What is Time Spent Listening and Why Does it Matter?
We’ve established that radio is a heavy hitter when it comes to mass reach. But with radio advertising, another important number to pay attention to is time spent listening (TSL). That’s the amount of time a surveyed demographic spends listening to a particular type of audio—for example, AM/FM radio in general or a particular station—before turning it off, and it represents a deeper dive into reach.
Time Spent Listening by the Numbers
Nationally, AM/FM radio, and FM in particular, is the leader in TSL, with digital listening trailing close behind:
- In early 2016, FM radio garnered an average 13 hours and 1 minute per week.
- Comparatively, online radio’s TSL was 12 hours and 8 minutes per week in 2016, including both streaming broadcast radio and streaming music services, such as Spotify.
- Despite how close these numbers seem, other surveys show that AM/FM represented 44% of all time listening, perhaps because streaming services are often segmented on their own.
- Digital’s TSL continues to climb. In 2017, it represented 14 hours 39 minutes weekly.
- Research shows AM/FM still leads the way with 51% share of ear.
TSL varies by demographic but typically declines from older to younger generations. 25 to 34-year-olds listen to one hour of AM/FM per week more than 18 to 24 year olds, who spend 10 hours 14 minutes with it weekly. Interestingly, it seems that as teens become employed, their AM/FM TSL lifts by about an hour.
Why TSL Matters to Marketers
Although the statistics shared above are for radio in general nationwide, TSL can also be measured for specific radio stations. There are two factors that make this important:
The more time someone spends with radio, the more often they’ll hear radio ads. The more time they spend with a single radio station, the more likely they are to hear particular advertisers. If you select a station that has a high TSL with your target audience, you can more easily build frequency. In turn, this builds brand awareness and lifts message recall. While the overall reach and placement of your ads will play a large role in this as well, TSL is definitely part of the equation.
When a radio station has high TSL, that means it has an established audience that trusts it and regularly tunes in. The audience may be more likely to take note of recommendations from DJs and hosts, or be more likely to stay on the station when ads come on. A higher TSL could also mean they are more likely to engage with the station for promotions like contests and events because they tune in so often and have built that trust.
Time spent listening can have an impact on your radio advertising results, but it’s important to note this is not a be-all-end-all metric. Many other variables need to come into play when choosing the right station for your marketing plan, and this is just one of them.