How Do Radio Listeners Like Their Media? Survey Says…

Another morning, another market survey! Earlier this week we had a Nielsen report telling us music in Canada was doing pretty well, and now comes a study on radio listeners and their media habits. Despite the rise of online streaming and complaints of repetitive playlists, radio enthusiasts are (unsurprisingly) still happy to tune in to their local stations – and that trend doesn’t seem to be changing.

Called the Techsurvey 13, the report polled just over 50,000 listeners of 321 radio stations across North America. This is actually the 13th annual study conducted by marketing strategists Jacobs Media, hence its title. The responses were all gathered online and don’t necessarily represent the diverse audiences of each station, but numbers were adjusted to fit Nielsen’s 2016 market populations. For more details on the methods of the Techsurvey or to browse yourself, you can find the study here. In the meantime, here are some assorted highlights:

Media usage:

Not a big surprise here, but radio listeners…listen to a lot of radio! 91% of respondents reported listening to any form of broadcast an hour or more per day, with TV and video being the next most popular medium at 87%. Big movers in terms of format include smartphones, which jumped social media in 2017 with an 87% usage rate over last year’s 84%, and smart TVs, which rose from 48% to 54%. And it seems like smart watches are on the move, too! The wearables may be at the bottom of the chart, but they doubled in popularity to 8% in this year’s Techsurvey.

Brands hold steady: 

There wasn’t much change in the order of which media brands are most popular with radio listeners, although usage numbers are generally rising. Facebook sits at the top of the pack with 75% of listeners using it, with YouTube in second place at 48%. Instagram and Twitter sit at 25% and 22% respectively, while streaming giant Netflix has jumped to 41%, from 35% in 2016. And the biggest loser this year? Streaming service Pandora lost the most audience, dropping from 28% to 25% in 2017. Competitors Amazon Prime and Spotify hold smaller numbers (17% and 12%, respectively), but are still climbing.

Why radio?

Most listeners like to stick with radio because they get to hear their favourite songs – that’s the top response, with 66% of users agreeing. Plus, it’s free! 57% of listeners reported the lack of subscriptions as their reason for tuning in. There’s plenty of emotional reasons, too: almost half of radio listeners admit that they stick around because it keeps them company, and 35% say it helps them escape life’s pressure. And the least common reason to choose radio? The giveaways – only 14% of listeners say they’re there to win prizes.

Why less radio? 

1 in 10 survey members say they listen to less radio this year than in 2016 – a number that hasn’t changed since Techsurvey 12. But for the users that strayed, why did they go? The top two answers for bailing, tied at 40% each, included complaints of too many commercials and overly repetitive playlists. 32% of those that turned their back on radio said that streaming services were the catalyst – although simply spending less time in a car was a more common reason (at 33%). So maybe streaming isn’t the radio-killer after all. And the least common gripe with radio? Only 6% of ex-listeners say there wasn’t enough local content.

And why not have a few assorted facts while you’re here:

  • The most popular reason for visiting station websites is to enter contests and promotions, at 42%. The station’s stream and local concert listings are the next two, with 37% each. The least? ‘Babe of the Day’ posts, with a whopping 4% of listeners flocking to the sites to check them out. That was sarcasm.
  • A fifth of radio listeners also catch up on podcasts at least once a week – although 48% say they never touch them. But for those who do, just over half access podcasts on their smartphones, and 30% use their desktops and laptops.
  • A fifth of radio listeners like to use the built-in voice command features on their devices. A quarter say they use them occasionally, and just over a quarter say they never do. Although, 1 in 10 radio listeners now own a voice-activated speaker, so maybe it’s a good thing Apple is jumping in.
  • The best time to use headphones? 51% of listeners say they use them most often while working out, while 32% say they bud up while at work. About 9% say they use them in the car – I hope they’re not driving, too!
  • Speaking of cars, just about 9 out of 10 radio listeners say having a built-in AM/FM radio is an important feature to look for when getting a new one. About two-thirds are also looking for Bluetooth connectivity or smartphone connectors as well, but the mighty CD player is only searched for by 43% of listeners now. Cassette players…aren’t even on the list.
  • Lightning round! Nearly 60% of radio listeners stream music weekly or more. 44% wake up to their phone alarms rather than clock radios – which are now at 36%. More than a third of radio listeners own a turntable – and about one in five Millennials do, too. And finally, 94% of radio listeners have Facebook profiles and 63% have LinkedIns, but 76% of those Facebookers log in daily while only 6% of LinkedInners do.

Mathew Kahansky

Once upon a time, Mat studied journalism. That's how he became Alan's one-time intern and current-time contributor, and the rest is ongoing history - get it? Mat also studied biology and music, so he has a strangely specific knowledge set that doesn't really apply anywhere other than useless fun facts. He currently works for a music tech start-up in Halifax, and is a big fan of the em dash.

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