Impact of Radio Listeners

Although the coronavirus has changed many aspects of everyday life, when it comes to listener expectations, the audience still wants their favorite radio station to sound like their favorite radio station. Nearly two thirds of core radio listeners surveyed online in early April said their favorite station should “stick to its format and not get too information heavy.” In other words, despite keeping listeners informed about the evolving pandemic, stations should stay in their lane. “People want their favorite radio station to sound the way it normally does,” Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media, said during a RAB-sponsored webinar Wednesday, unveiling the results of a new listener survey. Only three in ten respondents said they want the radio station that sent them the survey to be more humorous about the virus and just 7% said it should sound more serious. And less than one in four (22%) want their favorite station to provide more COVID information than it already is.

In broad terms, the online survey of 20,902 core radio listeners – solicited via the email databases of 108 commercial radio stations in the U.S. – found audiences are happy with what they’re hearing from their preferred radio station during the crisis. Eight in ten said their home station is providing a good balance of information and humor. “This is really important in a situation like this where every station has had to grapple with whether to change its presentation or change the balance of humor and information,” Jacobs said. Six in ten respondents, which represented 14 different formats, rated their home station as “excellent” since the outbreak, a percentage that was largely consistent across demos, ethnicities and whether the listeners lived in a city, suburb or a rural area. Another 30% gave good scores.

Suggesting that radio has struck the right balance between essential information and much needed escape, more than seven in ten (71%) said their favorite radio station is paying the right amount of attention to the coronavirus. And survey participants said they want radio to stick with the basics of music, mornings and personalities throughout the day. In fact 27% said music is more important now, 25% indicated their station's morning show is more important and 23% said personalities throughout the day are more important now.

So what do these core radio listeners want more from radio as the COVID crisis continues? More than four in ten (44%) said they want to see the station that sent them the survey do more in terms of supporting local workers, such as first responders and grocery stores workers. Three in ten (29%) want more music and 27% want more contests and giveaways. “Contests may be a welcome distraction while people are worrying about their jobs,” Jacobs said. “But the big takeaway here is supporting local workers.”

Radio scored high on the trust scale with 48% of respondents saying they “completely trust” the station that sent them the survey to provide answers and solutions to the outbreak. In fact, radio was second only to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health (54%) in trustworthiness. One in four (24%) respondents said they completely trust NPR/Public Radio in this regard, followed by local TV stations (17%). Social media came in last among nine choices with a meager 1%.

The online survey of 20,902 core radio listeners was conducted from March 31- April 2. Participants were solicited via the email databases of 108 participating commercial radio stations in the U.S., representing 14 formats. Because it was conducted exclusively online, the survey doesn’t represent all commercial radio listeners. “Keep in mind this is just a snapshot of what people were doing and thinking for a few days a couple of weeks ago,” Jacobs said. “It’s not set up to represent the population but they are radio listeners and what they are thinking is critically important to consider right now.”

Catch a replay of the webinar HERE.