Nielsen 2020 Audio Today - Radio Recovery cover

As it surveyed American consumers for their sentiments about the COVID pandemic, Nielsen coined a new phrase to identify a group of Americans who have consistently been out and about and on the go. Dubbed the “Ready-to-Go” group, the surveys showed they are more optimistic, fully ready to engage now and ready to make major purchases sooner. Turns out this group of heavy radio users are the country’s essential workers.

As Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly put it in the intro to a new edition of its Audio Today series, these are “the ones we rely on to keep the lights on, the water flowing, and the shelves stocked.” This cohort is made up of store clerks, ambulance drivers, nurses, the delivery staff, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, and gas station attendants. “For these folks, the people we now rely on most, they rely on radio,” Kelly writes in “On The Road To Recovery With AM/FM Radio.”

Seven months into the pandemic, this group now makes up half of U.S. consumers. The latest wave of Nielsen’s ongoing consumer lifestyle surveys found that 53% of consumers as of October are “ready to go.” Feeling that life is becoming more normal, they’re more likely to resume usual activities and shopping patterns as restrictions ease.

This cohort also has an attractive qualitative profile—they’re more likely to be aged 25-to-54, have children, earn over $100,000 annually, and work outside the home.

And because they spend more time away from home, they consume more radio than those who stay put. Nielsen’s latest consumer sentiment survey, fielded Oct. 1-5 via an online survey based on a weighted sample of 1,000 persons aged 18+, shows the “Ready-to-Go” camp is 9% more likely to be heavy radio listeners.

Meanwhile, with the onset of Fall, changes in working and commuting patterns—along with a return to school—are sparking growth in radio listening, Nielsen says in the report. Tracking the past eight months of data in the 48 PPM markets, the October survey (covering Sept. 10- Oct. 7) reveals that radio’s weekly reach has recovered to within three points of March levels.

As earlier reported by Inside Radio, more employed people are working outside the home, time spent in vehicles continues to rise, and more kids are attending some in-person classes with radio on during the drive to school. The number of employed persons working outside the home continued to rise in October, Nielsen says, hitting 61%, up from 53% in June, 46% in May and 39% in late April.

Nielsen also found that time spent in the vehicle continued to grow in October, reaching one hour, five minutes daily among the total sample. But heavy radio listeners spent double that amount of time in the car (2:11).

The latest numbers show stability in listening location. For a third month in a row, 69% of listening occurring out of home and 31% in-home, in line with the ratio back in March.

“Despite conventional wisdom, radio listening did not dissolve when commuting patterns changed,” Kelly says in the new report. “Some of that drive-time listening migrated into the home. People have started using radio/audio in new ways.”