Radio listening soars during second lockdown

Increase is similar to rise seen during first lockdown in April.

Radio: those working from home since start of pandemic have boosted listening (picture: Radiocentre)
Radio: those working from home since start of pandemic have boosted listening (picture: Radiocentre)

Commercial radio listening increased in November, according to the latest figures from Radiocentre, as a second lockdown was imposed on a significant proportion of the UK.

Thirty-four per cent of listeners of commercial stations are tuning in for an additional one hour and 53 minutes each day this month compared with the period before the first lockdown.

In April, 38% of listeners tuned in for an additional one hour and 45 minutes a day compared with before the first lockdown. The fact that fewer people increased their listening in November suggests that people have felt less confined to their homes during the second lockdown, Radiocentre said.

Radiocentre has not disclosed listening figures for the summer, in between the two periods of severe restrictions. 

Conducted by DRG, the Staying Connected During the Covid-19 Crisis research regularly asked samples of 1,000 commercial radio listeners about their attitudes, shopping behaviours and listening habits. 

Rajar figures released in May showed that commercial radio had a record 36.3 million average weekly listeners in the first three months of 2020. However, in August, the organisation announced that it would not release figures for the second quarter, citing the suspension of fieldwork due to Covid-19. 

Radiocentre’s latest study found the biggest increase in listening in those who have been forced to work from home throughout the coronavirus outbreak, with 40% of them listening for an extra two hours and eight minutes a day this month. 

The trade body identified a new group, whom it called “adaptors”, to describe those who went back to their workplace over the summer but have since returned to home-working or have been put on furlough. Among this group, 43% are listening for an additional two hours and four minutes per day. 

In addition, the research explored why people listen to the radio. Of the participants, 90% said it kept them company, 85% said it improved their mood and 72% said it made them happy. All three measures have seen an increase since the first study in April.

The increase in listening is not necessarily resulting in a strong radio advertising market. In July, the Advertising Association and Warc forecast that radio advertising expenditure is set to decline by 21% in 2020. Radiocentre rolled out an ad campaign in April to encourage businesses to advertise on the medium

Siobhan Kenny, chief executive of Radiocentre, said: “With the UK in various stages of lockdown again, our research shows that people are spending more time listening to commercial radio. This backs up reports from commercial radio stations of a double-digit increase in listening since before the lockdown. 

“Radio helps listeners stay connected, which is especially important during lockdown. We are all finding our own ways to cope during the pandemic and it’s great that radio is proving such a consistent source of comfort and trusted news to so many.”

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