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Jacobs Media Techsurvey Asks: Why FM? Respondents Point To Personalities.

To what degree do listeners tune in to FM radio for personalities, hosts and shows? And in a world where Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and SiriusXM are offering popular music services, how is local radio competing in that highly charged subscription environment? That’s the query posed by Fred Jacobs in a new blog post previewing Jacobs Media Strategies’ Techsurvey 2021 results.

“My favorite chart in Techsurvey attempts to answer the question, ‘Why AM/FM radio?’ Jacobs writes in the April 13 column. “We give respondents a long list of potential reasons why they opt for broadcast radio over other options—and we ask them to identify the main driver for choosing a regular radio station.”

The runner-up response in the 2021 Techsurvey, when asked for the main reason they listen, he reveals, is “DJs, hosts, shows,” favored by a robust 61% of respondents (just behind No. 1 “easiest to listen to in car,” at 65%). Responses of a similar kin include “feel a connection with radio” (52%), keeps me company (46%), and what’s going on locally (37%).

Two-thirds of fans of CHR, urban AC and rock stations chose DJs, hosts and shows as their primary driver of broadcast radio. “It’s personalities that have become highly proprietary,” Jacobs stresses. “They are the difference-makers for so many radio stations. And they’re the reason why more and more companies seek strong, habit-forming personalities, shows and hosts in dayparts outside of morning drive. It’s also why syndicated talent has become so important in recent years. Anybody can duplicate your music, but it’s the people behind the mic that are (the) ‘secret sauce.’”

Because Techsurvey has been conducted for more than two decades, there are also observable trends in the Jacobs’ research. In comparing those who say music is a main driver in listening to AM/FM radio versus those who say personalities are paramount, a clear trend has emerged: The appeal of music on radio is actually becoming secondary to the appeal of personalities.

The chart above reveals that choosing “I want to hear favorite songs and artists” on FM has dipped since 2014, from 70% choosing it as a top response to 55%. Meanwhile, “I like particular DJs, shows and hosts” has, in fact, escalated. In 2021, the response has ticked up as the top tune-in reason from 57% to 61%.

Jacobs notes: “In 2021, that’s where the future of so many stations and radio companies rests – on their ability to not only nurture and grow their current cadre of personalities, but to also build and prepare for the future. Understanding your radio station's chemistry – its DNA – is the key to comprehending its current fate, as well as its future. And as programming veterans know, we have the power to alter the brand and its appeal – if we make the right calculated moves at the optimal time.”

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