Whenever I speak to companies or students about how we consume linear radio, it comes as a big surprise to them that internet radio listening is so small.
Three pieces of research came out last week highlighting this.
In the UK, RAJAR knocked on nearly 25,000 doors, and asked the people who live behind them a bunch of questions about their radio listening. That gets the quarterly radio ratings for the country, but also gets them platform data — and radio delivered over the internet (websites and apps) accounts for 9.3% of all radio listening.
In the US, Edison Research went through similarly rigorous question-asking of 1,277 people in the US — recruited both online and offline — and they, too, discovered that internet radio listening of AM/FM signals is just 8%.
Broadcast, it seems, accounts for the vast majority of radio listening; and that’s backed up by recent research from other companies in Australia, Norway and other places.
And then I noticed Jacobs Media’s TechSurvey. That appeared to claim that 27% of radio listening happened over the internet (and in some tweets, this figure was referred to as a “true ratio”). This figure was so high — three times as large as other data — I had to ask some questions.
Unlike RAJAR or Edison Research’s data, TechSurvey isn’t a survey that attempts to reflect what the US is doing as a whole. For a start, the data also includes people in Canada (9% of the total survey results, incidentally); but rather more importantly, the online-only survey is filled in by listeners following a link from radio station websites, or their VIP newsletters.
TechSurvey is, therefore, a online-only survey of what I’d term radio super-fans. They don’t just listen to the radio; they love it so much they visit the radio station websites and are probably signed up to the radio station’s VIP email club. If you’re looking for any evidence of people falling out of love with the radio, you won’t find it here: by definition, anyone who’s done this survey thinks that radio is the super-best thing ever.
This doesn’t make TechSurvey useless. In fact, once you’re aware of what it’s actually measuring, it’s very useful — because it’s a survey of our best customers.
The survey says that your best listeners want your radio station available on the device they use. If they have an Amazon Alexa, they want you there. If they’ve a Google Home, they want you there. If they have a Comcast cable box, they’d quite like your station to appear there, too.
I can relate to this: of the two stations I listen to most, I listen, during a typical week, on a DAB+ radio, a Google Home speaker, a different DAB+ radio, a streaming app, and via their website. The other stations probably ONLY get listened-to on one device. Now, as I’m at pains to point out, I’m not normal — but there’s an element of common-sense here, I think (irrespective of any survey).
All this, therefore, seems to point to a distribution strategy — for your super-fans — that’s as simple as “if it has a speaker, get your radio station there, because your audience expects you to be there”. Not only is radio’s future a multi-platform one, but multi-platform is especially important to your super-fans. What will they do if they can’t find your radio station on a device? They’ll listen to someone else. Or, if you like it better phrased this way: they’ll check out your competition.
Overall, this is a good reminder that perhaps a focus on our super-fans might be a good thing to have every now and again.
And this has also reminded me: that boring ‘methodology’ slide that you skip through at the beginning of survey decks? That’s probably the most important slide of all.