Nielsen COVID 19 cover

With tens of millions sheltering in place due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, listeners are seeking out radio on new platforms. Fresh data from Nielsen’s flash survey of 1,000 adults 18+ in the U.S. conducted this past weekend shows more than one in four (27%) say they’ve “looked for new ways to listen to my favorite radio station/personality” because of the coronavirus outbreak and its associated restrictions. And 26% indicate they used Google or other search engines to find their fave station or personality.

“There has been lot of upheaval and change to the daily routine and people are searching for their favorite content,” Tony Hereau, Nielsen VP of Cross-Platform Insights, said during a webinar for clients Thursday. “We’re expecting there to be some changes to listening as a result of this outbreak.”

And it is younger demos, by far, that are seeking alternate ways to access radio info during the ongoing health crisis. Nearly four in ten (39%) of 18-24 year-olds and 38% of 25-34 year-olds say they used Google or other search engines to find the station or personality they’re looking for. More than a third (36%) of 18-24s and 41% of 25-34s say they’ve looked for new ways to listen to their favorite station or show.

That younger listeners are seeking non-traditional ways to listen during the pandemic isn’t surprising as traditional AM/FM receivers continue to slowly vanish from homes. According to Infinite Dial 2020, from Edison Research and Triton Digital, more than half (52%) of 18-34 year-olds say they have zero traditional AM/FM receivers in their home.

The big headlines to emerge from the study are that 83% of American adults report spending the same or more time with radio as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. And 60% of Adults 18+ say they trust radio to give timely information about the coronavirus, as Inside Radio reported Wednesday.

“Trust is not something you can build overnight, it’s built over years or even decades,” Hereau told the webinar audience, which Nielsen said numbered 1,056 attendees with a nice split between broadcasters and advertisers/agencies.

Additional findings revealed during the webinar provide a more granular look at radio as a trusted source of information. Across the entire sample of adults aged 18 or older, six in ten trust radio to give them information that is timely and accurate and more than half (53%) say they trust the info they get from their favorite hosts. And 44% say they’re still finding ways to listen to radio even though they’re not commuting or working outside the house. Significantly, 42% say having access to radio – either on-air or online – has helped them deal with the virus outbreak.

Radio’s trust factor is even higher among more educated listeners. Asked if they trust radio to give accurate info about the coronavirus, the percentages rose in lockstep with education level: 49% for those with a high school education or less, 52% for some college or an associate’s degree, 69% of college graduates and 73% of those with a post-graduate degree. The percentages were similar when it came to trusting radio for timely information.

In the same vein, radio’s ability to connect with listeners is highest among those employed fulltime or those temporarily out of work due to COVID-19. Just over half (51%) of both groups agreed that “listening to my favorite radio hosts makes me feel less stressed,” compared to 29% for part-time employees and 31% of those not employed, including retirees, students and homemakers.

The findings are important for both radio sellers and buyers. AEs are looking for credible research to prove to advertisers that their audiences are still listening – even if it’s not in their cars commuting to and from work. And advertisers and agencies are eager to learn the impact that today’s work-from-home economy is having on radio listening levels.

The perceptual study, fielded from March 20-22 among a weighted sample of 1,000 adults 18+ in the U.S., found that more than half of respondents (53%) agree that listening to their favorite radio hosts during the coronavirus restrictions “makes me feel more informed about things I need to know.” Nearly half (46%) say it “helps me know about what stores are open and where I can shop.” The same portion (46%) say tuning to their favorite hosts during the pandemic “makes me feel more connected to my community” while 44% say it “makes me feel less alone.” In addition, 40% indicate it “makes me feel less stressed” and more than one third (37%) say it “makes me feel less concerned/panicked.”

Focusing on American attitudes surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and radio listening, the study reinforces the importance of efforts radio has made to keep audiences informed and entertained during the outbreak.

Increased reliance on radio during the crisis is part of a larger trend of rising media consumption. Americans are already spending almost 12 hours each day with media, Nielsen says, and that time could grow by 60% among those who stay indoors.