According to Sarina de Beer, Managing Director at Ask Afrika, lockdown has changed consumer psyche and behaviour considerably, which naturally includes how we consume media. Lockdown restrictions have added their own layer of complexity to radio consumption.

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many industries have been negatively affected, and South Africa’s radio currency has been no exception. To alleviate the pressure of no radio data being available, and to get a comprehensive update on the industry, the Broadcast Research Council (BRC) has commissioned research experts, Ask Afrika, to implement an interim radio data study. 

As the pandemic hit and Level 5 lockdown ensued, there was no doubt that radio stations in South Africa would see fluctuations in audience data – a huge disruptor being the changes to people’s daily routines and habits. Consumers were no longer commuting to and from work and working hours were altered by homeschooling, family life, restrictions on movement, social interactions and the like. 

‘These shifts in routines and habits have led to massive changes in media consumption, mainly, increases in listening and viewing habits,’ said Gary Whitaker, CEO at the BRC. Another implication is that radio research currency was negatively impacted. ‘As the makeup of the current underlying research methodology involves face to face interaction, namely, interviewing respondents for Radio Audience Measurement (RAMS), we were unable to provide data in Q2, Q3 and Q4 of 2020 to demonstrate these irregular times and differences in listenership audiences,’ said Whitaker. 

‘The focus of the interim measure will be to support the industry to gain a deeper understanding of just how radio consumption has changed over time. As an essential asset, we need to leverage the opportunity as one of the most trusted media sources over time. I believe that a fresh and deep understanding will enable just that,’ said de Beer. 

The only RAMS data currently available to the industry is Q1 2020 data and the world has gone through immense changes since then. To supplement this data, two interim sets of radio data will be released at the end of March and May 2021. Surveying will take place through a combination of face to face and online interviews, which will deliver insights at a Total Radio listenership level. The assessment of the approach was completed in collaboration with, among others, the Advertising Media Forum (AMF), a collective of media agencies and individuals including media strategists, planners, buyers and consultants.

While these two radio data sets are exactly that – interim data – the lockdown regulations have highlighted a clear need for the listenership currency to be future-proofed. Face to face methods and manual seven-day diaries will soon be a thing of the past. ‘We are looking forward to revealing the way forward – how listenership will be measured in South Africa following international best practices as soon as the second quarter of 2021,’ concluded Whitaker.