Wisconsin Broadcasters Association

Whether you’re in radio or television, there’s no question that new technology, gadgets, and consumer behavior are going through rapid changes that affect the future of your business.  In radio, competitors like Pandora and Spotify, and the challenges of access in the “connected car” are a major focus.  In television, cord cutting and time shifting both threaten the old order.

It was these circumstances that motivated us to create an annual series of national research studies to help broadcasters identify changing trends in order to create smart strategies.  So, while this article is about our Techsurvey for radio, it is research that television execs and managers can benefit from and should consider in this rapidly-changing media environment.

It’s hard to believe, but our 13th annual Techsurvey goes into the field in January. When all is said and done, we’re expecting more than 200 stakeholder stations from all over the U.S. and Canada will work together to produce our ongoing narrative about how consumers are using media and technology.  We’re also hoping Wisconsin is well-represented.

We first experimented with email database web surveys in the late ‘90s. When 9/11 happened, many of our clients were understandably perplexed about how to move forward. Most people forget the tragedy occurred just before the start of the Fall ratings book.  Many stations had promotions, marketing, and contests planned and were concerned about doing the right thing.

We brought together a group of about 50 stations from around the country, and launched a web survey using their email databases as the sample. In 48 hours, thousands of responses poured in, providing much-needed information and guidance.

In the early 2000s, we grasped that technology was moving into the forefront as new innovations rapidly hit the market.  We believed this methodology would provide great information in the quest to understand what radio listeners are doing when they’re not listening to the radio.

Our Techsurveys are the biggest research studies in the radio industry, typically producing at least 30,000 respondents each year. While the samples may not be representative of the entire population – most are radio listeners from station email databases – their massive size more than makes up for it.

From the very first Techsurvey in 2005 that uncovered the “cell phone only” problem leading to Arbitron addressing its sample deficit, to last year’s study that illustrated the impact of video on-demand and its relationship to podcasting, these national studies have provided broadcasters with an ongoing tracking mechanism to better understand the technology changes that are all around us.

For the first seven years of Techsurveys, respondents were from the “Rock Family” – listeners of Classic Rock, Mainstream Rock, Alternative, and Triple A. In 2012, we opened up Techsurvey to all formats, allowing us to zoom in on fans of stations as diverse as Adult Contemporary, Sports, Country, News Talk, and Variety Hits. 

In 2013, we began to explore generations, breaking out our massive data sets by Boomers, Xers, Millennials, Gen Z, and the Silent Generation (born in 1946 or earlier). Marketers often speak in generational terms, and so our Techsurveys are now able to provide great granularity in the understanding of tech trends and shifts.

“Trackability” is one of the benefits of Techsurvey.  Below left is the Media Usage Pyramid we created for our first study in 2005, and at right is last year’s pyramid.  The differences are striking:


While these studies tend to be tech-focused, delving into areas as that include streaming, podcasting, social media, mobile, and “connected cars,” we also explore why consumers continue to enjoy radio amidst all these digital options.  And it turns out that while new media are very appealing to many respondents, radio continues to provide its own unique assets. Beyond music and personality, many listen to the radio for companionship, escape, and mood elevation. Others are simply in the habit of listening to the radio. As we’ve learned, it’s not a bad thing to be an integral part of people’s daily routines.

We have also learned about the connection between television viewing and radio listening. We’re seeing rampant growth in Smart TVs, and of course video on-demand and binge watching continue to grow rapidly in our studies. These same consumers are also leading the way in podcast listening. Clearly, on-demand has become a major media consumption trend.

In the upcoming Techsurvey, we’ll be exploring new areas on the tech frontier. These include voice command technology (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.), shared mobility (Uber and Lyft), Facebook Live, cord-cutting, along with a deeper dive into the appeal and impact of podcasting. We’ll continue to dig into the automotive front as well, focusing on the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto dashboard ecosystems.

We had no idea back in 2005 when we started our Techsurveys that technology would be this advanced. No one did. Back then, social media, smartphones and tablets, “connected cars,” and apps were essentially non-existent. Today, they play major roles in all aspects of many people’s lives, and they’ve had an indelible impact on the radio broadcasting industry, presenting a world of challenges and opportunities.

The story continues. 

WBA members can participate in Techsurvey13. The only requirement is a strong email database. More information is available by clicking the link below. We’ll offer a 10 percent discount to any WBA member that signs up.  

For more information about Jacobs Media’s Techsurveys, go to www.jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey

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