and growing your advertising investment in the midst of an economic crisis.

Additional reports can be found in publications from the New Yorker a decade ago to Forbes last year and Marketing Week this month.

As we examine these insights, it’s worth noting that our feet are planted firmly on the ground. We certainly understand that even before the current pandemic, marketing budgets in radio have continued to contract in recent years, despite increased competition and audience fragmentation.

In fact, this lack of investment coupled with a prolonged drop in audience consumption makes these subsequent insights even more significant for radio.

Despite these limitations, as Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with army you have, not the army you might want.”

Over the last hundred years, America has experienced a variety of recessions and depressions. Yes, each one feels unique, especially to those going through it and COVID-19 is no exception. However, the enduring lessons are the same.

Companies that cut their marketing during times of economic difficulty, create pain for themselves both during and after the downturn, in terms of revenue, market share and profitability.

In the 1920’s, Harvard graduate Roland Vaile studied 250 companies during the Depression of 1920 and 1921. Hard to believe, but there was a depression at the start of the decade only to be outdone by the Great Depression 10 years later.

According to an analysis by Tellis and Tellis, “The study found that across all industry groups, increasing advertising was associated with increasing sales.”

In subsequent downturns, the results are the same.

In reference to the 1970’s recession, analyst Jane Gilday of Faherty & Faherty said, “the companies I follow, such as P&G, Philip Morris, and Revlon, are becoming more aggressive in their advertising…they’d spend more promotional and ad dollars to gain a little more market share.”

Also during the 1970’s recession, Chevrolet dropped their strategy of pegging advertising as a percentage of sales and increased their advertising while Ford decreased their advertising by 14%. In the subsequent year Chevy increased their market share by 2%, while Ford lost theirs.

In 1985, the Research’s Laboratory of Advertising Performance at McGraw Hill examined the impact of advertising and sales during the 1981-82 recession at 600 companies.

According to researchers, “Firms that did not cut their advertising over both years of the recession, had sales that grew almost 340% by year six.”

In 2002, the Journal of Brand Management, studied the advertising spend of 822 firms and found this compelling insight.

“Those that maintained or increased advertising had 7% annual growth in sales in 1991 compared to non-existent growth for the companies that decreased their advertising expenditures. This gap in sales growth between the two groups widened to 25% by 1995.”

Decade after decade the impact of cutting marketing during an economic crisis leads to the most predictable of results – prolonged pain.

It’s the same conversation your sellers are having with your clients.

For our part, we are helping clients continue to execute their marketing and capture increased share of voice.

We are also helping other clients optimize their audience retention and engagement strategy in the midst of a corporate marketing freeze.

For others, they are reaching out to explore strategic initiatives and develop shovel ready plans because they know that there will be enormous pressure to make up for lost ratings and revenue as communities reopen for business.

In each instance, our commitment to you remains the same. We’re going to help you develop and execute relationship marketing strategies focused on the employed heavy listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

We’re also going to continue to treat every dollar as if it was our own and maximize it accordingly.

Based on the conversations we’re having, we appreciate that you are dealing with an endless stream of items that must be handled immediately during the workday.

The tyranny of the urgent prevents you from getting to the important strategic initiatives and conversations that will be essential to your lasting success.

As a result, DMR/Interactive is expanding our availability into the evening from 8pm to 11pm Eastern (Mon-Thurs).

Simply reach out to myself, Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, or Jen Clayborn to set up a conversation.

Truthfully, we love what we do and we’re always available. This codifies our approach as we continue to serve radio and help you navigate these unprecedented waters.

On behalf of Catherine, Tony, Jen, and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO