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PQ Media: Radio Experiences Greatest Growth In Usage Since 2002.

Overall radio listenership in the U.S. last year posted its highest growth rate since 2002, as increased listening to news/talk combined with higher digital radio consumption, according to data provided to Inside Radio by PQ Media.

Total radio/audio listening in the U.S. climbed 2.8% to 11.32 Hours Per Week in 2020, up from 11.24 HPW in 2019. Broadcast radio listening grew 2.2% to 10.11 HPW from 9.47 while digital ramped up to 1.77 HPW from 1.21, an increase of 5.6%.

“With more people at home listening to radio during the day, AM talk radio exhibited stronger spikes in listenership than seen during most previous presidential elections,” PQ Media CEO Patrick Quinn told Inside Radio. “This was one of the drivers behind the first gain in terrestrial radio listenership in almost two decades in 2020.”

The gain in digital audio listenership was “the fastest growth rate since the double-digit increase in 2015, when subscription digital audio services were breaking into mainstream,” Quinn said.

In sharp contrast to declines in advertising and marketing spending in 2020, total consumer time spent with media surged at the fastest growth rate since 2015, reversing a five-year trend of decelerating growth in media usage. This is among the topline findings from PQ Media’s freshly released 8th annual Global Consumer Media Usage Forecast 2020-2024.

Distorted by the impact of COVID-19, global consumer time spent with media, including all digital and traditional media, grew at an accelerated 2.8% to an average of 53.1 hours per week in 2020.

The pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders shook up the media economy in such a way that secular trends driving down media usage in some segments were reversed, while cyclical trends expected to boost usage in other sectors were postponed, and still other emerging trends were accelerated, favorably positioning newer digital media channels.

The result: Global digital media usage bolted up 9.6% to 15.1 hours per week in 2020, accounting for 28.5% of consumer time spent with media worldwide, gaining nearly 11 share points on traditional media in just five years.

Not since the Great Recession has there been a 10-point differential between the growth of overall consumer media usage and that of total advertising and marketing spending. But in what PQ calls “the upside down media economy of 2020,” the pandemic drove down advertising and marketing spending 6.8% while consumer time spent with media grew 21.8% for the fastest annual growth rate in five years.

“The prime beneficiaries of this paradoxical growth surge in media usage were consumer-supported media, particularly digital video, audio, games, social media and chat services," Quinn said in a news release. "There’s no doubt that streaming media as a group were the hands-down winners in an otherwise loser of a year for many media stakeholders, particularly those dependent on advertising-driven media.”

That allowed usage of consumer-driven media, meaning media not supported by advertising, to continue a nearly 20-year pattern of snatching away market share from advertising and marketing-supported media. Consumer-driven media accounted for over 55% of all media usage in the U.S., while its share grew to nearly 35% globally in 2020.

Key growth drivers were a slew of mobile media, including mobile video, audio, games, books and news, as well as social media channels, podcasting and OTT streaming video services, all of which posted consumer usage growth rates exceeding 15%. Despite the wide distribution of vaccines expected by mid-2021, and a minor upswing in media consumption during the Tokyo Summer Olympics, consumer time spent with media will resume decelerating growth in 2021. PQ is calling for global consumer media usage to rise only 1.4% this year.

While the pandemic reversed some secular trends in 2020 – trends that aren’t seasonal or cyclical that showed continuing decelerated growth ahead – PQ says this was simply a short-term disruption of key long-term trends that will resume in 2021.

“The key factors remain,” the forecast says, “as various traditional media usage will continue to either decelerate or decline, while smartphone penetration is at or near saturation in major markets worldwide, and several internet and mobile media channels will continue to experience slower annual growth.”

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