If the battle for listeners’ loyalties comes down to "high-tech" versus "high-touch", the results of a major Michigan research project conducted by the Communications Research Institute (CRI) of East Lansing show listeners strongly prefer the ability of local radio stations to keep them in touch with their communities. The research results stand in stark contrast to recent media hype surrounding the emergence of competing audio services including satellite radio and personal audio players such as iPods.
"The research confirms what we suspected all along," said Bruce Goldsen, Chairman of the Radio Issues Committee of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB). Goldsen is also owner of Jackson Radio Works. "Listeners in Michigan place a high value on what we do best, which is keeping citizens in touch with their local communities through news, community service, music that is preferred by local citizens, and personalities that become part of the extended family."
The research results were presented to the board of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB), which commissioned the study, Thursday, July 21 at the MAB’s Annual Meeting and Leadership Retreat at Soaring Eagle Resort in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
The MAB hired CRI to test Michigan listeners’ attitudes about local radio and emerging competitors, including satellite radio and personal audio devices such as iPods. The CRI team consisted of Michigan State University communications research experts Dr. William A. Donohue, Dr. Charles Atkin, and Dr. Bradley Greenberg.
CRI conducted the research during April and May 2005. The firm utilized a statewide telephone survey of 300 Michigan residents and seven focus groups to compile data. Key findings in the telephone survey include:
* 79% of respondents said they had spent as much or more time listening to local radio compared to one year ago
* 95% said they expected to listen to local radio as much or more in the coming year
* 88% felt their local radio station provides a valuable service to the community
* Only 8% had access to satellite radio
* 50% of satellite radio customers indicated they did not receive good reception when driving
* 83% of satellite customers indicated they would not continue to pay for the service if satellite stations start carrying commercials
* Only 20% listen regularly to personal players (typically 45 minutes per day).
"Most adults still feel close ties to their local radio stations, which satisfy listener needs for information about the community as well as their preferred type of music," said Dr. Atkin. "Even young adults under age 30 are regular radio listeners, despite their increased use of personal players and other new technologies."
Seventy-five individuals were involved in the focus group sessions.
Key findings include:
* Virtually every research participant could name their favorite local radio station
* People become attached to a specific local radio station and find when moving to another geographic location, they "miss" their old station
* When asked why they like listening to local radio, respondents mentioned local news, weather and sports reports
* Listeners become attached to various local radio personalities and enjoy listening to them on their way to work or school
* Many respondents liked hearing about local events and concerts which they feel keeps them in touch with their communities
* People recalled their favorite stations often promote community causes and raise money for charities; and
* Listeners said in contrast to satellite radio that local radio stations reveal the “sounds of a city” and reflect the unique culture of the community.
"People grow up listening to radio as they drive around with their parents," said Dr. Donohue. "They get attached to the sound and they like to come back to it as they mature. People we surveyed said local radio reflects the unique culture of their communities in ways competing technologies cannot."
"We felt we had a good story to tell, but we wanted hard, unbiased data to demonstrate what we suspected to be true," said Karole White, President and CEO of MAB. "The facts show that the hype being put forth by emerging technologies doesn’t align with the reality that local radio is uniquely positioned to provide the local touch listeners value."
The MAB plans to use the data from the CRI research to develop a campaign to promote the strengths of local radio throughout Michigan. The local radio campaign will be launched in late summer 2005.
The Michigan Association of Broadcasters represents more than 300 radio and television stations, serving nearly 4,000 individuals employees in the broadcasting industry. MAB is one of the largest broadcast associations in the nation and offers educational, informational, and cost-saving services to its members. The MAB is dedicated to helping its members serve their communities, advertisers and staff by providing solutions to industry problems and satisfying members’ needs.