Hearing vs. Listening | radioinfo

Hearing vs. Listening

Sunday 08 November, 2020

Content from BPR

Digital platforms use a vast number of metrics to measure performance and over the years the analysis has matured and moved on from merely “page views” to “engagement” ….reposting, likes, shares, comments etc.

And from radio’s perspective, engagement is equally important as there is a vast difference between “hearing” and “listening”.

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens through exposure to audio.

Listening is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening requires engagement.

Dr Seth Horowitz, auditory neuroscientist at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA says

“The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention. When you actually pay attention to something you’re listening to, whether it is your favourite song….a separate “top-down” pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what you’re hearing and tune out sights and sounds that aren’t as immediately important.”

Hearing is passive and merely requires exposure to audio without any engagement. Listening relies on actual engagement with the audio.

A station’s audience must be “listeners” ….they must be engaged with the content. As I said in a previous article, you want the listeners to love the content so much that they tell their friends about what they heard.

If your station is merely producing audio with no engagement then it’s hardly a compelling reason for a client to advertise on your station.

And in countries that use recall methodology for Radio Audience Measurement (diaries, CATI etc), engagement is essential if you want your station to be remembered when it comes time to filling out the diary.


David Kidd







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Anthony The Koala
9 November 2020 - 11:21am
Digital delivery via IP streams of radio content easily lend themselves for audience metrics. However, there are no 'terrestrial receivers' with a network connection on the market which are connected to an IP network.

Although IP networks can deliver quality audio as high as CD or DAB+ (or more depending on the bitrates) , the listener/consumer may have to pay more for consuming data via a ISP' data plan whether the audio stream is delivered live or by a file (such as mp3, mp4, ogg). This is whether the consumer is in the geographic market or outside the geographic market.

It is true that listening outside the geographic region can also mean another market to target the listener. Thus the capacity for audience metrics via IP streams to people outside the broadcsater's geographic market is a boon for the broadcaster.

Furthermore, a signal delivered by IP streams is not subject to the ionospheric fading and noise of long distance analogue listening via AM MW or SW. Though depending on network capacity, the dreaded "rotating circle" can interrupt the active listener's listening pleasure.

The topic of DRM+ terrestrial radio by commercial broadcasters is not on the legislative agenda.

Nevertheless, the audience metrics discussed by the author is not available to listeners consuming terrestrial AM/FM/DAB+ radio and that is a very large chunk of the radio audience compared to IP delivery.

Consequently as a listener I don't want to pay for consuming a free-to-air broadcast via IP streaming when the only net cost of listening to terrestrial radio is the power and my own time.

Remember it is the extra cost of the data plans that a consumer will pay especially for audiences listening to a broadcast in the car via the car's infotainment's Android or Apple Play. That's unless you want to listen to a station outside the geographic location and prepared to pay for consuming data.

In conclusion, the metrics to measure whether the listener is active or passive can only be delivered via IP streams. Broadcasters will miss out on valuable listening metrics when many listeners use terrestrial radios (AM/FM/DAB+) which don't have a network cable or micro-sd connection. In addition to measure audience metrics described in this article via terrestrial radio would require a human with a clipboard spending time with the listener. That is costly and an inconvenience to the consumer.

Thank you,
Anthony of Belfield, where excitement abounds.
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