Good news for radio: Drive-time audience continues to power forward in PPM markets. In the September PPM survey, reach is now 97% of March and average quarter-hour persons is 90% of March levels. The audience strength is powered by commuting increases and a return to school, according to Nielsen data released this week and made public by Westwood One.
Nielsen reports 61% of U.S. workers are now commuting to their workplace, up from 39% in early May, a +56% increase. Commuting volume has been steadily increasing over the last five months.
These findings are validated by studies conducted by the Dallas Federal Reserve over the last eight months. In May during the shelter-at-home lockdown, 55% of pre-COVID-19 workers were still commuting to work, 26% were working at home and 19% were not employed. As of September 2020, 69% of those who were employed pre-pandemic were commuting to work. Twenty percent were working from home and 11% were not employed.
Additionally, Nielsen says nearly half (47%) of schoolchildren are attending school in person to some degree. Approximately the same number of parents (50%) say their children are driven to school (3% carpool, 47% parent/family member), while 44% of American schoolchildren are taking the bus. Nielsen reports that AM/FM radio is the soundtrack of the drive to school, with 62% indicating that AM/FM radio is always on and 35% say AM/FM radio is sometimes on.
The growth of workplace commuting combined with the return of children to school has caused time spent in the car to surge, where broadcast radio is listened to the most. From May to October, Nielsen finds daily time spent in the car has grown +81% from 36 minutes in May to 65 minutes in October. Among heavy AM/FM radio listeners, daily time spent in the car has doubled from an hour and six minutes a day to two hours and eleven minutes.
In the study, Westwood One declares “AM/FM radio is the soundtrack of the American economic recovery.” In its past four consumer studies, Nielsen found that heavy AM/FM radio listeners “are the engine of America’s economic recovery.” According to Nielsen, a greater proportion of heavy AM/FM radio listeners (28%) will buy or lease a vehicle in the next year compared to heavy TV viewers (20%). Some of the top categories in which AM/FM radio listeners show strong purchase intentions include: order takeout (80%); shop non-groceries (76%); shop for clothes at a department store (57%); and visit coffee shops/cafes (50%).
While the economy is likely to affect holiday shopping this year, AM/FM listeners will spend more than the average consumer. Nielsen reveals that 54% of consumers say their holiday spending will remain unchanged from last year. 36% say it will be less and 10% indicate they will spend more.