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Radio Usage is Clawing It’s Way Back, But AQH Lags

Listeners are returning to radio, but COVID disruption is still depressing overall usage…

By Paul Marszalek

The cumulative radio audience has returned to 95% of pre-pandemic levels, according to an analysis of spring 2021 data from the 45 largest radio markets. Data was provided by Nielsen, and analyzed by the Radio Research Consortium (RRC).

According to RRC, radio’s weekly audience has bounced back to 132.5 million people, roughly 95% of the pre-pandemic audience measurement of 138.3 million in winter of 2020.

Cume refers to the weekly number of unique listeners to radio. Click on image for a larger view.

While the news of rising cume is welcome, fewer commuters and a related downturn of at-work listening continues to depress the amount of time spent with radio.

A measure of Average Quarter Hour (AQH) listening for the full week is still only 89% of pre-pandemic levels, and weekday AQH is bogged down at 86% of pre-pandemic listening. Thus, listeners are coming back, but not as often and/or for shorter time periods.

PUMM refers to “Persons Using Measured Medium”
Weekday, or “at-work” listening lags at just 86% of pre-pandemic levels.

The data is encouraging, and we would expect to see additional growth when summer data is available, and as many companies start moving employees back to the office starting this fall.

That said, the Delta variant is a wildcard that can further hamstring progress. Radio will need to aggressively promote itself to drive additional listening occasions. Further, the medium needs to address its role in propagating vaccine disinformation and misinformation on its own airwaves, which only serves to delay radio’s economic recovery.

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