Is the demise of radio listening on the horizon?

Will Pearson, Media Executive


This past weekend marked a notable day in the Gregorian calendar, with people across the country coming together in an annual celebration of their shared love and passions.

No, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day.

Nor am I talking about National Tortellini Day, Madly in Love with Me Day, or Get a Different Name Day (and yes, all of those are legitimate things – feel free to Google it).

Instead, Saturday 13th February marked the 10th anniversary of World Radio Day as presenters and listeners alike championed all things airwaves.

In a tumultuous year like no other, it seems somewhat apt that as we head towards the one-year ‘landmark’ (for want of a better word) the spotlight shines on a medium that has proven a welcome companion for many during testing times.



In the current climate, radio helps deliver what the public are craving – whether that’s helping that feeling of isolation and offering a friendly voice, or cutting through the minefield of fake news across social media and providing a trustworthy and familiar outlet for content.

So, no – radio hasn’t been killed. And no, there isn’t a demise on the horizon.

And here’s a few reasons as to why it should still be very much a consideration for brands and advertisers.


1. Radio is second only to TV at providing a trusted environment.

Recent research by YouGov has highlighted how prevalent this point around trustworthiness is, with radio the second-most trusted media in the UK behind TV (53%). Compare this to the likes of social media (10%) and online (18%) which – whilst achieving enormous reach figures, even more so as a result of the pandemic – fail to gain the nation’s trust, it’s testament to how engrained radio is in our culture.

You know what you get with radio, and that’s that.

It’s like going to your grandparents’ every weekend for a Sunday roast as a kid, knowing exactly what you’re going to get – but rarely being disappointed.


2. It offers incredible value for money.

This (relatively poor) analogy can be applied to campaign planning too – when it comes to radio you know that you can pay a comfortingly low CPT in a non-skippable and brand safe environment, where the concept of hearing ads is part and parcel of the experience.


3. Radio is – and has been – diversifying just like other key broadcast channels.

The theory that traditional media is on a slow and gradual decline across the board is an ever-present one in our industry, yet in most respects it’s an equally ridiculous one. Radio and audio listenership isn’t dying, it’s simply diversifying – much like the rest of the traditional media landscape.

Hot-off-the-press research by IPA Touchpoints suggests that commercial live radio listenership was down 9% from 2015 to 2020, but in the same timeframe commercial radio-on-demand and podcast listening increased by 124%.

It isn’t a case of re-writing the rulebook and scrapping tried and tested audio strategies, it’s about adapting them to cater for the evolution of consumption.

Admittedly, the same report shows how commercial listenership decreased further by 21% during the first lockdown – but when you completely strip out and change the nature of Breakfast and Drivetime, of course it’s going to have an impact. There’s no doubt that listening will bounce back.
It seems that advertisers are also increasing their trust in radio.


Final thoughts…

Ebiquity’s work on ‘Re-Evaluating Media for Recovery’ suggests that circa 19% of brands are preparing to increase their radio investment in 2021 (vs pre-Covid 2020 levels) – a more notable shift than any other media channel.

And you can see why.

In a year where people are feeling as disconnected from the outside world and each other as they’ve ever been, radio can help plug the gap – and it’s something advertisers are becoming wise to.