Morning Radio: What do Consumers Expect?

What’s radio’s role in the morning from a consumer’s perspective?  In the changing media landscape, where do we fit in among the choices consumers have available?

For many years TV morning programs have been sounding like radio shows (that just happen to have video).  All types of information are available online – news, weather, traffic, etc.  And, of course, a majority of consumers now own a smartphone, making the information that much more accessible and convenient.

Asked about where they turn for different types of information in general, heavy music radio users think of radio for traffic information and, to lesser degrees, information about music and information to start their day – but overall TV and online providers rule for news and weather.


When we focused on heavy users of spoken-word radio (news, talk and sports), the results were better for radio, but TV still dominates news and splits weather with apps.


Asked what their favorite morning show does well, information rises to the top for heavy listeners of spoken-word stations, but most heavy listeners to music stations say it’s about their mood.  And, not far behind the priority for information, heavy spoken-word listeners add their desire for mood enhancement.


From a list of over a dozen things a morning show might do or provide, information was near the top among heavy spoken-word radio listeners when ranked for importance – but people you enjoy was top-ranked – and having a laugh tied with information overall.  Keep in mind, spoken word encompasses news (including NPR), talk, combinations of news and talk and sports.  Priorities vary among the constituencies for each, but the point remains that the human element is important to these people.


The same questions answered by heavy users of music radio, yield different answers.  This time, information doesn’t even make the top 4.  For listeners of music radio, the top priorities in the morning are about mood enhancement.  While they may want updated traffic information or a reminder of the forecast or a review of headlines or updates on breaking news in the morning – they’re largely looking for a way to get through their commute with their good humor intact.


Priorities do vary by music format (and the expectations and the style of the morning show), note what items rank at the bottom overall: celebrity/entertainment info, info about the latest online videos and big-name guests.


Our take is that even these lower-priority items can be valuable on a morning show, as long as they actually serve to allow the show deliver on the higher-priority concepts of providing a laugh, getting listeners in a good mood or simply enjoying the hosts.

We’re not suggesting that news stations should drop local news and weather or that music stations should strip their morning shows of all informational elements.  What we are suggesting is that stations know what’s important to their morning audience.  What service does the show really provide?  What need are we really fulfilling for listeners?

As information becomes quickly and readily available, what is it that allows our stations’ shows to remain as magnetic as our addiction to morning coffee?  To us, these data suggest that the human element is what will be most important as our medium continues to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape.