Hearing vs. Listening

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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