Nielsen Total Audience Report 2021

Despite a global pandemic, radio held on to its position as the No. 1 reach medium in the U.S., last year, according to the latest Total Audience Report from Nielsen. What’s more, radio increased its share of time spent with media, even as overall time spent with media declined.

First the 30,000-foot view from Nielsen’s 38-page report released Thursday. In Q3 2020, radio reached 88% of adults in the U.S. each week, and those adults tuned in, on average, for a bit over 12 hours per week. App/web use on a smartphone was not too far behind, reaching 85% of U.S. adults weekly, who averaged about 20 hours. Live+ time-shifted TV came in third at 80% reach with Americans tuning in, on average, for about 31 hours. TV-connected devices came in next (56% reach, 12:35 weekly TSL); internet on a computer (52% reach, 7:44 TSL); and app/web on a tablet (45% reach, 10:44 TSL).

Sizing up the impact on media usage trends, Nielsen says the pandemic “has created short-form habitual change across many types of consumers. The desire to perhaps replace commute times with content binges has helped here, and as long as working remotely is an available and accepted practice, any extra time that consumers can devote to content is a marketing opportunity in the making,” the report states.

Apart from game consoles and internet on a computer, all of the nine media tracked by Nielsen showed year-over-year declines in time spent in third quarter 2020. Total time spent per adult 18+ per day declined from about 12 hours in the pre-pandemic Q3 2019 environment to 10 hours one year later. App/web on a smartphone took the biggest hit, losing 92 minutes. Nielsen attributed that steep decline to changes made in May 2020 to how it measures Android platforms to “more precisely capture users’ intended behavior versus app/web activity occurring in the background.” Live TV declined 13 minutes per day, and both radio and app/web on a tablet lost 10 minutes a day among adults 18+.

As media experienced time spent declines, radio’s share of daily time spent by platform went up. AM/FM radio captured 15% of the media day for Adults 18 + in Q3 2020, up from 14% one year earlier, and jumped two percentage points to 15% among adults 18-34. Live + time-shifted TV, TV-connected devices and internet on a computer also made gains in their share of the media day. But while TV’s share is heavily weighted to 50-64 and 65+ demos, radio’s is remarkably consistent across demos.

Apart from internet connected devices, all media platforms showed modest declines in reach. Radio and TV each decreased 4% with radio on top at 88% compared to 80% for TV.

With consumers being bombarded with information from all angles and on every device they own, the report shows legacy platforms such as radio and TV still command the highest share of collective trust in advertising. Sixty percent of adults 35-49 and 54% of adults 18-34 consider radio spots very or somewhat trustworthy, with TV slightly below that at 59% for 35-49 and 51% for 18-34. By comparison, 55% of adults 35-49 and 50% of adults 18-34 consider streaming music services very or somewhat trustworthy, and 54% of adults 35-49 and 50% of adults 18-34 consider podcasts very or somewhat trustworthy. Social media scored the lowest on the trust scale with just 43% of adults 35-49 and 39% of adults 18-34 who consider social media to be very or somewhat trustworthy.

Download the full Nielsen Total Audience Report HERE.