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The Listenership Evolves

Pandora has released some  findings from an audience and listenership survey conducted by the respected research company, Edison Media.  Click here for a brief overview published on the RAIN blog 8/3/20. Some personal observations on a couple of items in the summary:
  1. As always, heavy listeners seek “companionship”.
  2. Once again, audio ads are more likely to put customers in the store than ads in any other medium.
  3. The report is that streaming listeners now spend 46% less time with AM/FM than in the previous year.
  4. Light listeners seek entertainment and new music.
  5. Heavy listeners are voracious, spending far more time listening via their devices than do light listeners.
Here are my take-aways on those five points from the report brief.
  1. For a music station, “companionship” means something beyond the right music mix. Having a live (or a very live-sounding) person hosting the broadcast may be the single most-important element for distinguishing a station in a listener’s mind and life. Radio sorely needs real disc-jockeys again. People that spin records, talk frequently but don’t talk “too much”.  For an example of what “too much” means, listen to just about any nationally syndicated morning show.
  2. Every such research study on the subject of media messaging that I’ve read since the beginning of my radio career way back in the last century reports it: Radio is the most effective and cost-efficient advertising medium.
  3. Here’s one that may be somewhat misleading as we aren’t told what “less time” is. I’ve seen another study that found younger people who listen to their local radio station on their device do not self-identify as a broadcast listener. Instead they say “I listen to (the station) stream on my phone.” There is no argument that AM/FM listenership has declined, but if this study doesn’t take that into consideration (it’s not obvious that it does), then the figure here means next to nothing.
  4. Light listeners seeking ‘new music’ have a gazillion sources for that, so our radio station needs to focus on how to be entertaining.
  5. Heavy listenership as defined in this study seems a useless data-point for a music radio producer because podcast listeners are included in the measurement.
I’ve always loved looking at radio research data and studies. But the first thing I learned about it is: how the question is asked too often biases the answers in such a way as to either obfuscate the true answer or to invalidate a data-point entirely. And also, if you look at enough of it, you begin to learn things by making connections from something you read in one report to something you read in a different one. The best research is that which teaches you something you didn’t know you were looking for.