Is Radio Still Relevant?

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The answer is “yes,” when compared to emerging digital outlets. We asked our sample of 2,979 persons 14-54 across all PPM markets in the latest NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study about the importance of different media outlets in their daily lives. Across a wide range of ages and among a very crowded field of media choices, Favorite FM Music Station beat both Spotify and Pandora overall. When the sample is filtered down to the subsamples likely to say “yes” to an offer to keep a diary or wear a meter, affinity for terrestrial radio grows substantially – but so do the new competing outlets.

For its part, FM music radio has tremendous heritage, ease of use and devices pre-installed in nearly every vehicle on the road today. Of course, commercial FM radio listening also comes with a steep cost: listening through or trying to change stations to avoid lengthy commercial breaks. Yet, even with that handicap and the imperfect nature of just one music mix to serve thousands and thousands of listeners, Favorite FM Music Station remains strongly important in the daily lives of nearly two-thirds of those likely to show up in the samples used to measure the medium.

Of course, the devil is in the details or, in this case, the demos. Among those age 25 and up, Favorite FM Music Station easily outpaces Spotify and Pandora. Among the younger people in our sample, ages 14-24, Spotify slips ahead of terrestrial radio (though Favorite FM Music Station remains important to more in that age group than Pandora).

With a limited number of channels and heavy commercial loads, it seems to us that FM music radio is never going to beat the challengers by playing their game, which is based on music quantity and customizability. For FM music radio, it’s the human element that can make the difference: a friendly voice along with the music to relate to the lives of listeners. Another human enjoying the music and celebrating the day. Another human there in the same city as the listener, relating to things going on there – the weather, local sports, local events happy or not. Another human to connect the lives of those listening in some idiosyncratic way.

Next week we’ll talk about the elephant that’s always in the room: commercials – and share some data beyond the obvious fact that listeners think there are too many commercials.