Thursday, April 28, 2016

Millennials drive radio changes

By Emmanuel Legrand

A study based on a wide panel of radio listeners in the US provided ample evidence that radio listeners' habits are changing, but also that over-the-air radio is still a force to reckon with.

Jacobs Media's Fred Jacobs
Jacobs Media's Techsurvey12 covered 245 stations in the US and was based on 39,000 responses. It was unveiled on April 13 at the Worldwide Radio Summit 2016 in Los Angeles. Audiences are now heavily into social media and mobile: 86% have a profile on some or multiple social media; and 84% have a smartphone. "It is all about mobile," commented Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media.

Mobiles are also become the device of choice in cars since 65% of the respondents said they were using phones to connect to content in cars. A major growing segment of radio content are ipods. In just two years, podcasting engagement went from 21% to 28%. "This is really happening," said Jacobs.

One disappointing device appears to be smartwatches, which went from 2% to 4% in engagement, and does not seem to receive any traction from radio listeners. "We thought it would be a bigger deal with double digit growth, and went from 2 to 4%, so no big deal," said Jacobs.

In short, said Jacobs, millennials are the ones driving the changes in radio consumption, and are much more engaged than baby boomers. They dominate in categories such as social network, smartphone, connect to car, connected TV, streaming audio, streaming video, use of MP3 players, and video games. Boomers are more into the traditional use of radio and television.

But traditional radio is still a powerful medium. When asked why they still listen to radio, respondents said: to hear favourite songs, for the DJs/Hosts, because they like to work with radio, "in the habit," "keeps me company," for news, "gets me in better mood," and "to check what's going on locally."

Similarly, a majority of listeners said that radio was still the main source for music discovery, ahead of friends or social media. This behaviour shows, according to Jacobs, that radio still has a major role to play if it manages to keep providing what people want to listen radio for. "There is an emotional connection to radio that you do not get from the other sources," said Jacobs.

But at the same time, he said, radio stations must be pro-active to engage with listeners online, though mobile phones, on social media or via podcasts. "A mobile strategy is not just an idea, you have to have a real strategy and you need to engage. Social media is now just so ubiquitous that you do not even think about it," said Jacobs. "FaceBook is such a monster, not only is everybody on it, but they are there all the time. But also on Linkedin, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest..."

With all the changes in the automotive world, Jacobs also suggested radio operators to make sure they keep abreast with the development in cars. "What is going on in the car is critical," said Jacobs. "We need, as an industry, to engage with Detroit." The same applies to the connected world. "There is also a culture for on-demand and radio has to address it," he said.

Jacobs added a note of warning: The overflow of advertising is one of the reason listeners, especially millennials, will turn away from radio. Interestingly, this is also a reason given by listeners who walk away from Pandora, the online radio service which provides hundreds of dedicated radio streams. "Pandora's momentum is not great," said Jacobs. "While 27% say that they listen more to Pandora, 23% say they were listening less. People who listen to Pandora the most are moving away and they are mostly millennials."

What's the problem? According to the survey, listeners mention the lack of song skip (51%), annoying commercials (49%), playing more commercial (47%), as well as listening to other streams, and too predictable. "Well, it is not commercial-free any more," says Jacobs. "The trend against annoying commercials is growing year on year. It leads to erosion and dissatisfaction."

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