Radio lives, but online driving listenership: BBM Staying Tuned

At the recent conference, experts weighed in on Canadians' multimedia habits, how geography affects what you watch or listen to and how customization of the listening experience is driving online radio.

Despite constant proclamations to the contrary, radio is not dead. The medium still plays an important role in Canadians’ media consumption patterns, Jeff Vidler, SVP and managing director at Toronto-based market-research firm Vision Critical, told the audience at the recent BBM Staying Tuned Conference in Toronto.

In a recent study done by the company, 24% of respondents in Canada said radio was playing a smaller role in their lives, 22% said it was playing a bigger role, and 54% said it had the same role, according to Vidler. Those findings were similar to a recent Radio Marketing Bureau study that found that radio listening patterns in Canada have remained stable since 2006 at an average of two hours and 12 minutes. A recent Ipsos Reid survey also found that radio listening is in a steady state.

‘Reports that radio is dead are greatly exaggerated. But just as clearly, the real growth in listening is happening elsewhere,’ Vidler said, referring to the growth in online listenership.

The RMB study, released in January, found that 38% of adults said they listen to the radio some or most of the time they’re on the internet; 39% have visited a radio station website; and 33% of adults said they have listened to radio online.

However, Vidler added, his research indicated that consumers are looking for a different kind of media experience when they listen online. Specifically, he said, his agency’s research indicated that online listeners prefer a personalized experience, with 53% saying they like to stream songs on-demand. Only 24% said they liked radio playlists chosen for them.

Vision Critical’s research also indicated that satellite radio has reached a plateau, he said. ‘You have that 12 to 15% of the population that’s willing to pay for radio, and that’s pretty stable.’

Radio also complements many a TV viewer’s media experience, Ricardo Gomez-Insausti, VP of research at BBM Canada, told the audience.

Citing not-yet-public research conducted by the Toronto-based industry measurement and data organization, Gomez-Insausti said that heavy TV viewers have the same probability of being a light to heavy radio tuner as those who do not watch as much TV. However, he said, the morning peak radio listening period across the country is made up of those who watch less TV.

Overall, markets where viewers are not served by radio-style 24-hour news TV channels, such as CP24 in Toronto, tend to have higher peak-listening periods than markets that do. Calgary and Edmonton are examples of locations with higher peak radio periods, he explained, while Toronto and French-speaking Montreal have lower peak periods.

In Vancouver, about 30% more people on average listen to the radio during the morning peak period than in the rest of the country, a trend that Gomez-Insausti said is likely related to the high number of people working from home in that city.