Nielsen AM/FM Radio Audiences Grow As COVID Concerns Drop And Vehicular Traffic Surges
Click here to view a 9-minute video of the key findings.
Just-released Nielsen AM/FM radio listening data reveals the recovery of AM/FM radio listening continues. Google search trends and consumer driving behavior from Geopath and Apple Maps have predicted AM/FM radio audience growth.
Google Trends: COVID concerns drop
Google Trends are one of the most powerful and no cost methods of determining consumer interest. The act of searching on a term is hard evidence of consumer engagement and interest.
Input a search term into Google Trends, like COVID or a brand/ category, and a report will track consumer interest over time. The period with the largest search activity is set at a 100 index and all other periods are compared to that high point.
According to the 21-month Google Trend for COVID searches, in January/February 2020, there were few Google searches on the term COVID. In March 2020, Google searches for COVID exploded and then subsided in May 2020.
A second wave of COVID search volumes occurred in June 2020 and then fell off the rest of summer into September. In October 2020, a third wave of COVID search volumes reached their highest point and remained elevated until April 2021 when search activity began dropping.
In July 2021, concerns over the Delta variant pushed up search volumes again in a fourth wave, which peaked in August 2021. All through September and into October 2021, COVID search volumes have sharply fallen. As of early October 2021, COVID Google searches are down -56% from the peak of consumer interest with a 44 index.
Geopath: U.S. September 2021 miles traveled were +5% greater than September 2019
Geopath, the Nielsen of outdoor advertising industry, tracks vehicular miles traveled. Comparing monthly traffic volumes to the same month in 2019 illustrates changes in American travel due to COVID.
From March 2020 to March 2021, miles traveled lagged behind 2019. Since April 2021, miles traveled recovered and matched pre-COVID benchmarks. August volumes dipped -5% but in September 2021, miles traveled grew +5% versus September 2019.
Apple Maps: Driving search volumes surge past pre-COVID levels and public transit finally recovers
Since the onset of the pandemic, Apple Maps has depicted search volumes for driving, walking, and public transit trips for cities and many countries. These travel search volumes are indexed to the pre-COVID data of January 13, 2020. Click here to trend your city, state or country.
Below, blue bars represent U.S. driving search in Apple Maps and the grey bars indicate public transit search. The April 2020 lockdown caused a sharp drop in Apple Maps driving searches.
This drop was short lived. By June 2020, Apple Maps driving searches soared past pre-COVID levels into Fall 2020. The massive COVID upsurge of November 2020 through February 2021 reduced driving but still matched pre-COVID norms. In March 2021, driving search volumes exploded again and have remained elevated through the most recent month.
Public transit trips (the grey bars) took much longer to recover. After 17 months, public transit regained pre-pandemic norms in July 2021.
Take the “me” out of media: Marketers and agencies underestimate how many Americans commute and overestimate those working from home
In July, Advertiser Perceptions, the leader in researching advertiser and agency sentiment, fielded a study of 300 media decision makers. They asked, “What percentage of American workers are either working from home daily, not employed, commuting some days, or commuting every day?”
Brand and agency perceptions are indicated in grey below. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest results of their ongoing tracking study of American worker commutes is in blue.
Marketers and agencies dramatically underestimate the number of Americans that are commuting to work each day: Per the U.S. Federal Reserve, 66% of U.S. workers are commuting every day. Marketers and agencies think only 38% are commuting daily.
Marketers and agencies dramatically overestimate the number of Americans who are working from home: The U.S. Federal Reserve reports 16% of workers are working from home daily. Marketers and agencies think the percentage of those working from home is 29%.
Bob Hoffman, a long-time ad agency executive and now an in-demand speaker at industry conferences, asks, “How can professional people who work in an industry that is largely constructed on media behavior be so astoundingly misinformed?”
Les Binet and Sarah Carter explain why in their book How Not To Plan: 66 Ways to Screw It Up, “We’re marketing and communication people, we’re different from the majority … it’s all too easy for us overlook how different our lifestyles and perceptions are from the people we talk to.”
Nielsen: AM/FM radio listening recovery continues as September Portable People Meter listening was up +4% over the prior year
The strong recovery in miles traveled and driving has powered AM/FM radio listening recovery. Since the onset of the pandemic, Nielsen has reported listening in their PPM and diary markets benchmarked against March 2020.
The just-released 48 PPM markets reveal September 2021 AQH listening was 94% of March 2020 volumes and was up +4% versus September 2020. The trend of AM/FM radio listening recovery mirrors the driving trends from both Geopath and Apple Maps.
Nielsen: Diary market audiences were not impacted by COVID as listening has been rock steady
The just-released June-July-August diary market audience data represents the 17th month of rock steady average quarter-hour listening levels. Geopath miles traveled data reveals the reduction in driving in 2020 occurred mostly in the largest markets where the Portable People Meter is utilized.
Outside the top 50 markets, Geopath has shown very strong miles traveled, reflected in Nielsen’s stable diary market listening trends.
- Google Trends: COVID concerns drop
- Geopath: U.S. September 2021 miles traveled were +5% greater than September 2019
- Apple Maps: Driving search volumes surge past pre-COVID levels and public transit finally recovers
- Take the “me” out of media: Marketers and agencies underestimate how many Americans commute and overestimate those working from home
- Nielsen: AM/FM radio listening recovery continues as September 2021 Portable People Meter listening was up +4% over the prior year
- Nielsen: Diary market audiences were not impacted by COVID as listening has been rock steady
Click here to view a 9-minute video of the key findings.
Pierre Bouvard is Chief Insights Officer at CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One and President of the CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One Audio Active Group.
Contact the Insights team at CorpMarketing@westwoodone.com.