The Radio Comeback is Underway


(By Deborah Parenti) As Albert Rodriguez of Spanish Broadcasting System is fond of saying: “The comeback is going to be greater than the setback.” And it looks like it’s time to get ready for that comeback.

As many know, I am a strong believer in accentuating the positive where possible. There’s enough negativity we deal with on a regular basis — times three over the past year. Not to mention the tendency of many of our cohorts to always view the glass as half-empty.

So seeing Nielsen’s release of the March PPM data offers one such reason to “smell some roses” and think about that comeback. After a rather static start to the year, radio listening has demonstrated some nice gains in both AQH and reach. And if the momentum continues, we could see a return to pre-pandemic levels sooner than some have anticipated — and ward off, once again, the demise of the medium predicted by the naysayers among us with every new platform debut or crisis in the making.

Some of the recent growth can be attributed to the gradual return by part of the workforce to the office. According to Nielsen, those working outside the home have increased nearly 70% since last April. Consumers are also spending more time again in the car, a prime radio listening driver. Both of these are no doubt important factors driving the growth. And it’s a good bet they will continue to positively impact radio’s return to — and perhaps even exceed — those pre-COVID numbers.

But I would like to credit some of that spring in our step to how well radio rose to the occasion over the past year in serving local interests and concerns. From helping Main Street businesses stay afloat with free mentions — and anything else in its arsenal that might give them a boost — to keeping listeners informed of how to access services and supplies at a time of unprecedented crisis, radio was front and center. In market after market, big and small, radio once again demonstrated its ability to communicate, commiserate, and console on an up close and personal level. And I would like to think that those efforts weren’t lost on all the masses.

It’s time to encourage and ride the positive momentum that is being seen in consumer spending, virus mandates lifting (if cautiously), and spring fever morphing to summer vacations, lifting spirits everywhere. We’ve had enough negativity and stress-filled days, weeks, and months.

And it’s really okay to feel hopeful and encouraged that better days are ahead. You could hear that optimism from Caroline Beasley in her Clubhouse interview with editor Ed Ryan last week. And we are hearing it from others across the industry who are cautiously but surely hearing an upbeat drum sounding at the end of this tunnel, saying radio can be part of the revival that gets us back to living life more fully — and tuned in.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink and can be reached at [email protected]


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