Radio listening is on the road to normalcy, or so a new analysis of in-car listening by the Radio Research Consortium suggests. It shows for the second time since the pandemic began last March, more listening was done in-car than in-home in the 44 Continuous Diary Measurement (CDM) markets during May. Based on listening location percentages for total average quarter-hour (AQH) to radio, the Nielsen data shows 41.5% of listening came in the car. That was up a half percentage point from April. While the change was small, it was in some ways monumental since the last two consecutive months that in-car topped in-home were in February and March 2020 prior to the pandemic lockdowns.
The CDM figures are based on a rolling three-month average so the latest data covers March, April and May. They show as in-car listening has ticked higher, in-home listening continues to drop. In May it was 39.9%, the lowest number since March 2020. At its peak in June 2020, at-home listening represented half of radio listening in these four-book diary markets.
“Certainly, the return of in-car listening, an important element in the success of broadcast radio, bodes well for the future,” says Carl Nelson, Manager of Diary Client Services at the Radio Research Consortium. “The big question is whether in-car will get back to the same percentage as it was before.”
Yet while Americans are turning in while in their car, they may not be heading to work. The same Nielsen data shows at-work listening levels remain fairly flat month-to-month, although only slightly behind the pre-pandemic numbers. “That tells us something too – maybe there are people who lost their jobs too,” says Nelson.
The 44 Continuous Diary Measurement service offers something that PPM cannot – the ability to measure at-work or in-car. PPM is only able to say whether someone is at-home or not when they are listening to an encoded signal. Nelson, says it is likely that PPM trend lines look similar, pointing out that the CDM market list includes top 100 cities like New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Greenville-Spartanburg, SC; and Buffalo. “These are pretty good-sized markets still,” he says.
RRC's analysis of CDM markets also shows total week cume persons to radio in May 2021 increased by a slight 0.2% from April. But more critically, it is still 99% of the pre-pandemic March 2020 level. At the same time, the total AQH (Persons Using Radio) increased by 1.8% from April to May.
There are some indications that PPM markets are showing similar trend lines. The Radio Research Consortium earlier reported that total market Average Quarter-Hour listening (PUMM) in April was 89% of where it was before the pandemic. And as of April, the average weekly cume in PPM markets was back to 95% of pre-pandemic levels.