It makes sense if you think about it. What are people going to do when locked down? They’re going to consume more media. Of course, they are. Even print is up.
Global, the other big player in the UK radio market, reports total reach up by 15% and hours listened up by 9%. These are enormous shifts in a mature radio environment like the UK and an early indication of where consumers are choosing to spend their time during lockdown.
And because people are now working exclusively from home, listening has shifted to connected devices such as smartphones and smart speakers. According to Bauer, listening via connected devices is up by 15% overall, while car radio listening has dropped by 18%.
The figures from South African radio stations are even more remarkable:
According to the Kantar Barometer (a survey conducted just before South Africa’s lockdown), there was a 30% claimed increase in radio listening over the previous month (Source: Natalie Botha, Creative Development Director at Kantor in Mediamark webinar on 1 April)
- 702 (Gauteng) – streaming up 41% (March 2020 vs Feb 2020)
- CapeTalk (Cape Town) – streaming up 47% (March 2020 vs Feb 2020)
- Jacaranda FM (Gauteng) – increase of 128 000 live streams in week before lockdown
- Gagasi FM (KZN) – 73 000 streams of their app in March
- Smile FM (Cape Town) – app users up 104% and streaming up 53%. Social media numbers up over 100%.
These are incredible numbers! A programme manager’s dream. And it’s happening across the radio spectrum, these are just the few stats that we had immediate access to.
This is a worldwide phenomenon. Communicorp, one of the biggest radio groups in Ireland reported the following last week:
- Total Listening Hours UP 45%
- Reach UP 34%
- Website Listening UP 45%
- App Listening UP 47%
ALS (African Language Stations)
Sixty percent of all radio listening in South Africa is to African Language stations. Ukhozi FM alone boasts over seven million weekly listeners.
We’ve noticed that many advertisers are directing their solidarity and information campaigns to these stations. For example, Old Mutual are running a financial education drama series specifically designed for the Covid crisis.
Hard stats are difficult to pull from the SABC, so we surveyed some of their top presenters. Are they seeing an increase in listener engagement during the Covid crisis?
The anecdotal evidence is clear: significant increases in call-ins, more WhatsApp engagement, a huge increase in activity on presenters’ social media channels to the extent that listeners want to carry on the conversation for longer on social. People listening for longer.
And the topics they want to talk about? Chores, bingeing, gaming with kids, exercise, creative menus, cooking etc.
Dudu Khoza (9am-noon on Ukhozi FM) reports an increase of 30% in call-ins, voice notes and tweets to her show. She also reports an increase from 1 500 to 4000 of FB likes for her posts, Instagram from 500 to 1800 and Twitter up by 50%. Her vlog on how to avoid gender-based violence during lockdown on YouTube saw views go from 400 on Day 1 up to 2531 by day 3.
Changing listening patterns show it’s the perfect time to advertise!
Radio stations in South Africa have been sharp enough to recognise that listening patterns have changed during lockdown. East Coast Radio and Hot 91.9 are among those who have shifted morning drive from 6am to 7am and afternoon drive to start at 3pm, from 4pm, whatever drivetime actually means these days.
But something even stranger is also happening. Regional radio is going national; 64% of all Gagasi FM app livestreams in March (47 000) were from Gauteng. Gagasi is a KZN regional station. Fifteen percent of Smile FM streaming traffic (a Cape Town station) is coming from Pretoria. Clearly, people feel the need to be in touch with their place of origin and there is no better example of family than a radio station.
The other big pattern change is people listening to radio via digital devices. Every stat I’ve quoted here is of digital listening via streaming or app. For instance, Jacaranda FM reported 128 000 new app livestreams in the week prior to lockdown.
Quite simply, the antiquated diary measurement system that is used in SA (BRC) and in the UK (RAJAR) doesn’t allow for the immediate ratings that TV’s people measurement systems have. The next BRC release is only due on 28 May (lockdown and social distancing allowing) and the previous one was on 27 Feb, long before the crisis hit. So, all of the stats that have been quoted from UK, Ireland and SA are based on digital engagement.
What does this mean? It means that digital listening is up significantly which, intuitively, means that all radio listening must be up. But it could also mean something more significant, with very encouraging news for the radio stations.
As people suddenly have to navigate a digital world of Zoom and webinars, is it possible that they also find it very easy to locate their favourite radio station digitally? Does the fact that people are at home with access to wifi make it financially more acceptable to stream their favourite station live? Most importantly, is radio now re-attracting the younger, more digitally savvy consumer? Time will tell.
According to Paulo Dias, Creative Head at Ultimate Media “it’s natural that the tech savvy segment would migrate and see radio as platform agnostic and adopt it on any platform.”
And the warm fuzzy stuff?
Radio is at it’s very best in bringing people together. Stations all over the world have collaborated to show solidarity and let listeners know that they are not alone.
South African radio stations came together to broadcast the national anthem in a show of collective solidarity on 27 March at 1pm
Radio stations across Europe simultaneously played “You’ll Never Walk Alone’ at 7.45am on Fri 20 March
“People just want big, happy bangers you can dance to in your kitchen for release in a world gone mad. Jay-Z and the Beastie Boys are much in demand,” said James G from Radio 1 in UK.
“We noticed a massive spike in people listening – live listens are up by 25% and loads of artists are asking to do shows,” Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura, NTS online radio station in London reckons
What is clear from surveys done by groups like Primedia Broadcasting, East Coast Radio, Jacaranda FM and countless others overseas is that radio is a trusted source of news and free of fake news.
Wayne Bischoff, CEO of Mediamark, recently attended an EGTA conference in Paris. EGTA is a non-profit association of top broadcasters from all around the world. Bischoff commented that “EGTA studies show that radio is not only a trusted source of news but people also just feel happier when they are listening to radio.”
Ideal in a time of coronavirus.
John Walls is director at Ultimate Media, the radio convergence specialist agency in South Africa.
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