Major winter storms may be a nightmare for commuters but they’re a ratings dream for news radio programmers. Driving snow, gusting winds and treacherous conditions typically deliver a ratings boost to go-to news radio outlets. The impact on listening of a Nor’easter that barreled up the East Coast last weekend can be seen in the streaming numbers of news stations from Philadelphia to Boston.
Saturday morning (Jan. 29) in Philly, at the height of the storm that delivered six inches of snow to the city but a foot or more in outlying areas, the streaming audience for Audacy all news KYW (1060, 103.9) was 83% higher than the average of the other Saturdays in January at the same time. The day before, as listeners tuned in to find out when and where the storm would be hitting, online afternoon drive listening to KYW was 60% higher than the weekday average for the prior two weeks, according to data supplied by the station.
Numerous communities across New Jersey received more than a foot of snow with the Jersey shore hardest hit. Stream session starts for Townsquare Media news/talk “New Jersey 101.5” WXKW Trenton, NJ on Saturday were up 135% compared to a typical Saturday. The listening spikes began even before the snowflakes started to fly with session starts up 39% on Friday compared to a typical Friday.
In New York, where snowfall totals ranged from 7-9 inches, both Audacy all news outlets showed online listening spikes. Total listening hours for WINS 1010 began to climb on Monday (Jan. 24) as listeners tuned in for the latest on the incoming storm. By Wednesday total listening hours were 50,191, rising to 51,942 on Thursday, 54,905 on Friday and peaking at 55,063 on Saturday. That was 49% higher than the previous Saturday. All news sister WCBS (880) experienced a 30% increase in streaming in the morning hours Sunday, compared to previous January Sunday streaming.
While the storm dumped snow from Virginia to Maine, Massachusetts bore the brunt of the fury, with Sharon and Stoughton getting more than 30 inches of snow. Boston’s 23.6 inches on Saturday tied the city’s 2003 record for most snowfall in one day. No surprise then that iHeartMedia news WBZ-AM (1030) showed the biggest streaming increase, with online listening rocketing up by 150% in certain hours. Listening sessions to WBZ-AM activated on the iHeartRadio streaming platform grew 94% during the storm and preliminary broadcast listening based on Nielsen AQH estimates was up 42%.
The record-setting snowfall showed that, once again, when listeners need a companion to keep them informed during a crisis, they turn to big audio brands like these for the latest information.
While streaming numbers are an increasingly important indicator, the majority of radio listening still takes place on AM/FM receivers. So, the Nor’easter’s full impact won’t be known until the release of Nielsen’ January PPM monthly, which covers the period from Jan. 6- Feb. 2. Those numbers begin rolling on Feb. 22.