There is new data from Jacobs Media that suggests the bond between radio and its listeners may have grown even stronger during the pandemic. That's based on record-setting results in commercial radio’s Net Promoter Score in Jacobs Media’s forthcoming TechSurvey 2021.
The Net Promoter Score is an indicator of the likelihood a listener will promote a radio station, asking survey participants how likely they are to recommend a radio station to a friend, family member or co-worker. It is used as a proxy for listener loyalty. And while the numbers move up and down through the years, Jacobs Media says commercial radio has never scored as high as it did in the TechSurvey that was just conducted in January and February. The result was a score of 50, the best in the 17-year history of the survey, beating the previous record set in 2013.
Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs says in a blog post that radio stations most likely benefited during the past year by filling an emotional need more than previous years. “While radio listening dropped due to in-car listening considerably slipping especially during the earliest months of the pandemic, many consumers rallied around their favorite stations,” he says. “They gravitated to personalities and programming they were familiar with and they could count on. Stations that did an exemplary job of reflecting the local vibe – supporting local businesses and essential workers – may have helped power these all-important Net Promoter Scores.”
While some listening did shift to podcasts or streaming music services during a work-from-home year, Jacobs says TechSurvey data shows that among people who remained with radio the connection to their favorite station grew. “Radio's listening levels may have taken a hit, but others became more appreciative of and engaged with their P1 stations,” he says.
Christian and public radio formats typically have the biggest Net Promote Scores each year, and that remained the case again in 2021. In fact, the two formats turned in exceptionally strong performances with both posting gains compared to a year ago. But Jacobs says many commercial radio formats also had a strong year with Rhythmic, Urban, Urban AC and Triple A leading the pack. He thinks America’s focus on racial equality may have been a factor. “In this tumultuous year when race was one of the nation's frequent conversations, these formats that speak to their communities jumped ahead of the pack,” says Jacobs.
One surprise may be News/Talk finished last despite a year filled with pandemic and political news that turbocharged listening. Its Net Promote Score declined to 34, down two points from a year earlier. But Jacobs notes News/Talk and Alternative have typically been at the bottom in recent years and TechSurvey 2021 was no different. One factor may be that men and older consumers tend to be tough graders, he suggests, something that would impact the two formats.
Overall, the average Net Promote Score this year is 50. That is up 16% from the average score of 43 in 2020.
Jacobs says one of the takeaways from this year’s Net Promoter Scores is how some stations benefitted from the foundation they laid in the past. “Trusted personalities had a chance to connect with fans in far more intimate ways than was even possible in a COVID year. The pandemic shook most of us to our cores. And so trusted, familiar, empathetic, and resonant media partners may have had an edge,” he says.
As things slowly begin to return to pre-pandemic normal, Jacobs cautions radio may need to do more to bring back “fringe listeners” that may have wandered away from AM/FM during the pandemic back. That may have once meant pricey ad campaigns, but in today’s leaner budget times he suggests they can be replaced with cheaper alternatives like social media and email databases.