Radio Listening During Hurricane Sandy
Jon miller | Director of Programming Services
As Hurricane Sandy rumbled into the northeast late last month, millions of people on the east coast turned to radio to stay up-to-date on the latest power outages, damage estimates, and weather forecasts. It was an unprecedented event for an area of the country that is home to a sixth of America’s population. At the height of the storm, there were millions without power, cell phone service, or an Internet connection. Amazingly, some remain in the dark even now.
Today, the first peek at how Sandy impacted radio listenership in the northeast rolls out with the release of the Arbitron November Week 3 data: the PPM Weekly covering 10/25-10/31.
The storm made landfall on Monday, October 29th, and that day, more than 16 million people (aged 6+) tuned to radio in seven of Arbitron’s PPM markets that stretch from Washington, DC to Boston. By Wednesday, two days after the storm, nearly 24 million were tuning in while the full extent of the damage was still being realized.
Total Market Listening Persons 6+ / Monday-Friday 6AM-Midnight / November Week 3, 2012
|Avg Daily Cume||Mon 10/29||Tue 10/30||Wed 10/31|
|New York Metro||7,326,900||9,816,500||10,703,400|
Note: The New York Metro area includes the embedded markets of Nassau-Suffolk (Long Island) and Middlesex-Somerset-Union (New Jersey).
Even this once-in-a-generation storm didn’t disrupt normal radio listening for more than a few days. From serving as a vital source of information for communities cut off from the outside world due to flooding and destruction to being a welcome distraction for the millions trying to get back to their normal routines, radios were on across the region in the hours and days following the storm.
However, the real story isn’t how many people were listening but what they were listening to.
We examined Sandy’s impact in the New York Metro, where the storm struck most violently, and split the market into three distinct groups: FM music stations* (no streams, AM, or noncommercial stations), All News & News-Talk stations* (commercial only), and all Spoken Word outlets* (including noncommercial news formats). Here’s a look at the full weekday shares:
Persons 6+AQH Share/ Monday-Friday 6AM-Midnight / November Week 3, 2012
Music radio, which generally accounts for two-thirds of all radio listening in the market, dropped by 25 shares as Sandy made landfall while News/Talk and overall spoken word listening both more than doubled. In the two days following the trend started to reverse, but even 48 hours after the storm listeners were still using radio for the information they needed.
We know that radio consistently reaches 93% of all people aged 6+, but the storm-driven shift in listening only reinforces how well established our medium is in listeners’ minds. The data shows that listeners of all ages turn to radio when they need the latest information about their communities. When people living in the path of Sandy needed updates, they kept the radio on by tuning to their trusted sources, no matter what the format. In fact, the same dramatic shift we saw in the general market also occurred with radio’s youngest listeners: the 12-24 demographic.
Persons 12-24 AQH Share/ Monday-Friday 6AM-Midnight / November Week 3, 2012
In closing, I want to wish all of you who were affected in some way by Sandy the best in your recovery. And express gratitude to all of the broadcasters, radio and otherwise, who went above and beyond to provide information to your communities during and after the storm.
*Note that during the evening of 10/29 and in one case until the morning of 10/31 several news and spoken-word stations were simulcast on FM sister stations. This includes WCBS-AM on WWFS-FM, WFAN-AM on WXRK-FM, and WINS-AM on WCBS-FM and then later on WXRK-FM.
Therefore the sum totals of the various groups represented in this analysis may include some listening to news programming that was airing on what is usually an FM music format.
Jon Miller is the Director of Programming Services at Arbitron. Reach him at email@example.com.