Signal Hill Insights

Advertisers, take note: results of a new study from Canada show that among listeners who use their free online streaming music services in the background, nearly seven of ten pay close attention to what's between the music on AM/FM stations, compared to four in ten when they listen to free online streaming music services. The study of how listeners use different types of audio, conducted by researcher Signal Hill Insights and titled “All Audio Is Not Alike,” was the focus of RAB's latest webinar.

“The tendency is to put different types of audio – radio, music streaming and podcasting – into the same box,” Signal Hill Insights President and founder Jeff Vidler says. “Advertisers move ad dollars from one [audio] medium to another on the assumption that it's all the same, and that if music streaming is going up, that means radio must be going down. It isn't quite that simple.”

Signal Hill's survey of over 1,500 Canadian adults age 18+ during February and June 2021, in partnership with Radio Connects, breaks out listeners of AM/FM radio, music streaming services and owned music, and podcasts based on the needs participants say each serves, and the activities they do while listening to each. While most say they listen to AM/FM “to get information” or “to feel connected,” streamers/owners are more likely to listen “to relax” and “to lift my mood” while podcast listeners fill the need “to learn something new” or “to be entertained.” “They really show a distinct profile for each type of audio,” Vidler says.

Listening activities also vary by audio type, based on the survey results, with AM/FM listeners more likely to be commuting or shopping/running errands in the car while tuned in, as opposed to streamers and podcast listeners who are more likely to be relaxing at home.

When Canadian listeners who use free online streaming music services in the background were asked about the degree of attention paid to what is said between the music, 68% say they pay extremely/very or somewhat close attention to what's said on music-based AM/FM stations, vs. 42% of listeners on free streaming music services. Turning that around, only 5% of AM/FM listeners pay no attention at all to what's between songs, vs. 21% of free streamers. Vidler drives that point home with separate U.S. data from Westwood One's MARU/Matchbox study showing eight in ten AM/FM listeners say “I can hear what people are talking about when I'm listening,” vs. just over half of Spotify or Pandora listeners.

Signal Hill's study, bolstered with the additional data presented, suggests that AM/FM, which remains the dominant audio choice among adult listeners, offers distinct advantages for advertisers separate from those for other music choices. “It's an exciting time for audio: time to look at new dollars, not just shuffling them around from one to another,” Vidler says. “Each form of audio has something to offer in the larger advertising landscape.”

This story has been updated to more clearly define the subset of participants used in Signal Hill’s survey of Canadian listeners.