As Americans spend more time working outside the home and in their vehicles, radio saw a significant listening increase in March. In Nielsen’s PPM-measured markets, radio’s total AQH audience jumped 8% from February to March for the largest single-month increase in average audience since June of last year.
The gains came in both weekly reach and time spent listening. Radio added nearly 4 million listeners in March, a 3% increase from February, while TSL grew by more than 20 minutes, on average, for a 5% increase from February.
Nielsen has been updating the industry on listening levels in the 45 non-embedded PPM markets since the pandemic began in March 2020. In the new March survey data being released this week, radio’s weekly cume is 96% the size of the same month from one year ago, while for AQH the number is 93%. Looked at another way, radio’s weekly cume in March 2021 in PPM markets is 119.6 million, compared to 124.2 million in the pre-lockdown month of March 2020.Similarly, radio’s weekly AQH persons in March 2021 in PPM markets clocked in at 7.5 million, compared to 8.1 million in March 2020.
Nielsen says the uptick in radio usage mirrors the positive changes in consumer sentiment and habits shown during its latest radio consumer study conducted during the March survey. With the number of people eligible for COVID-19 vaccines rising and states gradually loosening restrictions, more Americans are ready to resume normal activities and feeling safer than at any point in the past year. Nearly two thirds (64%) now agree it is safer than it was a month ago, a big jump from 52% in October and 38% in April. Consumers dubbed by Nielsen as “ready-to-go,” meaning they’re more optimistic and ready to resume normal activity, has grown to 61% for its highest level in a year.
The “ready-to-go” group is an attractive consumer segment more likely to be employed, have kids and be upscale. Importantly, they’re more likely to be radio listeners. “That’s because people who listen to radio tend to be out and about and in their vehicles,” Nielsen Senior VP of Audio Product Leadership Bill Rose said while presenting the consumer survey results March 31.
Those working outside the home have increased nearly 70% since last April, while consumers spending more than an hour each day in a vehicle has more than doubled in that time.
Heavy radio listeners, because they are more mobile and ‘ready to go’, are also more likely to engage in top activities including shopping for groceries, driving longer distances, ordering take-out, and getting together in-person with friends and family, particularly among those who are vaccinated.