Listening Is All Over The Place During This Pandemic 


(By Gary Berkowitz) You do not need me to tell you that the Covid-19 pandemic has created total havoc in the radio business. Revenues have suffered terribly. Listening habits are all over the place. Many of my diary market stations are wondering what the spring book will mean for them. Today, I’d like to discuss the major listening headlines that I am seeing now, (based on PPM markets) that may duplicate themselves when spring results are released.

Daily cume is down 30-40%. More in some markets. The biggest drop off happened between March 12th and March 25th. The good news; as of this week, there is somewhat of a rebound. For the most part, ranks look similar to where they were before the crisis. Just fewer listeners. But that is not always the case. Please read on.

We’ve basically lost both morning and afternoon drive as we know it. Even though many people are working from home, it appears that they are starting their day differently (as far as radio goes). In the afternoon, the end of the workday is all over the place (or whenever they get called away to set the table for dinner!).

Anything (and everything) goes with “At Work” listening. As many of you may know, I work mostly with AC and Classic Hits stations. At work is our most valued daypart as it produces the most possible quarter hours of listening. This pandemic has caused the traditional workday to be all over the place. For example:

  1. There is good news: Many stations are reporting much higher streaming levels. No surprise because, let’s face it, there are not too many traditional AM-FM radios in the home any longer. Work from home listeners are most likely getting their local radio stations on the phone (thru apps) or on Alexa or Google digital devices. “Teaching” your listeners how to use these devices has never been more important. They are using them to listen.
  2. A whole different side to at work listeners. AC and Classic Hits are usually the hands down winners in workplace listening. But since this whole thing started, some markets are seeing somewhat of a different picture here. Example: In at least 3 major markets, the top Women 25-54 stations (10a-3p) are not AC or Classic Hits. They are Classic Rock and Rock stations! Urban stations are also showing much higher than normal in mid-day.
  3. So Gary, what is your theory on rock with women? The choice of an at work radio station is often made by one person, or which format is “appropriate” (for the workplace) and the format of choice in most workplaces is AC, or Classic Hits (for the most part). I do not like this expression, but there is a lot of “forced listening” to AC radio during a “normal” workday. But now, things are different. If you’re working from home, YOU get to choose the station. Women have always had a lean towards rock music. Now that they have a choice, these rock and classic rock stations, in many markets, are climbing up the rankers and doing great!

Bottom line: Ratings are going to be all over the place for the immediate future. Like everything else, as we start getting back to normal, so will the ratings. Yes, as always, pay close attention to your product but don’t make any major product decisions based on what you might see in the coming weeks/months.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit-based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations: Gary can be reached at (248) 737-3727 or [email protected] 


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