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New report reveals the impact of lockdown on radio listening and provides future opportunities

The IPA recently released their latest Touchpoints diary data, which provides a view into the behaviour and media consumption of the UK population throughout an average week. Importantly, this year’s iteration of the survey ran across both pre-lockdown and post-lockdown periods from January to March and therefore provides some vital insight into the changes that occurred in people’s days following the increased government restrictions on daily life.

From the analysis of the two Touchpoints data sets, it can be seen that live linear radio (that listened to on a radio set, whether in-home or car, etc.) remained the dominant audio type during lockdown with 63.9% of adults still tuning in on a weekly basis. However, this was lower than pre-lockdown levels of 74.7% – equalling a 14% reduction in the number of adults listening.

The key driver of this change was the absence of traditional commuting and the school run, which traditionally are two key periods of the day when people are on the move and relied on the radio as a source of entertainment on-the-go. Travel to a place of work was down a massive 70% during lockdown and while 37% of adults participated in the school run pre-lockdown, this stopped entirely as schools were shut.

As a consequence, the traditional breakfast (0600-0959) and drive (1600-1859) spikes in radio listening were significantly eroded during lockdown – falling by 35% and 20% respectively. On the other hand, listening increased in mid-morning (1000-1259), presumably as people switched to working from home and had increased opportunities to tune into their favourite radio station(s) at home.

Interestingly though, the UK radio measurement system RAJAR suspended its quarterly listening surveys – on which radio is reported and traded – due to coronavirus. Therefore, the market is currently being traded on pre-COVID impact data – either from Q1 2020 or the previous 12 months. Clearly, this will not accurately reflect the reality of listening in the UK as working from home increase again and there will be discrepancies between the reported listening data and reality.

To compound this, radio is also traded with distinct pricing indices for different days of week and dayparts – breakfast and drive being the most expensive because of the traditional spikes in available audience – and certain drive time spots can command a price premium of up to 60% compared to morning/afternoon spots. As such, the effects of these listening changes are even more impactful on campaign costs and reach and need careful consideration for future planning.

All Response Media viewpoint

Touchpoints have always been an important source of insight and validation for All Response Media’s planning and with the new 2020 data, this is true even more so given that consumption and behaviour have evolved so rapidly this year.

For radio planning specifically, these insights will provide key additional considerations when planning radio campaigns in the coming months, as COVID restrictions seem set to tighten again, and working from home is once more recommended for those able. We have always looked to maximise radio cut through by planning around daypart pricing indices, but will also be utilising the Touchpoints insights to maximise campaign cost efficiency and reach, through careful weighing of budgets by daypart in line with these combined learnings.

More broadly, there are many more areas of insight across other channels from the new Touchpoints data, in the same vein as with radio, which we will be looking to employ within our planning over the next year.

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