What listeners want from AM/FM radio during COVID-19

April 30, 2020 By Jon Holiday ~ Managing Partner Radio Consulting Services

Anyone who knows me professionally, knows I am a fan of research and have always used it in some form or another. Why? Because I was fortunate enough to work for companies that invested in making their products the best. Whether it was music research, audience research or a market perceptual, etc.

One of the most vital aspects is interpretation of the data. This is where your knowledge and experience both in general and of your market are important. That coupled with gut instinct and maybe even a little luck come into play. Afterall research is an imperfect science.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw an email string that included an owner who we do not know. He strongly suggested radio stations become a complete escape. We thought that might be ill advised. But how much info is too little, just right or too much?

Now that I have set this up for you, the recent COVID 19 audience research that is available to anyone has come in real handy. Cumulus Media/Westwood One surveyed 1,154 listeners March 31 through April 8, 2020 in a study that spanned the country in markets large and small. The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) and Jacobs Media also released a listener study of over 20,000 AM/FM radio listeners earlier this month.

Here are the key findings from these studies:

For decades, listener research has found that consumers want their preferred music genre and entertaining personalities. The Cumulus Media study found little change in what listeners want from AM/FM radio. The Coronavirus has not altered the most basic listener needs. Listeners still want stations to play their favorite music and have great personalities.

Among regular listeners to a variety of AM/FM radio formats, 72%-78% say they want normal programing. “Stick to your format and stay in your lane,” advises Fred Jacobs from Jacobs Media. He notes, “People want their favorite stations to sound the way they do.”

Listeners to Urban format stations indicated the largest desire in programming focused on Coronavirus. News reports indicate that people of color are impacted to a much greater degree by the pandemic. African Americans express much greater concern over Coronavirus. The RAB and Jacobs Media study finds that 89% of African Americans say, “We are in a full-blown crisis,” versus 77% of listeners overall.

Regardless of how much info you share, choosing what to share is key. The most important facet of local radio will continue to be its community-connected content. Sharing memes with your audience, participating in stay-at-home challenges, jocks doing TikTok videos and everything else you can imagine are valuable, especially given the myriad of organic digital touchpoints through which stations can extend their audience relationships.

About Radio Consulting Services

For nearly a decade, Radio Consulting Services has provided programming, music, marketing and promotional direction to stations all over the United Stations and Canada.

Radio Consulting Services is a multi-format consulting and programming services company advising stations in various formats on growing audience.

For more information on how Radio Consulting Services can help your company gain more listeners, achieve higher ratings and grow revenue, contact us.