Perhaps the future of media lies in a retreat to the past.
A new study commissioned in the U.K. by the Radio Advertising Bureau concluded that listening to the radio makes people happier than watching TV or surfing the Internet.
1,000 Britons participated in the study, using their smartphones to respond to questions about their media consumption and emotional responses at various times of the day.
“On average, when consuming radio, happiness & energy scores increase by 100% and 300% compared to when no media is being consumed,” the study found. But happiness increased most when that media was the radio.
Radio is a kind of “lifestyle support system,” the authors wrote, which helps people feel better as they go about their days. Many respondents didn’t realize how important radio was in their lives until they had participated in the exercise.
To Michael C. Keith, a professor at Boston College and a leading scholar in history and electronic media, these conclusions come as no surprise.
“Why else do people listen to music radio, other than to get enjoyment out of it?” he asked HuffPost in an interview last week. “People don’t listen to radio to be depressed, certainly not when it comes to entertainment radio or music radio. The whole idea of listening to radio is to gain companionship and, at the same time, enjoyment.”
Indeed, the study’s participants claimed to experience “peaks and troughs” while consuming TV and online media, but radio provided a “consistent environment themed and shaped” to suit their needs at any given moment.
Generally, we can all agree, people like listening to music. We all have a station we prefer with music we know we’ll like, and unless we just broke up with our significant others, for the most part we’re choosing music that will make us feel good.
“Radio is like ice cream,” Keith said. “You choose the station that tastes best to you — the flavor you like the best is going to give you enjoyment.”
Whereas trolling online might occasionally present you with an uncomfortable activity — checking your bank statement perhaps, looking for jobs or watching a really non-cute cat do something awful — television has always been considered the ultimate in escapism. However, many respondents claimed they experienced a low after watching their favorite programs, as they were suddenly plunged back into “real life.”
Radio, on the other hand only improved and supported peoples’ daily activities, like cleaning up around the house, or getting ready in the morning. Many respondents also listened to the radio while they did other work online.
“More than anything else,” Keith said. “[Radio] is used to provide companionship, to soothe, to reassure, to make happy.”
According to the Daily Mail, U.K. radio listenership is at a record high, with “91.6 per cent of the population” tuning in each week.
And listenership in the U.S is also increasing at a rapid pace, according to Arbitron, a leading media and marketing research firm in D.C. Arbitron found in a recent “Infinite Dial” study that 242 million Americans currently listen to the radio each week, and online radio consumption has doubled every year since 2001.
The Arbitron study also concluded, like the U.K. study, that radio is more “resilient” than ever. The medium continues to embrace social media and smart phone technology to interact with their listener base, and “few (if any) digital platforms have Radio’s scale or ability to drive its over-the-air users to their online digital platforms and those of their advertisers.”
Bill Rose, the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Arbitron, said that listeners grow more attached to the stations they frequent, and remain loyal for the rest of their lives, in many cases.
“People don’t read the New York Times for years and then go out and buy a New York Timessweatshirt,” he said. “But people really care about the stations they listen to, and they’ll buy and wear the material from [those stations].”
Radio is such an integral part of our daily lives that perhaps we’ve forgotten how it truly affects us.
“A lot of the new media gets more press, more buzz, more attention,” Rose explained. “But people use radio more year over year.”