Monday, February 22, 2016


Nielsen recently released a new edition of its ongoing Comparable Metrics Reports and radio is still very, very is strong. The report measures media consumption during a sample week across six platforms: TV, Radio, TV Connected Devices (DVD, Game Console, Multimedia Devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast), PCs, Smartphones and Tablets. 

This chart shows the estimated top-line reach of each platform displayed by demos:

(Scroll down to see more charts from the Nielsen report.)

Usage of Smartphones and TV-Connected devices has increased the most, but two heritage platforms show remarkably wide reach: TV and Radio. 


• CONTENT – People seek out what they want to see and hear based on its appeal and value to them. TV and radio have content that many people want experience frequently.

• CONVENIENCE – TV is ubiquitous, reliable and programmed for viewer’s lifestyles. Radio is King of the Car because it offers information and entertainment with the least amount of work for the driver. Even connected-car devotees still tune to radio for immediate needs such as traffic, weather and news.

• HABIT – Viewing TV and listening to radio are comfortable and familiar habits that have kept their relevance over time. Reading magazines and printed newspapers used to be among the habits of many people but less these days. Both have been in steep declines for the past couple of decades. People change some habits over time but they don't change all of them. They keep habits that provide value.

• COMPATIBILITY WITH OTHER PLATFORMS – TV and radio are “cousins” with many digital platforms and devices. TV is based on viewing a screen.  People have been conditioned over time to use screen-based media. Radio is adding video components, interaction and social media with increased sophistication. TV and radio are at best creative factories – content that multiplies its reach and impact when available on multiple channels.

• LIVE MOMENTS – TV and radio are go-to places for events and news that is happening right now. These are often common shared experiences like the Super Bowl, candidate debates or jury decisions. They invite the viewer and/or listeners to share the moment. It is exciting when the outcome is unknown.

Radio used to have many of these moments but we need more of them. Covering “live” as it happens is an important programming tool in radio’s arsenal.


Broadcast, cable and streaming TV producers and networks always have lots of new stuff in development. House of Cards didn’t happen over night – it took effort and lots of dough. PBS has a pipeline. Current periodically prints detailed descriptions of programming in development for upcoming years on public TV. But not public radio.

Public radio invests too little time and resources developing new programming and essential personalities.

This lack of forward thinking reminds me of a lesson from the recent past: Radio gave up investing in AM radio and people stopped listening to AM. Rush Limbaugh and other magnet talkers brought compelling content back to AM and listening went up. Again, content is THE main reason people use radio – they want to hear something that connects with them.

In my opinion too much time and resources are being spent on peripheral activities like podcasting. Podcasts are certainly an important part of the media menu but podcast usage (with exception of a few standouts like Serial) is a fraction of the reach of radio or TV. 

As we know, podcasts are hard to monetize, in part because their reach is hard to quantify. Simple questions such as the duration of listening and whether downloads are actually heard are elusive. Podcasts aren’t main show.  Many podcasts are little more than the old audio cassettes that once littered the media landscape.


Our plans never turn out as tasty as reality. - Baba Ram Das

 It is important to know trends and the direction of the forest because they are essential metric the help us plan for the future. But don’t forget we live in the here and now. I fear we are focusing to little on what people are actually doing now.

One of the things that people are doing now is listening to radio. As we see in Nielsen’s report, over 90% of American adults do hear/listen to radio each week. What we serve them will determine how often they will come back to us. Noncom adds another dimension – listeners who value programming enough to support it.


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