Written by Media, Radio

How Many Listened?

According to a story in Media Guardian, “an estimated 5 million” people tuned in to hear who would be the Christmas number one yesterday during the various chart shows.
There are two main chart shows these days: the Radio 1 version which is considered the official chart, and the Big Top 40 chart which runs on dozens of local commercial radio stations and during which you can actually affect the top ten chart placings by buying songs during the show.
Radio has a couple of problems with listening figures for one-off shows: RAJAR only measures audiences over three month periods, and then publishes those figures at something of a delay. So even if one show achieved four times the audience of the regular show, when averaged over a thirteen (or twelve) week period, that audience surge is flattened out. This is even more the case with the Big Top 40 chart which has 6 month weighting meaning that the numbers are derived from the previous 12 weeks’ performance.
So the 5 million figure is a complete (educated) guess.
To be fair, that’s what John Plunkett’s piece says, and the figure comes from Mark Goodier:
But Goodier estimated that the combined audience for the Radio 1 chart show – yesterday hosted by Scott Mills – and its commercial radio rival, the Big Top 40 , could have topped 5 million.
How did Goodier get to that figure? Well he might have looked at the audiences of Radio 1 and the Big Top 40 shows at that time. Between 1845 and 1900 on Sundays, Radio 1 is heard by 748,000 listeners, while the Big Top 40 chart is heard by 968,000 listeners across its network of 139 FM stations as well as various digital outlets*.
So something like 1.7m people usually hear the number one. Goodier is speculating that around 3 times as many people heard yesterday’s chart.
I think that he might actually be being a little conservative. The two songs battling for the number one sold around a million copies between them. Ordinarily a number one sells much less than this (perhaps by a factor of ten if this table from Wikipedia detailing download only sales is to be believed).
In summary – nobody knows how many people listened yesterday. This is a bad time of year to do any kind of research (RAJAR takes a break for a couple of weeks), and unless somebody like the BBC has commissioned some, we’ll never know.
I think that Goodier is actually being conservative given the many millions who saw Joe win X-Factor the week before, allied with the hundreds of thousands of Rage and Joe sales achieved. I’d put the figure a bit higher perhaps at around 6 or 7 million. But I have no real proof either way. So it’s a fair guestimate.
* Note that I’ve used 6 month weighting for the Big Top 40 figures, but only 3 month weighting for Radio 1, in line with their respective RAJAR reporting periods. Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB period ending September 2009.