The current activity, and mindset, of any listener has a huge impact on the choices that they make when selecting what content to consume. This is most apparent when looking at a macro-scale as trends can be observed as people go about their daily routines, from the morning to the evening.

Lockdown across the globe has had a huge impact on people’s daily lives, the decisions they make and the devices that they have available to them. In terms of radio, this has meant a lack of a commute and a vastly different relationship with how they start their day.

As some degree of normality begins to return, normal habits will be reinstated, meaning that morning freedoms will be lost, and listeners will revert to patterns of old.

But what does this mean in terms of when, how much and what people listen to?

In this week’s article we will be looking to answer these questions for you:

  • What daily trends do listeners currently have?

  • What does analysis of past trends suggest they will be returning to?

  • What that means for the kind of radio you should think about presenting?

A return to the commute

A notable trend that has been pretty much absent across the last 18 months is the lack of a commute-based listening ‘spike’. This is especially noteworthy as these listeners tend to follow the same habits each day and have similar listening requirements: something entertaining but not distracting. Often this will go hand-in-hand with the need to provide key information around important local events (e.g. road closures) and updating them on the day-to-day.

Source: Ofcom Media nations UK 2021

Across the next year, it is expected that this will slowly return, as normal business resumes. While limited working-from-home habits are expected to be retained more permanently, especially in large cities, a rise in demand for commute-style content from 6-9am and 4.30-6.15pm should be expected, returning to levels around 80% of those seen in 2020 by mid-2022.

One of the most crucial trends that we will be dealing with as listeners convert back to normal habits will be a dramatic shift from 84% of listening being in the home, to a level that will probably sit somewhere between 50-60% as some new listening behaviours are retained.

Source: Ofcom Media nations UK 2021

Easy in the morning, complex at night

The return of the commute may mean that people are increasing their consumption of informative content, but this also comes with a quantifiable impact on the type of music-based content that they will be interested in, when they chose this. Most commuters follow a very set pattern that varies by only 5-10 minutes a day and, when people follow ‘rote’ patterns, will often seek to make their environment familiar; which extends to what they are listening to. Consider the fact that every gym has roughly the same, perhaps unimaginative, workout tunes that serve a single purpose.

Source: Streetbees

Commuters will consciously make decisions to seek out content that fits with their current state of mind. So, in the morning, if they are presented with something that challenges them, they are more likely than at any other time to switch to something else. In the latter parts of the day, when their behaviour patterns are more free-form, they are likely to reverse this trend and instead will engage ‘discovery mode’; seeking out content that is less familiar.

Most notably, the return of the morning commute will act to intensify this split in consumption habits by flooding the early hours with a higher number of slightly sleepy, less engaged listeners; keen to listen to something simple that fits in with their morning routine. Radio listeners no longer working from home will have a more defined morning, further polarising their consumption habits.

To finish on a positive, while radio listening declined in total over the lockdown period, the uplift in at-home listening, to a large extent, mitigated the loss of in-car. Much of this also resulted in the purchase and use of more in-home devices, connected or otherwise. As long as normal habits resume, radio will have been left with a wider addressable audience, a diversification of listening needs and is all the richer for it.

Automate to spend your time more effectively

While you can manage your playlists manually, applying automation to your station is a great way to ensure your time is spent where it is most valuable.

If you are using radio management software, check to see what features it has, which can automate the early morning, repetitive slots. Selecting a smaller quantity of popular content and having your software cycle this across the week (Monday to Friday) will free up your resources for those times when your personal curation is most effective and most appreciated.

PlayIt Live has a number of great features to aid with basic and advanced automation, including track grouping, playout policies, clocks and a living log.

These tools allow you to manually, or automatically (via metadata) curate tracks into groups and set playout schedules to define when certain groups will be automatically aired. Further to this, you can make sure that your playlist is familiar, but not repetitive by setting playout policies to ensure that tracks (or artists) are not played too often.

You can find out more in our handy video, which outlines these features and more.