Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 science fiction
novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein
George Bailey, CEO of Walrus Research, may have summed up of the public media landscape best during a PRPD/RRC webinar when he said:
“In early March 2020 our lives were changed, suddenly and seriously, by the COVID epidemic. American families took shelter in their homes. Schools and universities closed, millions of jobs disappeared, no cars were driving the roads.”
“It was as if the Martians had landed.”
Bailey’s observation was part of a webinar sponsored by PRPD and the Radio Research Consortium (RRC) that happened last Thursday, July 2nd. PRPD CEO and Executive Director Abby Goldstein brought together recent research from four respected sources – AudiGraphics, Jacobs Media, RRC and Walrus Research – to present a clearer picture of listening to public radio’s music formats since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We hope this PRPD/RRC webinar is dry run for the upcoming PRPD/PMJC virtual conference Let’s Go Live [link] September 21-24.If so, the September virutal event will be excellent.
During last week’s webinar, Goldstein was in “the air chair” as the host. She presented the findings of all four researchers in a clear, actionable and concise manner. Rather than presenting a blizzard of facts, Goldstein focused on telling story that provided context clarity.
Though the webinar discussed public radio’s four main music formats – Classical, Jazz, AAA and the format once known as “Urban” – most of the attention was on Classical music station listeners. To see a recording of the webinar and supporting material go here.
You might consider Goldstein’s presentation a mash-up. Here is our mash-up of her mash-up:
George Bailey from Walrus set the tone by describing the immediate impact of the pandemic.
[Bailey] “Here is what happened to radio listening, during March 2020: In markets across the country, radio listening crashed.”
“Levels of persons using radio…dropped by as much as 50 percent. Closer examination revealed that the loss of listening happened away from home. That made sense, given that people were staying in their homes.”
“However, if you thought that radio users would simply transfer their out of home listening hours to the home location, that did not happen.”
To make his point, Bailey used a week-by-week comparison of listening to all public radio station in one large market [Slide One].
[Bailey] This is Nielsen’s PPM data, persons using radio in the metro, trending 16 weeks starting January 2, 2020.
Note the importance of away from home listening. In this market, out of home used to be the dominant location of radio listening. Yet the blue line shows zero growth in radio listening at home!
Goldstein added these comments: "It is no surprise that out of home listening tanked when this lock-down began. This slide [shows] how much less listening was happening out of home. It would be easy to assume that listening to station streams at home would make up for the out of home losses."
Slide Two is from RRC.
It shows that listening to 52 noncommercial music stations in 45 PPM markets declined in AQH persons by over 15% between January/February and April May.
After the initial shock, people still sought the latest news but many looked for distractions and "virtual comfort food."
SlideThree is from the PRPD/Jacobs Media Covid-19 survey of core public radio listeners that was taken May 12-14.
Listeners in all age groups sought distractions from virus news.
Younger listeners were the most apt to tune-out from the daily pain.
Slide Four, from the same study, showed that music was a very popular distraction.
Goldstein added these comments: “This is from the May 12-14 survey. [This was}wo weeks before the death of George Floyd, before many states reopened and there were huge rises in cases."
Slide Five, also from the May 12-14 PRPD/Jacobs survey, show that music stations got a "listener lift."
Slide Six came from Audigraphics.
It shows the listening to 35 full-time Classical music stations during April. Goldstein commented on the importance of core listeners:
“We talk about our core and fringe audiences a LOT. Core audience is your most loyal, your P1’s. These are the people who spend most of their radio listening with your station and they are most likely to support you. You are personally important to these listeners!”