The findings from Jacobs Media's 18th annual TechSurvey, reviewed in a webinar on Tuesday, focused on radio's strengths among the 30,000 core users, from the email databases and social media pages of 470 participating stations, taking part in the company's online survey during January and February of this year.
Among those strengths is how P1 stations continue to be the far-and-away first choice for an average 74% of these listeners, a number even higher for listeners of formats such as sports (86%) and triple-A, adult R&B, country and classic hits (77% each) and news/talk (76%) when seeking this content. Among those formats significantly underperforming vs. that average are rock (67%), adult/variety hits (65%) and alternative (56%), the latter raising a red flag for the format. “That's a problem for alternative because its fans go to other places oftentimes for that content,” Jacobs Media President and founder Fred Jacobs says. “The younger the fan, the greater the likelihood that they have bailed out on listening to the broadcast radio alternative station and instead have moved off to the digital streaming platform.”
While most of the reasons listeners give for listening to AM/FM rank similarly to earlier TechSurveys, Jacobs points out the greater importance of listener connection to P1 stations since COVID, with four in ten core listeners feeling a sense of connection in both this and last year's survey vs. three in ten in pre-pandemic 2019 and 2020 (as the survey was conducted prior to spring's lockdown). “Stations benefited from making a closer connection with the audience when they needed it,” Jacobs says. “You won't see that in a rating book.”
A continuing trend is the increasing importance to listeners of personalities compared to the music, with the former up from 57% to 62% since 2014, while the latter has fallen from 70% to 55%, with personalities taking the lead in 2019. “What that suggests to us is this is something that is happening globally to broadcast radio, that personalities are becoming more important than music,” Jacobs says. Perhaps hand-in-hand with this trend from TechSurvey is the steadily decreasing importance of new music discovery as a reason for listening to radio, from 39% in 2014 to 23% this year. “The problem as it relates to radio is those who say AM/FM radio is my go-to choice for new music discovery is going backwards,” Jacobs says. “As each year goes by, radio is less significant for new music.”
According to this year's TechSurvey, 12% of core users say they are listening to broadcast radio less in the last year, with spending less time in the car and lifestyle changes the most mentioned reasons, each given by half of those listening less. Based on recent trends, Jacobs calls the first of those two “the smoking gun” as to why people are spending less time with radio, as less time in a car moved from 30-31% pre-COVID to 71% in 2021. At 50% in 2022, it’s still significantly higher than before the pandemic.
Another key finding is the detected decrease in AM/FM listening overall among these core fans, with those listening for an hour or more each weekday having gone from 92% in 2018 to 86% in this year's TechSurvey, with GenZ and Millennials at 73% and 79% respectively. “It is the younger generations who are moving away from radio, or perhaps weren't here to begin with,” Jacobs says. “What we've been getting hints of over the past few years is that there's all kinds of competition outside of broadcast radio. We never really get a look at the entire landscape. In fact, broadcast radio is competing against everybody who is out there.”