Radio Audiences Recover as COVID Concerns Drop

Written By

Liz Iversen

Published On

Thursday, Oct 14
Closeup of a hand turning the volume dial on a car radio.
In a company video, Cumulus Media/Westwood One’s Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard presented new data on consumer driving, COVID sentiment, and radio audience recovery. Here are some key findings:

Concern over COVID is subsiding

“One of the most interesting ways to track consumer interest in any topic,” according to Bouvard, “is Google search trends. This free tool lets you put in a search term like COVID, and you can track search volumes over time.”

According to Google Trends, COVID search volumes have fallen sharply through September and into October 2021. And as Bouvard wrote on Westwood One’s “Everyone’s Listening” blog, “As of early October 2021, COVID Google searches are down -56% from the peak of consumer interest.”

Americans are driving

Consumer movement data from the Federal Reserve, Geopath, and Apple Maps reveals the following:

  • 66% of Americans are commuting every day and 18% are commuting some days.
  • American miles traveled has recovered to 2019 levels.
  • Driving search traffic has recovered from Covid lows and surpassed pre-Covid levels.

According to Bouvard, “All of this explains why radio listening continues to recover. Americans are on the road and they’re driving, and that has powered the recovery of U.S. radio listening.”

Radio listening has recovered 

According to Nielsen data from March 2020 through September 2021, radio listening has recovered 94% of the pre-COVID norms. September 2021 Portable People Meter (PPM) listening levels are actually 4% higher than those of September 2020.


Data shows that COVID concerns have declined, consumers are back in their cars, and they’re listening to radio. Are you ready to hear your commercial on AM/FM, satellite, or streaming radio? Contact SMI today.

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