Whilst there are some changes in our media habits during lockdown that don’t require much of an explanation, the nuances behind the rise of ‘audio’ in its various guises offers us insights into how people are coping and dealing with lockdown, as well as an understanding of the direction of travel for audio as we adopt new behaviours and a media habits.
The very latest RAJAR (Q1 2020), gives us our last benchmark for pre-lockdown listening, covering Q1. Two of the big take-outs from this wave were that, unsurprisingly, digital listening continues to grow. Share overall now sits at a record 58.6% (up 11% QoQ) with 67% tuning in via DAB, DTV, Online or App every week. The other key takeout is that the biggest winner by a significant stretch was LBC, up 24% YoY. LBC’s figures are “the highest in the station’s 47-year history, showing demand for news and discussion during turbulent times.”
The continued move to digital listening, combined with the idea that audio allows you to connect with another human, another voice of reason that you can trust, thereby allowing you to feel part of a wider community that shares your own values and can comfort you, has only been intensified during lockdown. We’ve seen this mental shift play out in day-to-day life with examples like Clap For The NHS. However, it seems that the need to feel connected with others – as well as radio’s intimate and trustworthy perspective – has been a key driver behind the rise of audio.
The stats back up this thought process. Since lockdown began, we have seen huge growth in certain areas, specifically in listening via connected devices (Bauer reported that 38% off all their listeners are tuning in via connected devices). We have also seen this in the world of podcasts, with Acast reporting its ‘all-time record week for listening in the UK’ in April. If the good old presenter-led radio show offers a level of trustworthiness and a feeling of belonging to a connected community, then podcasts provide an even deeper source of comfort.
News UK’s new podcast ‘Stories of our Times’ has seen a phenomenal uptake, with Jimmy Buckland, Director of Strategy at Wireless, describing podcasts as “a refuge where you can provide rational, objective, not sensationalised but informative insight, and some really fresh storytelling and really engaging human interest stories. Audio is uniquely well placed, to tell those stories, and to provide great engaging content that takes you deeper into the news without leaving you quite as worn out as [when] you graze headlines on social media and all those daily reactions.”
In terms of new opportunities for advertisers, the insatiable rise of connected listening opens up a whole host of personalisation and targeting options as users sign up, and sign in, to these connected services. Podcasts also offer an unparalleled level of focus and attention from the listener, and sponsorships of specific podcasts regularly include presenter involvement that only enhance brand salience and leverage the sentiment of that podcast voice. But do not forget traditional radio; whilst the official figures have not quite caught up yet, we know via proxy that listening is up significantly, as is average weekly hours. It is a perfect time for advertisers to capitalise on enlarged audiences at extremely attractive rates.
The big question for us though is, whether these new habits continue once lockdown is lifted – we’d like to think so.