One of the realities that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated with cruel efficiency is that radio is uber-dependent on in-car listening. The “at-work” environment was diminished by the work from home (WFH) movement. While more people have returned to their regular routines, “at work” will remain challenged until Nielsen solves the ear bud issue. The third triad of radio’s location platform was “at-home.” Unfortunately, being locked down for so long caused a rise in smart speaker penetration, which led to new behaviors that created new habits.
Which brings us back to the car…
The great news for radio is that people are back on the road. Getting students back in the classroom has been a big part of the return to this version of normalcy.
If you’ve followed Apple’s Mobility Trends report, you can see how patterns are returning to pre-pandemic levels. If you haven’t used this service, you can find it here: https://covid19.apple.com/mobility
Keep in mind that this only tracks those who access Apple maps. That does represent a significant share of the market and, we would assume, is similar to those who access other services like Google maps.
As you can see from the above chart, usage is up for all three modes of transport. On a more granular level, we track hour-by-hour market data for our clients. In almost every market, we see usage patterns mirror those of two years ago. We go back to 2019 because we want to eliminate seasonal fluctuations of comparing a winter month to a fall one.
All of this is great news for radio. We certainly hope this trend continues. However, we also know that times and people have changed. The pandemic fundamentally altered habits and media consumption.
Our advice is simple. First, always know where the listening hot spots are. Generally speaking, we see Afternoon Drive has more listening than Morning Drive. We also see strong listening on Weekends – especially Saturday 10A-7P. Being fluent with this data can help you with stop set placement, features, promotions, and tactics like commercial-free hours.
The second part of this is – look at market-level listening. Compare them year-over-year to see how your market listening has rebounded from the pandemic. Further, be sure to look two years back to compare the old world with the new one.
Programming Research Consultant