Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, a growing body of evidence shows radio listening has remained remarkably resilient despite radical changes in consumer behavior. As of Week 2 of Nielsen’s May PPM survey, total week listening was at 82% of its pre-COVID level and up 22% from April’s low while weekend listening came in at 94% of its pre-COVID level, up 34% from April.
Although Nielsen audience estimates are the currency radio is bought and sold on, they’re not the only barometer of how Americans use radio. Any form of research has its inherent shortcomings and neither PPM nor diary measurement is considered to be perfect. Some researchers believe PPM is less reliable under the homebound circumstances listeners are experiencing during COVID. The thinking is that listening has shifted from the car, workplace and gym to the home where wearing the meter is less likely and challenged by changes in people's behaviors.
A broader view of radio listening trends across multiple data sources can provide a more holistic picture. In addition to PPM, that includes diary measurement for the vast majority of radio markets, growth in online listening and surveys of media consumption from trusted industry research organizations.
Nielsen diary data from the March survey in continuously measured markets shows little change from the pre-COVID time periods, with AQH and cume down a single percentage point.
A perceptual study conducted by Nielsen from March 20-22, just over a week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, found 28% of Americans are listening to more radio since the virus outbreak, compared to 17% who are listening less.
Survey results issued by media buying agency Mindshare in late April showed similar results with nearly a third (31%) of Americans saying they are listening to more radio than prior to the outbreak. And 34% of respondents in a study from Havas Group conducted from March 31 to April 6 said they’ve increased radio consumption.