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Radio Trends and Advertising During COVID-19


We continue to see uncertainty across the United States. Some states are relaxing their stay-at-home orders and some businesses are beginning to reopen. Despite many physical locations remaining closed, online commerce is booming. With virtual shopping rising and our homes remaining the number one space for entertainment, it is vital that advertisers stay top-of-mind with consumers

Radio Listening During COVID-19

Radio was one of the immediately negatively impacted media channels due to stay-at-home orders. Despite many at-home listeners, the backbone of radio listening comes from commuters. When commuting came to a standstill, listening habits changed. March saw an immediate drop in listening numbers; but as the U.S. adjusted to the new normal, more individuals found creative ways to re-engage with their favorite radio stations and hosts. 

We are starting to see a material rebound in radio listening as of late April. From late April to the second week of May there was a 22% increase in radio listeners. That trend will likely continue throughout May.

As a trusted source of local news and information, people of all ages turn to radio. After the stay-at-home orders went into effect listeners from 18-54 went online to seek out their favorite radio stations. This trend pushed streaming AM/FM radio listening 60 percent higher than the pre-COVID baseline. 

These listeners sought out radio for as a trustworthy source for local news, for entertainment, and for a sense of normalcy. According to Nuvoodoo’s April study: Music stations, news and information, and talk radio station listening is up. Almost half of all respondents say they’re listening to news and information radio more47 percent; and 43 percent are tuning in more often to music stations. And 28 percent saying they are listening to more talk radio since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Regardless of how or where they’re listening, radio continues to be a trusted companion for local audiences. 

Radio Advertising During COVID-19

As your performance advertising agency, we’re constantly monitoring where audiences are most engaged. And when we saw audience dips in radio early on, we negotiated bonus and streaming placements to ensure your ads reached their target audiences. Time and again, we’ve seen the benefit of continuing advertising during crisis. Yes, changing your message is vitally important, but going dark altogether can have both short and long-term ramifications. Neilsen’s recent Advertising in the Age of COVID-19 report found that cutting advertising for the rest of 2020 could lead to an 11% revenue decrease in 2021. If you can, we encourage our advertisers to continue advertising during these uncertain times. 

And it’s not just for future revenue—the U.S. wants to hear from you. According to Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer, only 6 percent of people and the U.S. and UK believe that companies should stop advertising during this time. Consumers have been quick to react to COVID-19 news and are adjusting their spending decisions as necessary. While consumption dropped initially on many items, there was an increase after stimulus checks were received in mid-April; as people began to spend on the items they would need to be comfortable while staying at home. In fact, U.S. e-commerce jumped 49% in April, compared to pre-shelter-in-place orders. With many at home trying to get essentials and comfort goods, they are looking for your discounts, shipping offers, and for confirmation of your continued availability. With many advertisers hitting pause, there’s even more incentive to jump in and build or increase your market share. 


Radio remains a source of comfort, news, and information for people regardless of how they’re listening. As we move from shelter in place and settle into the “new normal,” radio will continue to play a vital role as a trusted source of information on local market changes. By tailoring ad messages to reflect the current corporate responsibility climate, radio advertisers can effectively and efficiently reach consumers who are increasingly open to trying new brands. While there is a cost associated with maintaining advertising throughout the pandemic, the question remains, can you afford not to? 


Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash