The first radio news program to broadcast was on August 31, 1920. It has been over 100 years since this historical milestone took place and radio today remains a powerful medium for communicating with the world.

In fact, according to Nielsen, traditional AM/FM radio is the number one consumer reach medium in the United States with the platform reaching more Americans than any other platform.

Nielsen has found that among adults 18+, radio reaches 92% of U.S. adults every single week. This is across age, gender, or ethnicity and means that live or DVR TV, social media, and even news websites are not reaching as many people as radio is. 

It should come as no surprise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, radio has been the chosen medium of reference throughout the crisis.

Throughout history, it has been radio that has served as the medium of choice during major disasters, wars, and health emergencies due to it being the most universal, the easiest, and most accessible of all medias out there.

Listeners across the nation have been turning to their radios for coronavirus vaccine updates. Stations have been relaying critical information to their local followers to let them know how to get vaccinated and where to go for the vaccines.

Radio stations all across the United States have been informing listeners about which tiers are eligible for the vaccine, where to get the vaccine if eligible, and what underlying conditions can impact them when and if they get it.

Radio additionally has been assuring the American people about the safety of the vaccine. This past December, the U.S. Department of Health and Services released two 60 second radio ads that went through February 14th to help build vaccine confidence. The ads were in rotation on over 1,000 English radio stations in 75 markets and over 60 Spanish radio stations in 30 markets.

According to a NY Times article, radio has been playing a huge part in a massive public education campaign to encourage millions of Americans to get vaccinated.

Last year the federal government launched a $250 million public education campaign that began this past December in print, social media, and radio. The initiative was developed by market research firm Fors Marsh Group, who is under contract with the government.

“I have advised my team that we recognize our operating environment is complicated, we have a public health mission, and we need to stay focused on that,” Mark Weber told the NY Times. Weber is the federal health official who is running the campaign.

Not long ago, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) also partnered with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) on a research project to identify effective COVID-19 vaccine education messaging.

Local radio and television stations will use the findings to craft public health messages and educational programming.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, America’s hometown radio and TV stations have been on the front lines in providing accurate and trusted information to keep communities informed, educated and safe,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. 

“We are dedicated to using our platforms to encourage the public to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors by getting inoculated,” he said in a statement.

The toolkit is available in English and Spanish and is being shared with all local radio and television stations to reach as many people as possible.

Radio was among the first to report the Hindenburg Disaster, the Cuban Missile crisis, to declare victory over Japan in World War II, and to broadcast Martin Luther King’s monumental “I Have a Dream” speech.

Today radio is contributing to one of the most critical vaccine rollouts in modern history and is continuing to thrive as listeners choose the medium to stay updated.

A 2020 study by Emma Rodero, the director of the UPF Media Psychology Lab at the Department of Communication, found that radio stood out to be the essential medium for staying informed during the coronavirus crisis. 

The study found that the U.S. saw an increase with a 28% jump in radio consumption, and part of this increase may be contributed to public radio stations in the U.S. delivering viral news and information on the virus.

Pandora commissioned a study last March to understand how COVID-19 has changed audience habits. It found that 42% of the general market audience and 54% of Hispanic Americans are spending more time listening to streaming audio than before the pandemic.

Audio streaming and media services provider Spotify did their own research to see why Americans are listening to more radio during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Spotify, listeners have been checking out podcasts like Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction (CNN), Coronavirus Global Update (BBC), and Don’t Touch Your Face (Foreign Policy). 

The coronavirus has proven that radio is still a top source for information and remains an important medium for advertisers to pay attention to when they adapt their marketing strategies.