Complex Made Simple

AM/FM radio under threat, but still thrives, especially in the UAE

Is radio a relic of the past, and if so, how come it is still with us? Who is listening in the UAE?

Radio is an anywhere, anytime medium, reaches people on the go, or at rest, is live, local, and informative Streaming services are drawing a lot of listeners, particularly from younger generations During Q1 2020, 7.82 million people tuned in every week to listen to the radio in the UAE

Is radio a relic of the past, and if so, how come it is still with us? There are threats to its existence but radio is proving resilient and able to transform and continue weaving into our society’s cultural fabric. 

The global radio broadcasting market is expected to decline from $115 billion in 2019 to $111 bn in 2020 at a negative rate of -4.3%. The culprit? Lower marketing spend during COVID-19.  Recovery expected from 2021 for 5% growth and a $126 bn market in 2023.

The UAE is proving a strong market for radio, and for good reasons. 

Radio is proof that listening is the first rule of communication.  

Read: Step aside digital: Radio is here to stay

Our frequency with radio 

Radio allows messages to be tailored and localized to each audience’s demographics and communities, and around events and genres in a market.  

Radio is an anywhere, anytime medium, reaches people on the go, or at rest, is live, local, and informative on community events, news, traffic, weather, sport and entertainment.  

Radio is where gifts and promotions are frequent and instantaneous, with rarely the need to log in, subscribe or fill information. 

Careful time placement of ads can have a real impact on call to action especially when celebrities or influencers make a personal endorsement. It’s also advertising that takes little time to produce, is cost-effective and ideal for inexpensive repetition. 

Radio is free, has a massive reach of 93% of the global population, more than TV and mobile, and people on average listen to almost 15 hours of commercial radio each week.

Threats to radio 

Television, CDs, the iPod, podcasts and live streaming devices like Spotify and Pandora are all threats to terrestrial or AM/FM radio. 

Streaming services are drawing a lot of listeners, particularly from younger generations. According to a 2018 survey by Edison Research, 50% of listeners between the ages of 18 and 34 don’t own a home radio.  

Digital platforms and real-time analytics are prompting companies to reconsider the value of terrestrial radio advertising.  

This is why a lot of local radio stations are choosing to go online.  The market is much wider for internet radio broadcasts, sometimes even global.

You’ll rarely find people talking about what was on the radio last night and begs the question of why go for massive reach when there is no engagement?

There is no easy way of measuring the ROI of your ads with broadcast radio.

Other strategies like SEOs and blogging are not there to create purposeful marketing strategies for brands.

The escape strategy for radio is online. It’s where advertisers can more accurately target and track their listeners with factors like mood, the number of listening hours, and the total number of listeners via which devices. 

Internet radio listeners can multitask on their smartphones or tablets even while enjoying music.  But the availability of more evolved platforms for radio advertising means that brands have to work harder to get to listeners.

Read: Infographic: The impact of Covid-19 on TV content consumption in Saudi Arabia

The UAE has good listeners 

According to data measurement firm Nielsen, the radio industry is still thriving in the UAE.  

During Q1 2020, 7.82 million people tuned in every week to listen to the radio. These listeners spent an average of 7 hours and 28 minutes each week.

The youngest listeners range from 10 years and above, and they spend on an average of 6 hours and 12 minutes per week, listening to the radio. People in the age group of 25-34 years, spend 7 hours and 44 minutes weekly.

While the majority still preferred listening in the old fashioned way via an AM/FM (79%), the report recorded an increase from the previous quarter in mobile listeners (35%), which accounts for 2.9 million of the weekly listeners.

The daily listening peaks recorded high reach, especially during the evening. Between 7-9 PM, radio reached almost 50% of listeners.