Tuesday, we reported that more than two-thirds of 18-64 listeners think radio is an important part of their lives. Yesterday, we reported that three-fourths pay a lot of attention when they listen. The question we answer today is: WHY???

What does radio deliver that makes it important and worthy of attention?  Most programmers, I think, would answer music, news, sports, humor, contests, etc.  All true, but there’s more than that…

This month’s ListenerThink research explored the benefits that listeners get from radio…beyond only the elements of programming. In an online survey, we asked 989 18-64 listeners to rate 18 different motivations for listening to radio, on a scale from “not at all important” to “very important.”

The numbers below are the percentages of listeners who find each reason for listening very important. On top, we find motivations related to MOOD. About half rate “to get in a better mood” as a very important reason for listening. Close behind is another motivation related to mood — relaxation:

To get into a better mood 49%
To relax and unwind when you feel tense 46%
To take your mind off your problems or situations 36%
To get an energy boost when you need a lift 35%
To hear things that make you laugh 33%
To keep you company when you’re alone or lonely 31%
To add to the fun when you’re with other people 29%
To bring back memories of a past time, place or event 29%
To hear things that get you thinking 27%
To hear what other people are talking or thinking about 26%
To hear things that get you excited 26%
To help you work better or faster 25%
To get practical information that makes your life better 24%
To learn things that make you more interesting to others 22%
To learn things that make you more informed than other people 21%
To be reassured nothing bad is happening 18%
To feel more like part of your community 17%
To hear things that make you angry 10%

On that last item, I often find it helpful to throw at least one “outlier” into questionnaires…things respondents are highly unlikely to agree with or appreciate. Still, one in ten listens to get angry!  (Yes, Talk radio still has a future ;)).

Fortunately, positive benefits are the biggest motivators. Unfortunately, few stations sell benefits in their positioning and promotion (including advertising).

Other industries get it.  Beer advertising sells male bonding, not just an alcoholic beverage. Resorts advertise escape, not just a hotel room. Revlon founder Charles Revson famously said:  “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”

What do radio stations advertise? All too often,  attributes like “less talk,” “the biggest variety,” “the ’90s to now,” etc…. not benefits!

Yet years ago, Easy Listening stations had tremendous success positioning their stations as “The Place to Relax” — radio’s #2 benefit. Could other formats sell mood elevation or energy or companionship or another major benefit? Of course they could…IF the benefit were major motivations for their target listeners.

So far, we’ve just given you the “big picture” of our P1 research.  Next week, we’ll get into how P1’s of major formats differ…not only in terms of the benefits they seek from radio, but also their attitudes toward radio and themselves.

Stay tuned…