Citing the results of TargetCast’s new study Consumer Perspectives on How Media Usage Patterns are Evolving in the Digital Era, one report declared: Study Reinforces Idea Radio Less Relevant to Younger Demos.
The bottom line should be taken as a shot across the bow by broadcast radio: "41% of those surveyed indicate that radio is still relevant in today's media environment. According to respondents, radio provides a great venue to discover new music that cannot be experienced elsewhere.
Maybe somewhat surprising, respondents overall prefer to listen to music through the radio station vs. Internet stations or on their mp3 player. " However, within that overall conclusion there are several key demographics that are indicating a willingness to transfer their affinity to digital music sources including personal devices such as Internet radio, ipods, iphones and other multi-media devices.
We’ve noted in the past that positive news about radio is often reported with a large dose of expressed doubt or skepticism. This is another example. Maybe somewhat surprising is a phrase that only someone who has completely ignored a long trail of similar study results could use, but we see it all too often.
Let’s look at what the study really says.
The study begins by asking participants whether they are following each medium more, less, or about the same as the year before. Note that this question is a highly subjective measure of what people think, and not a true behavioral trend.
The graph at the top is our presentation of the results. (Click on all graphs to see better.) One way to judge radio’s perceptual strength with listeners is to combine the more and same responses. A medium in use before the participants were born is not likely to display a great deal of positive momentum. Given the blistering barrage of new-media hype, radio just needs to hold its own, and in the study it does.
Radio comes in fourth, just behind television. Television edges radio in more responses, 19% to 12%, but all and all a respectable performance for radio.
More interesting is the Internet responses. In regards to the Internet, the study differentiates between information and entertainment usage. (The report is devoid of any kind of methodological discussion, including an explanation of why and how the two uses were distinguished.)
Only one in four participants claims to be using the Internet more for entertainment. That’s an amazingly low number given the buzz about the Internet, particularly entertainment sources like Hulu and Internet radio. TargetCast may have detected an approaching inflection point for the Internet. That wouldn't be good for a medium hell-bent on replacing traditional media.
The lack of momentum for the Internet may explain the generally high marks people give television and radio in the study.
For example, a majority of participants prefer radio over online, mobile, or media player sources. Even among 18-24 year olds, media players just edge out radio. With older adults preference for radio is three to one. Again, given new-media’s hype, in this kind of comparison a draw favors radio.
Radio beat online and mobile sources even with 18-24 year olds, and with 25-64 year olds, radio won by a five to one ratio.
We generally avoid this type of question because people find it confusing. The presentation of the results also muddle the issue. The question appears to ask participants to pick one medium, but the results are given in percentages of agree, disagree, and neutral.
Whichever way the question was actually presented, the results are that 28% agree that radio is not as relevant today. That compares to the 41% who disagree that radio is not as relevant.
See the problem with the question? One has to disagree with the question to express a positive response. The 41% favorably compares to television’s 55%.
Radio’s strengths also come through in the study. People enjoy discovering new music on the radio, prefer it over players and online sources, have no difficulty finding a favorite station, and prefer to listen to the terrestrial signal rather than online.
Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know these things by reading the stories written about the study. Results that one author called maybe somewhat surprising (read positive) about radio somehow rarely make it into print. The fact that new media did no better than it did may ultimately be the headline that got away.