There are many people who say radio is dead or dying. Some say it’s happening while others say, no more people are listening today than ever before. According to Nielsen’s Audio Today report in April, 271 million Americans, or 93 percent of the country, tune in every week. While that’s a lot, I believe radio is still being listened to, but people are listening differently.
In the day of personal mobile devices people are used to hearing their favorite songs on Pandora or Spotify, or listening to their favorite news makers through their podcasts or YouTube. They listen when THEY want to, not when a radio station decides to air a song or popular news maker or entertainer. Intense, interactive, engaged listening is happen more with that technology and LESS with radio.
Our P1 listeners are still there, but in my opinion, they’re fewer. With more radio stations, especially Christians radio stations, being “family friendly and commercial free” or “positive and encouraging” there are more P2 and P3 listeners who are less engaged in their local stations. They’re more button pushers than engages listeners.
I still believe in radio. However, as a program producer, I don’t view it as a way to immediately add revenue to our bottom line. It’s more of a marketing strategy for us. The more we’re heard on radio stations the more name recognition we have. The more name recognition we have the more people will respond to our call to action whether it be through donations, subscriptions, or other kinds of engagement.
The difficult part of this phenomenon is that because Christian radio stations have fewer P1 listeners, in my opinion, they have fewer major donors. But, because they’re playing the music they like, providing compelling talk segments, and aren’t offending anyone, they do have more moms listening. But they’re not giving as much and aren’t as connected because of it.
While some argue there are more people listening, they’re listening less. Time spent listening is dropping up to 1 percent each year. Why? Because more people primarily listen to terrestrial radio while they’re commuting. Mostly because they don’t have radios in their homes. According to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial survey 6 percent of people age 18-34 surveyed in 2008 reported not owning a home radio; in 2018, that went up to 50 percent.
The number of people listening to radio stations through mobile apps and smart speakers is increasing, though, according to Jacobs Media’s 2018 Tech Survey. For program producers like Keys for Kids, this technology will help us because we don’t necessarily need local radio to get our message out, just a good marketing strategy.
I believe the bottom line is that radio isn’t dying it’s just changing. With few terrestrial AM/FM radios in the market and fewer new cars making radio a priority on car dashboards, radio will have to do more to be compelling to keep its listenership. That means more multi-media content and social media exposure to create that new activity.