The X-Factor. One of Radio’s Primary Advantages is Its Local Feel

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The battle between local radio and streaming audio continues for both audience and advertisers. Local radio’s core differentiators include huge weekly reach, in-car audiences, in-market sellers that leverage strong buyer relationships and “local feel.” That last X-factor, “local feel,” is something the streaming services are working on at the same time local radio seems to be cutting back on it with shifts to syndication, centralized operations and now COVID-19 induced downsizing. This could be a risky game for radio.

As JacobsMedia’s Techsurvey 2020 spotlights, audience agreement with the statement, “One of radio’s primary advantages is its local feel,” has never been higher. In TS2020, it hit 88 percent agreement and this extends through all demos except GenZ but even there it hits 77 agreement. This “local feel” X-factor has risen steadily from 77 percent in TS2016.

Streaming services continue to penetrate drivetime radio with greater success benefiting from consumer adoption of platforms tarting with mobile phones then evolving to in-car connected devices like WiFi hotspots and now natively connected cars rolling of dealer lots. With this infrastructure in-place, streamers and expanding into marketing and selling geotargeted advertising.

As called out in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Music streaming services are trying to lure listeners away from local AM/FM stations.” That’s a big prize. Nielsen research shows that local radio is the largest weekly reach platform across all demos, with a slight dip for P50+ where TV has a couple points on radio.

One of local radio’s greatest strengths is its localism in terms of local talent, news, weather, traffic, alerts, local advertising, local selling relationships and local events. These things clearly not only matter to audiences but increasingly so. Particularly in our current “After Virus” age of COVID-19 where stay at home audiences are experiencing newly emergent senses of community and social relevance as they spend so much more time with family and in the social distancing safe sphere of neighbors.

For an extremely challenging time overall and certainly in the local radio industry, as leadership evaluates revenue challenges and margin compression, certainly digital services represent a path to growth. But do consider what kinds of innovations to local radio can help the industry monetize the incredible, and growing, brand equity it has in its X-factor, “Local Feel.”

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