Radio TSL NOT LOWER Among Radio-and-Digital-Music Listeners
October 15, 2012
There’s a lot of unnecessary doom-and-gloom fear out there. Some pundits tell us that soon, the universal convenience of no-fee, interactive, commercial-light-or-free digital music on every possible device will cause radio’s TSL to crash.
Sorry, radio doomsayers, but the evidence says that ain’t happening. In fact, the evidence suggests that Radio TSL is robust and stable among Radio listeners -- defined as at least 15 minutes a day -- who also listen to MP3’s or to any online streaming or to satellite radio. (Yes, our sample excludes the minority of digital listeners who aren’t using radio now. But they are not our concern, and they do not hold the key to our future. We want to find out about, and thus retain, the clear majority, who are also using Radio.) If commercial-free digital music were indeed leading a rush to the traditional-radio exits, we would see that dynamic already in process. Thus, we would expect listeners who also use one of those three media to have lower Radio TSL’s than the average Radio listener. So: Do we see that? Do they listen to radio any less ?
We see no evidence, among existing radio cumers, that those who listen to any of these three forms of digitally-delivered music spend less time with radio than other folks. On the contrary, the evidence is consistent: Digitally-active radio listeners listen to radio just as much as, if not more than, the digitally unhip.
Listeners Who Also Use mp3’s Use Radio Nearly as Much as Those Who Don’t
Myth Busting Chart #1. Over a decade into our era of personal audio files for non-audiophiles, radio and mp3’s continue to coexist. It’s been a long time since iPods and their cousins saturated the market, but even though your listeners own them, they are still, how about that, your listeners. Now, there are still plenty folks who do not listen to mp3’s. So we have a good control group, or baseline measurement, as in the chart above. The bar on the left represents radio listeners who are also mp3 users. (Again, we are not considering the small minority of the population who don’t use that minimum quarter hour a day of Radio.) The bar on the right is our non-mp3-listening control group. Notice that the two bars are almost identical. Yet, if there were a steady stream toward the radio exits, the bar on the left would have much larger yellow and orange segments -- a lot more folks with short TSL’s -- than the bar on the right. It does not. In fact, as you can see, the differences are minimal: only 3-5% separate the two bars, regardless of what level of TSL you test. The median daily radio TSL for mp3 non-users is a few minutes over an hour, and for mp3 users it is a few minutes under an hour. Maybe one, maybe two songs on her iPod. Two spins. No revolution.
Listeners Who Stream Audio Use AM/FM Radio as Much as Those Who Don’t
Myth Busting Chart #2. Different digital technology, same radio TSL-impact question. When it comes to streaming music, remember of course that this comes in many forms. We intentionally defined this to not exclude people who are listening to online streams of terrestrial stations. That would be an artificial distinction that completely misses our purpose. As long as a consumer is a streamer, she is a streamer. All we care about is this. Assume that a Radio listener is able to, and does, listen to streaming music. Is she then listening less to AM/FM stations (via all delivery systems) less than a non-streamer? The answer is clearly no, as we can see by the nearly identical bars on the chart above. Streaming does not seem linked to even a marginal drop in TSL to traditional stations.
Listeners With XM/Sirius Use AM/FM Radio Slightly More Than Those Without
Myth Busting Chart #3. It simply ain’t so that you can’t keep em down on the terrestrial farm after they’ve seen the dog star. Again, we are not looking at those satellite subscribers who aren’t using terrestrial at all, because they are not the point. What we want to know is: among folks who do use both, when compared against folks with no satellite subscription, how does terrestrial radio look? The answer is, quite healthy. In fact, the data suggest that, as long as a satellite user is also using terrestrial, he uses terrestrial even more than does the average terrestrial-only listener. If this seems counterintuitive, there are several possible reasons for this. Including the simple fact that many consumers, road warriors who drive a lot and like to listen to the radio a lot have acquired satellite to expand their choices, but the most important point is that they drive a lot and like to listen a lot...to both. And there’s also the fact that many satellite subscribers get it in their new vehicles and hardly ever use it, and new vehicles correlate to more time on the road.
What this means to you
It doesn’t mean that everybody who uses digital music also uses radio. As we have said, folks who don’t use us are not our concern. Retaining and nurturing the folks who do use us is the mission. And it looks from here like this: There is no inevitable inexorable steady current of TSL away from radio to other (not us) digital music. That is to say, there is none unless we cause it. The ubiquitous availability of the technology itself is not automatically causing consumer flight. This is great news for the radio industry and great news for your station. But with that great news, the responsibility shifts squarely back onto our shoulders. We cannot get away with throwing up our hands and saying “well, ya can’t fight technology.” If we lose any significant TSL ground in the future, we won’t be able to blame our tech inferiority. Consumers consider many different factors in making a decision. So let’s take tech inferiority off the table and focus on the factors that will indeed make a difference.