In a disrupted media world, marked by endless choices and ever changing consumer behavior, radio is exhibiting remarkable resiliency. The latest Total Audience Report from Nielsen shows the medium’s No. 1 reach remains rock solid and usage is steady across demos. While time spent with TV continues to plummet and online usage ratchets upwards, radio consumption remains consistent.
The reach narrative may sound like a broken record to those in the industry but its significance can’t be underestimated for marketers faced with more niche media choices but fewer that deliver audience tonnage. The latest numbers, based on first quarter 2019 data, show 92% of U.S. adults listen to radio each week, the highest of any platform. Among Hispanic adults, it’s even higher: 96%.
“If you are a big brand looking to tell your message to consumers at mass scale, the reach of media that come gratis, such as over-the-air TV or terrestrial radio, is still a good bet,” Nielsen says in the just-issued report, adding the caveat that the weekly reach of TV dipped slightly from 88% in first-quarter 2018 to 86% in Q1 2019. App/web on a smartphone reach grew to 80% among all adults, ranked third, while tablet reach declined from 47% to 45%. The reach of internet-connected devices increased the most year-over-year, rising to 42% from 35% in first-quarter 2018.
Drilling into time spent listening, adults 18+ tune to AM/FM radio for 1 hour, 42 minutes per day. While that’s four minutes less than one year ago, consider that TV shaved 17 minutes off its clock, dropping from 4:10 in Q1 2018 to 3:53 in Q1 2019. The big year-over-year TSL gainer is app/web on a smartphone which tacked on 39 more minutes to 3:01 in 2019. While some of that is certainly organic growth, Nielsen also made methodological changes that contributed to the increase. The measurement provider increased the sample size of its mobile panel, resulting in a larger proportion of newer panelists than in previous quarters. In addition, it made a technical enhancement to the mobile meter in November 2018 that captured more overall usage from that point forward.
Blacks out-perform other ethnic groups spending one hour, 48 minutes with radio. Adults 50-64 spend the most time with the medium (2 hours, five minutes per day) while adults 18-34 spend the least (a still respectable 1 hour, 20 minutes). Adults 35-49 log one hour, 45 minutes tuned into to radio.
These variances get smoothed out when Nielsen breaks out share of daily time spent by platform. Radio consistently accounts for between 14% and 16% of daily media use across all age groups. The 18+ number is 15%, putting radio behind live and time-shifted TV (39%) and app/web on a smartphone (26%).
Across all nine media platforms tracked by Nielsen, adults in the U.S. continue to increase their overall cross-media diet. Consumers now spend a stunning 11 hours and 27 minutes per day interacting with media across TV, TV-connected devices, radio, computers, smartphones and tablets. That’s 21 minutes of additional media exposure across all platforms from first-quarter 2018.
While that makes up nearly half (48%) of the total minutes available in a day, some of the consumption is simultaneous usage across devices via multitasking.
“Consumers are connecting to this fragmented content at unparalleled rates—well over 11 hours each day across screens and devices,” says Peter Katsingris, Senior VP, Audience Insights, Nielsen. “So it’s never been more critical for content owners and marketers to cut through the clutter, and maybe even spur some disloyalty, to ensure that their offerings stand out from everything else.”
The greatest growth in overall time spent with media came from adults 18-34, who spent an additional 31 minutes per day across all media than the year prior. They also spend one hour and 22 minutes on TV-connected devices, more than any other age group. But adults 50-64 still spend more time on media than any other group at 12 hours and 51 minutes per day, including the most time on radio, computers and tablets. “It’s important to keep an eye on older demos, however, as U.S. adults are spending more time in the workforce than prior generations and this could impact both their discretionary income as well as the time they have to spend on media as a consumer group,” the report points out.
The Audio Universe
Zeroing in on the growing audio world, Nielsen’s Q1 data shows radio (92%) with nearly double the reach of streaming audio (50%, up from 43% one year earlier). “Radio remains the centerpiece of the audio universe, reaching more U.S. adults each week at 92% than any other media platform.” That statement, published in the context of Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, which examines all media consumption, takes on added significance since media buyers use the report as a barometer for which way the media winds are blowing.
The new data also validates the growth of streaming audio with half of all adults now also using use their smartphones to stream audio, a 16% increase over 2018, while 20% stream through their tablets (up from 13%) and 16% listen to satellite radio (an increase from 14% last year.
Another headline from the world of audio: Smart speakers can now be found in 28% of U.S. households, up from 22% in 2018. Voice assistants are also being used more than ever: 36% of adults use a voice assistant such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
“Smart speakers are amplifying audio use through their versatility, portability and functionality,” the report posits. According to Nielsen’s MediaTech Trender, nearly all smart speaker owners (95%) listen to music on their devices, a number that has grown from 90% last year. Seventy-nine percent listen to news (up from 68% in 2018) while 66% listen to podcasts or audiobooks (up from 45% last year) and 65% listen to sports updates (up from 52% in 2018). Consumers also use smart speakers in other functional ways with the most popular being searching for information, using alarms and timers and performing calculations and conversions.