Getting The Ladies In The Mix

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(By Bob McCurdy) There were two important studies published the past several weeks that are worth further comment. The first study, conducted by Alan Burns and Associates titled, “What Women Want 2017,” involved 2,000 15-54-year-old AC and CHR female listeners. Burns has been a well-respected and successful programming consultant for decades.

While the study underscored some of the challenges radio is facing, it also confirmed that many female FM listeners are not only big fans, but remain emotionally connected it.

Some highlights:

  • In response to the statement, “I would be very disappointed if I couldn’t listen to FM radio stations anymore,” 88% of respondents “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed, which mirrors 2011’s 90% figure.
  • “I look forward to listening to the radio,” 88% “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed, unchanged from 2011.
  • “Would you describe your relationship with your favorite music radio station as one of your best friends, a good friend or companion, an acquaintance, or someone you have no real interest in knowing,” 76% responded “one of their best or good friends.”

This special relationship is also evident in responses to a question that gauged the depth of their attachment toward radio versus other entertainment options. Fifty-five percent said they “love” their favorite radio station, with 38% indicating they “like” it. No big surprise, as it was their “favorite.” What was noteworthy, however, was that radio ranked third behind “your mobile phone” and Netflix but ahead of Amazon, Pandora, and Spotify.

Radio performed quite well, even with women who have “connected” automobiles, with 70% of all in-car listening reported to be local FM programming versus 82% for those without a connected car. Digital streamers received 13% of listening, satellite 6%, CDs/MP3s 5%, with 2% streaming distant AM/FM stations.

Another conclusion, that is been supported by other research, is that it is not an “either/or” proposition when it comes to FM radio and digital streaming. Interestingly, FM radio TSL was higher with women who drive a “connected” car, with 51% reporting they listen 2+ hours/daily to FM radio vs. 40% for those driving an “unconnected” automobile.

The heaviest digital audio listeners were also 70% more likely to listen to FM radio 2+ hours/daily than the total sample. Clearly heavier digital audio listeners tend to be quite audio-centric, fans of both FM radio and their preferred streaming option.

The second study, Nielsen’s Comparable Metrics Q3 2016 report, also painted a positive story for radio, again confirming that AM/FM remains the country’s number one reach medium with 93% tuning in weekly versus 87% for TV and 82% for the smartphone. In fact, TV appears to be the medium with a “millennial” issue, as only 76% tune in weekly versus 92% to radio.

Regarding TSL, the average adult radio listener tunes in for 2 hours/daily.

Another stat that speaks to the important “companionship” role radio plays in listeners’ lives is that they tune in almost daily, 5.1 days/week versus 5.5 for TV and 5.9 for the smartphone.

And in spite of the increased audio competition, the number of radio listeners continues to grow with an additional 3,108,000 listeners tuning in TY vs. LY, with TSL actually increasing 13 minutes weekly.

Lastly, radio usage is the most evenly balanced of all media platforms measured across the A18+, A18-34, A35-49, and A50+ demographics, accounting for 17%-18% of all media consumption. That is “mass appeal.”

Burns’ study focused on current listeners to the AC and the CHR format, so we would expect radio to perform well but the magnitude of the emotional attachment toward the medium really stood out. Sprinkle in Nielsen’s ROAS studies as well as the data discussed in these recent blogs and you have a medium that can enhance any media mix.

Finally, two headlines caught my attention yesterday:

  1. Ad fraud could cost $16.4bn in 2017 ($16 billion is more than is spent on AM/FM radio annually)
  2. Havas Freezes All Google and YouTube Ad Spend in the U.K. (Reason: Ads for its clients appeared next to “questionable or unsafe content” online)

The perfect media channel does not exist, which is why media “mixes” are effective, as different media neutralize the limitations of others.

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