It’s already been widely reported that music streaming is down by 15 to 20% (Futuresource Consulting and BBC) during the coronavirus pandemic.
Well, according to figures released in the US, it seems that the same goes for podcasting, and for the very same reasons. According to Podtrac, podcasting and music streaming are popular during commuting and solo activities such as gym. Lockdown clearly prohibits those activities.
Chartable report a 10% dip in March vs February while Backtracks reports an even greater decline (20%) as the crisis worsened. Chartable also report that reviews left on iTunes and Apple’s podcast app were down 30% in one week. The dip is particularly noticeable during commuting hours according to Backtracks.
Sports and rrue crime podcasts have been particularly hard hit but the exception to the downward trend appears to be news podcasts. Today, Explained has seen a 50% increase in downloads since the crisis began
Radio is picking up the slack
As we reported last week, radio listening around the world is significantly up.
This week we can add reports of increased radio listening from India and Australia to those reported previously from Germany, the UK and, of course, South Africa.
- A survey by radio operators in India reports a 23% increase in radio listening during lockdown
- Radio also scored higher than TV in India as a trusted source of news
- Commercial Radio Australia reported on 14 April that 75% of listeners are listening to radio the same or more during the pandemic.
- For me, the most interesting part of this survey was the finding that the highest increase in listening is among younger audiences; 29% of 18-34s and 27% of 35-44s are listening more. The increase for the 55+ age group is a modest 15%.
This backs up a point I made in an interview with Peter Ndoro on SABC TV Media Monitor.
Across the world people seem to be tuning in to radio via their digital devices. The fact that music streaming and podcasts are down would indicate that younger people are still using their digital devices to find audio but now there’s been a shift to radio.
It’s a grim irony in the midst of this depressing time that radio stations are suddenly being sampled by the younger market that many thought were lost to the medium. The challenge for stations right now is to up their game with content that keeps these younger listeners coming back after the pandemic. Easier said than done when you’re running your station with many key content staff working from home.
In South Africa
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has released a report (Why Radio Now) with many very encouraging findings for radio, including these:
- 45% of ECR respondents say they’re listening to more radio than usual
- 42% of Jacaranda survey respondents say the same
- The figure for Primedia stations is 39%
- Mobile streaming of Jacaranda up 32%
Other feedback we received this week:
- African Language station Ikwekwezi (Southern Ndebele) reports a 25% increase in Facebook interaction and 14% on Twitter
- Ligwalagwala FM (SiSwati) reports an increase of up to 50% in WhatsApp voice notes, call-ins and social media interaction
- Cape Town station Good Hope FM hosted a virtual party and saw ‘never before’ numbers…35 000 views, 26 000 engagements, 8 000 reactions and over 3 000 comments
- Regional station, Algoa FM, saw an increase of 400% in new monthly FaceBook followers and a 45% increase in Twitter activity
Community radio stations are possibly the best gauge as to what lockdown really means for the vast majority of South Africans. These stations engage daily with the people who face the biggest challenges of all.
- Torque Media report that Alexandra community station Alex FM audience engagement is up by over 200% with most of the inquiries being about basic prevention tips
- According to Takalani Nemangowe, Alex FM station manager, “The community is appreciative of the efforts of the state to prevent…the potential devastating impact of this virus on the people of Alex. However they still find it hard to adjust to the restrictions to their movements, as many thought they will never again in their lives live through state sponsored restrictions on their movements and freedoms. This has been the single hardest thing, that many in the community had to be convinced of its importance. The fight against the virus will not be won in hospitals, clinics and quarantine sites, but it will be won.”
And the warm fuzzy stuff?
Radio has always played strongly on a local level. I suspect many people follow a similar broadcast media consumption pattern right now. CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera etc for international news; SABC and eNCA for national news; and radio so they can find out what’s happening in their deserted streets and quite simply just to connect with their fellow citizens.
Stats are stats but radio’s true strength right now comes through its companionship, solidarity and trust.
- YFM in Gauteng has launched a Virtual Games night, driven on air but played on social media
- Multiple stations in the UK came together at 8pm to play mass applause for health workers and encouraged listeners to stand at their windows and join in
- Stations have amended sacred playlists to air listener requests appropriate to the mood of the times. Two of the most requested songs being Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ and ‘Stronger’ by Kelly Clarkson
- Chris Evans of Virgin Radio broadcast live from a boat at the bottom of his garden to promote staying at home
- Finally, and this is my favourite, East Coast Radio and Jacaranda FM are offering free advertising during lockdown to qualifying advertisers. This is really clever. They’ve got tons of unsold inventory so they’ve got nothing to lose. They’ve got a lot to gain though. The loyalty of businesses and advertisers who, right now, are struggling to make ends meet. What we all do during the crisis is what we will be remembered for on the other side.
John Walls is director at Ultimate Media, the radio convergence specialist agency in South Africa.
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