Despite the plethora of technological options at our disposal we are somehow still drawn to the clear simplicity of the spoken word – the radio. Perhaps it’s the intimacy of the voices or the reassurance of a little patient delivery instead of the jump cuts, gimmickry and dazzle of TV news. Maybe it’s the simple fact that you can continue to go about your day while simultaneously absorbing facts, nuggets of information, in-depth discussion and more as you do so.
The most delightful thing, of course, about all of this for purveyors of quality radio is that you are not alone. In fact, it is likely that you are part of an extraordinary majority.
Here in the UK a whisker under 90 per cent of the population regularly listens to radio. And it’s a similar story on the other side of the Atlantic where the latest Nielsen ratings suggest that 91 per cent of the population listens to the wireless weekly or more often.
Now, there is some research out of the US that suggests that a sizeable chunk of this listening is done in car – close to half in fact. One drawback for digital and internet radio is that a lot of vehicles still rely on the old-style AM/FM axis. But even this is changing. As many as half of all new vehicles registered in the US next year will be internet ready. And with key players such as Apple sizing up this market with its recently launched Apple CarPlay, the field is changing still faster. Ten years later? All cars will be enabled so connected cars will further join the dots for radio listeners.
And what about returns for advertisers? Another fascinating tranche of data from a recent Nielsen Catalina study reveals that radio – perhaps surprisingly – leaves other digital and even TV investment trailing. Among the surveyed brands there was an average of a $6 return on a single dollar investment – that’s twice the best rates shown by comparable investments in the other arenas.
It is the view of a number of experts that one factor that has shaped these impressive figures is exactly the same that continues to boost listener numbers: affinity with your station. It seems there is an enduring appeal to hearing voices you trust, voices you enjoy – voices with something relevant to say among the white noise of all the media.
All these facts and figures provide numbers to celebrate. Numbers, indeed, to listen out for.
Tom Edwards is executive producer for Monocle 24.