Radio Scores as Most Trusted Medium: iHeartMedia Shares Survey Results

By iHeartMedia InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Radio Scores as Most Trusted Medium:  iHeartMedia Shares Survey Results

In an era of data breaches, accusations of fake news and concerns over transparency, and at a time when all things digital were thought to be the coolest tool in the media box, broadcast radio is having its moment.  Scores of stories have reported on how it has maintained its lead position for reach (92% of U.S. adults listen to radio weekly), and now it appears that radio has also won the “trust” game.

According to the results of a survey just released by iHeartMedia, radio is:

  • +81% more trustworthy than cable TV
  • +27% more trustworthy than network TV
  • +36% more trustworthy than public TV/radio 
  • Two times more trustworthy than social media. 

Trust and audio are not new bedfellows -- especially as it relates to broadcast radio, which remains at the top in audio listenership.  That trust is based largely on the unique bond listeners have with their favorite on-air radio personalities.  Choosing a personality to keep you company as you commute, or “whisper in your ear” at work, creates a powerful relationship, one that listeners think of as personal, complete with the emotional connection. That’s what makes the recommendations from personalities be perceived as -- even recalled as -- word-of-mouth from a friend and resonate in a way that has long benefited savvy advertisers.  But the empirical proof that more people trust radio than any other medium is eye-opening.  The iHeartMedia survey reveals that 85 percent of listeners believe radio personalities make radio “more real and expressive than other media.”  Eighty percent say they feel radio personalities care about their audience and care about “things that matter to me.”

Gayle Troberman, Chief Marketing Officer for iHeartMedia, is not surprised, though.  Long an audio advocate, even in her previous roles helming marketing at Microsoft and IPG, Troberman believes that, “one big reason you see stats like ‘9 out of 10 people listen to radio’ is the deep relationships fans have with their favorite personalities and shows.  You drive to work together every day for years and listeners feel they really know the DJ through his or her honest, unscripted conversation.”

As the largest purveyor of radio, with 850 stations reaching a quarter of a billion people nationwide, iHeartMedia has a double reason to be happy:  It emerged from the survey as the most trusted radio brand, twice the trust of some competitors.  Why?  Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, points directly to their “live, local and human focus.  We empower our on-air personalities to curate the conversations, content and culture that are important and relevant to the everyday life of their specific audiences,” he says.  “It’s this ‘human first’ approach to programming that differentiates us.”

That trust transfers to advertisers, creating, Pittman says, “the perfect context for brands wanting to connect and build deep relationships with their consumers.” 

Troberman agrees and has been leveraging those DJ/listener relationships to boost both audiences and advertising revenue by partnering closely with brands to help deliver results through audio so the survey results are a point of satisfaction.  “It’s not only that our brand is trusted, but it’s important to all marketers to really recognize how radio literally speaks to consumers.  Planners, especially, can be rock stars with their clients by tapping into this undervalued medium because the listeners respond.  It’s the trust.  They buy what their ‘friends’ – the personalities – recommend.”

Like the results of the survey, iHeartMedia advertisers have felt the power of those trusted relationships.  Citing their recent headline-generating success story for the film Bohemian Rhapsody (which included implementing the biggest roadblock in radio history by simultaneously playing the eponymous song across 650 of their stations), Troberman uses an analogy to describe the power of friends’ recommendations:  “You've probably gone to a million restaurants because someone you trust said, 'I had the best pasta of my life last night’ or ‘you have to try the pizza at this place.'  Bohemian Rhapsody was a really interesting example of partnering with the studio marketing team and lots of our on-air personalities to make a movie and a band relevant to entirely new generations who didn't necessarily know Queen or the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or even Freddie Mercury.”

While perceived word-of-mouth impact applies to influencing almost any purchase -- automotive to QSRs -- the one-two punch of radio is that 8 in 10 listeners feel the content and DJs align with their values.  Troberman notes that “we reach them in moments and markets and genres -- whether it’s Country, Top 40, Urban or Sports -- and always communicate in relatable ways.  This lets brands tap into the relatable content of hundreds of our local personalities who live in these markets, as well as big national programs where the live daily conversation is in the moment, making it more trustworthy and relevant.”

Troberman acknowledges that they are hearing from a lot of clients that trust is an important part of how they make investment decisions.  So, in these days of trust-scarcity, for brands as well and mediums, picking radio as that marketing bedfellow sounds like the right move. 

Sources:  AskSuzy Survey, December 2018; *iHeartMedia “Influencer Marketing,” April 2018

Photo at top:  Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of "The Breakfast Club" on New York's Power 105.1, speaks with host Bobby Bones. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Photo above:  Recording artist Steve Aoki (right) w/ radio personalities (from left) Charlamagne Tha God, DJ Envy and Angela Yee of "The Breakfast Club." (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

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