Shifting Listener Priorities

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

For years it was accepted that people listened to music stations primarily for music. Everything else was secondary. Now that may be changing. A recent study conducted by Jacobs Media suggests that music may not necessarily be the reason why listeners tune to their favourite station. The study shows that listeners are now more likely to choose a station because they like the presenters.

The above graph tracks the appeal of music versus personalities over a 7 year period. At the start of the study, radio listeners chose music over presenters by a 13% margin. However, in the 2021 survey, listeners chose presenters over music by a 6% margin. This is a remarkable shift. (***)

Let us examine the specific question/answer used in this survey. One answer option is “I like particular DJ’s/shows/hosts” and another is “I want to hear my favorite songs/artists”. The first answer option is clearly focused on presenters and their programs. The second is focused on a person’s favourite music.


What could have caused this shift in listener priorities? Look to the Internet.

In the past few years, people’s music listening options have expanded dramatically. Spotify, one of the earliest music streaming pioneers, initially gave listeners the option to hear playlists based on a particular music style or artist. However, music streaming services now give the user the option of hearing specific songs on demand.  Listeners can hear their favourite songs as often as they like. Not only are they available on demand but they can be downloaded as well. This makes listening to one’s favourite songs and artists easier than ever before.

Now we turn to presenters and their programs. If a listener wants to hear a specific presenter’s program, there is usually only one practical option: tune to the radio station where that program airs. Because the presenter’s program is proprietary to that station, it cannot be accessed any other way. Presenters and their programs give a station a unique selling proposition (USP) whereas music playlists do not offer this advantage.

A word of caution. The presenters who are most attractive to listeners are the presenters with a personality and who have something to say. In other words, they are real communicators and not just slogan readers. Talented presenters require enough format flexibility to allow them to express themselves in a way that is interesting and convincing.

It is ironic that in an era when station operators are increasingly reluctant to use live presenters, they are perhaps becoming an increasingly valuable and necessary asset to a station’s brand. Radio operators need to invest in the development of air personalities as if the station’s existence depended upon it.


First published by Jacobs Media. Read original here 



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