A quarter of workers tune in

Have you listened to the radio at home in the past week? The chances are you will have as about seven out of ten of us do, according to Rajar.

If you have a vehicle, again the odds are in favour of you having tuned in over the past seven days while driving.

But from business and consumer advertisers point of view, it’s more useful to know how many listen to the radio at work, and how often.

Of the 26 million or so adults currently employed full or part-time in the UK, Rajar reports that at some point during the week, more than a quarter will listen to the radio at work – that’s 6.5 million workers.

Those who listen at work will tune in for an average of 18.2 hours a week. This is the key difference between radio and newspapers, which are also consumed at work – the sheer amount of time spent with the medium.

Should we be surprised that tuning in at work is so common? Perhaps not, since radio requires no conscious effort on the part of the listener and can accompany workers while they are engaged in another, primary activity.

Reasons given for listening at work vary. For some people, the main reason is to fulfil a function. It might be a desire to catch up on sport, to keep up with current affairs or find out about traffic news. In some cases, the radio is listened to simply “because it’s on”, its presence seemingly unquestioned.

For most, however, radio’s role at work, either implicitly or explicitly, centres on satisfying emotional needs. Radio is seen as a way to help pass time and can be a mood enhancer. Music is an important factor in fulfilling these emotional needs, so it probably comes as no surprise to find that the type of music played is the single most important factor determining which station is listened to at work. This might explain why, at work, commercial stations are preferred to those of the BBC, as they are generally more music-oriented. But national and local news programmes are also popular.

However, radio listening at work tends not to be a solitary experience, unlike much listening at home or in the car. It is a more communal activity and consequently, station choice is heavily influenced by the need for consensus. Therefore, station-switching is infrequent at work as, in many cases, the decision to change can only take place after collective agreement. Once the desire to change has been agreed, a second consensus must be reached to decide on the choice of replacement station.

Another barrier to change is that listeners are working and too preoccupied to stop and decide what else to listen to.

These factors help explain why such a large proportion of workers listen to only one station throughout the week and have few opportunities to experiment with different stations. The average number of stations listened to during the course of the working week is just 1.6.

Workers who do tend to change stations, either occasionally or frequently, most commonly give boredom with the programming as the reason. However, a quarter of people will change stations in order to listen to a specific programme or feature elsewhere.

Meanwhile, advertisers may be reassured to learn that avoiding advertisements is very low on the list of reasons for changing stations at work – only eight per cent claim to do this.

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