With more people on the go and more traffic on the road, radio listening is at its highest levels in 16 months, according to Nielsen’s latest “Audio Today” report. Among the employed, two thirds are now working outside the home, up more than 70% since the height of lockdown in the spring of 2020.
“Listening may have migrated into the home during the past year via (a) smart speaker or (a) mobile device, but now we’re tracking the audience shift back to pre-pandemic habits with in-car and out-of-home consumption increasing,” Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly says in the report. In June 2021, 40% of heavy radio listeners said they spent an hour or more in a car or truck yesterday, up from 28% in April 2020. The numbers were lower among Nielsen’s total sample – 26% spent an hour or more in a vehicle yesterday, nearly double the 14% who said they did in April 2020.
Radio’s audience composition by listening location continues to shift to locales outside the home. In Nielsen’s PPM markets, 69% of listening in May 2021 occurred out of home, up from 62% in May 2020. Over the same time frame, the portion of radio exposure occurring at home declined to 31% from 38%.
In Nielsen’s continuously measured diary markets (CDM), the measurement giant is able to delineate recalled listening by three different locations: at work, at home and in car. In May 2021, in-car accounted for 44% of CDM market listening, up from 38% in May 2020 while at-work remained largely the same in the 21% to 22% neighborhood. At-home, meanwhile, declined to 32% in May 2021 from 38% one year earlier.
For advertisers, Nielsen says these trends provide an opportunity to capitalize on America’s growing consumer confidence, mobility and spending needs as the country emerges from the pandemic. After all, radio is long known for reaching consumers out and about in the marketplace and as the media closest to the point of purchase.
“All the while, radio’s value proposition for marketers hasn’t budged: it specializes in reaching consumers who are ready to spend right now, while they’re in the marketplace, and does so in a controlled environment which protects the advertiser’s reputation,” says Kelly.
Leading The Way In Resuming Activities
Nielsen’s data shows radio is America’s top weekly reach medium, and an essential part of the daily media diet for millions. Importantly, radio listeners are leading the way in resuming weekly activities at pre-pandemic levels. According to the latest data from Nielsen Audio’s Consumer Sentiment survey, nine in ten Americans say they are now “ready to go” and return to normal life habits and activities, a new high that reflects rising optimism among consumers. Radio consumers are slightly more ready according to the survey. It finds 91% say they are “ready to go” compared to 8% who plan to “proceed with caution” in their lifestyle normalization and 1% who said they are taking a “wait and see” approach to pandemic life. Those consumers plan to spend across multiple categories, including major purchases, everyday items, travel and dining.
“Not only are radio listeners the leading optimists among us, they’ve also remained more active (and more mobile) throughout the pandemic,” Kelly continues. “They are ready to go and ready to spend; more likely to make major purchases like a house or a new car, as well as across a host of local shopping categories.”
The data also show radio audiences are more likely to be out and about and engaging in top weekly activities. Radio listeners are more likely to shop for groceries in a store, (87%) drive in their vehicle (83%), or get together in person with friends and family than the average adult (62%).
With restrictions easing, the Nielsen data show radio listeners are more likely to spend than the total population across a wide range of categories. Radio listeners say they are 7% more likely to spend on travel within a month, 8% more prone to spend on shopping, 9% more apt to splurge on food and dining, 12% more likely to use professional services and 14% more likely to invest in home improvement. In four of these six categories, heavy radio listeners are even more likely to spend than all radio listeners.
Despite recent developments around the pandemic, the report details the still mostly dominant tide of optimism that headlines the American experience as we continue to grapple with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.