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Will Higher Gas Prices Mean Less In-Car Listening? Survey Suggests No Impact For Most Commuters.

Radio remains the king of in-car media with AM/FM holding a 59% share of time spent with audio among people in the car. With national gas prices averaging $4.29 per gallon according to AAA, what effect could that have on in-car listening?

A new survey suggests any impact from higher fuel prices may be limited. Civic Science asked people who commute to work whether in light of rising gas prices they planned to work from home to limit their driving. Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) said they had no plans to drive less to save money.

Civic Science says among the those that said they would try to work from home more, the biggest number came from those that arguably could most easily afford higher gas prices – people with household incomes of $125,000 or more. People with household incomes of between $35,000 and $125,000 were least likely to switch to working at home. This included both people with jobs that are not the sort that can be done by telecommuting or people whose workplace does not allow it.

The jump in gas prices comes two years into a pandemic that kept many people at home. While COVID remains a threat, in recent weeks most states have rolled back their mask mandates, creating a sense of a fresh try at a general reopening of the economy.

Apple Mobility data, which the company has been making public since the pandemic began, shows that Americans overall are now driving more than they did before most people even knew what COVID was. The Apple Mobility data shows the number of direction requests from people driving is up 72% compared to January 2020. And some city-level numbers are considerably higher. Apple says direction requests from drivers are up 87% in Miami, up 85% in Seattle, and up 80% in Houston. Mass transit usage has been slower to return to pre-pandemic levels, but radio is less dominant among those commuters who often turn to things like podcasts or streaming services.

One place where higher gas prices could impact radio is on the advertising side of the business among ad categories seen as expendable. Among those people who said they plan to drive less, Civic Science asked them what type of restaurant they visit the most. More than a third (36%) said fast food with another 18% saying the fast casual chains. The survey also found there is a potential for mom-and-pop restaurants to take a hit as well.

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