Radio has the best population penetration of any medium in the world. In every single country in the world, radio reaches over 90% of people, every single week.
Rival technologies are not killing radio, even in the most technologically-advanced nations in the world. Nielsen shows that in the USA today, radio reaches 240m people. TV reaches 221m. Smartphones reaches 191m. Crucially, radio listening time is not changing much at all in America. Radio listenership fluctuates based on lifestyle patterns of listeners at different times of year, so one has to compare quarters year-on-year to accurately measure how radio is doing. In America, which has arguably the most media-competitive market in the world, radio is holding steady. The average listening time per day in the first quarters of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 have fluctuated by just three seconds. The average American in 2017 listens to one second less of radio than they did in 2014.
Despite growing options, radio and television continue to reach the most users — Neilsen Total Audience Report Q1 2016
The vast majority of the world’s people do not have access to smartphones, wifi, reliable internet, or televisions. Many of those who do have access to the internet cannot afford to use it much because of costs of use, other spending needs, and unreliable, vulnerable technologies. Only 40% of South Africa’s people will go online this year, and many of those people will not spend much time online, because it is expensive and difficult to spend time online in South Africa. On the average weekday, 76% of South Africans listen to the radio. Every week, 93% of South Africans tune in (statistics sourced from BRC RAM May 2017). South Africa’s media landscape mirrors the media landscapes of most of the world’s societies.
So, anywhere in the world, radio reaches more people than any other medium. This is even true in the first world, and especially true in developing nations.
One finding from Nielsen’s 2016 Total Audience Report on the USA proves radio’s accessibility and lasting power:
Radio has the most consistent share of time spent across demographics.
Australia is one of the most technologically-blessed, economically-advanced first-world countries around. If the prevailing narrative about radio is right, and radio dies rapidly when faced with cutting-edge digital media, then it should be suffering in places like America and Australia. In Australia, radio penetration is over 90% and more people listen to radio every week than use Facebook.
Nielsen conducted research in Australia, and found that:
67% of radio listeners are open to hearing advertising messages on air. Australians are more open to being exposed to advertising on radio than any on any other medium.
72% of Australians are made aware of new brands through listening to the radio.
67% of Australians increased their knowledge of brands through radio ads.
And Australians trust radio adverts significantly more than digital adverts.
So, in Australia, radio advertises effectively, people are more likely to endure radio adverts than TV or digital ones, and people are more likely to engage with radio adverts than digital adverts because they trust them more.
There is no reason to believe that societies at similar stages of development as Australia would respond to advertising differently. Most of the world’s people trust digital media less than Australians, because they use it less, and so don’t feel comfortable or savvy enough to engage with sellers online. They are much more likely to trust radio adverts, since they know radio. They believe that radio stations will have vetted advertisers, and that those who run radio stations can be held accountable if something with advertisers goes wrong.
There is a wild, global PR battle between ‘Traditional Media’ and ‘Digital Media’. ‘Traditional’ is getting destroyed.
‘Traditional Media’ is suffering a PR crisis because of how excellently ‘Digital Media’ has sold itself as distinct from ‘Traditional’, better than ‘Traditional’ already, and soon to be the destroyer of ‘Traditional’.
This narrative is wildly overstates the reality. Mark Ritson debunks the insidious ‘Digital Media’ marketing campaign excellently. You really should watch the whole speech (embedded below) if you want to develop good advertising strategies. Even just the first twenty five minutes is so enlightening.
The result is a prevailing business belief that ‘Digital’ is way more effective than radio, and that radio is dead or dying anyway, with TV soon to follow. It’s just not true, and won’t be anytime soon.
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