Written by Radio

RAJAR Q1 2010

In an experimental change, RAJAR brought forward the release time of this quarter’s RAJAR to midnight tonight. But I’ve been out, so I’m an hour or so later than Matt’s sterling summary of RAJAR which is pretty comprehensive.
There are two big stories that are going to get all the coverage in the papers later today… Well I say that, but the Cameron/Clegg government is probably going to fill most of the Home News pages leaving little room for incidentals like RAJAR. But should radio make a mark, there are two big stories:
1. Chris Evans has grown his audience by 1.1m.
2. BBC 6 Music has recorded its best results ever – by a massive margin.
The first story is interesting because there had been so-called leaks appearing in the Sunday papers (well the Sunday Times anyway) suggesting that Evans’ audience would increase by 10%. In fact, that turned out to underestimate the true figures. On a like for like basis (bear in mind that Evans extended his show by half an hour eating into Sarah Kennedy before him) his audience increased by 1.1m or 13.1% on the previous quarter. What’s more, that’s a 17.6% increase on the previous year.
Anyone who was at the Sonys where he was presenting, saw Evans in a fairly “up” mode, and the unpublished monthly data that the BBC (and other broadcasters) receives had probably hinted at this.
One interesting note is that while Radio 2’s overall average age did rise slightly to 51.0 from 50.7 (a marginal increase to be fair, and probably not statistically significant), the average age of Evans’ show did decrease from 52.6 to 50.9. That’s something that will begin to concern commercial competitors to Evans. Nobody wants to see Radio 2 getting younger – including the BBC to be fair.
But undoubtedly it’s a great result for one of our most talented broadcasters.
On Twitter, the 6 Music story started much earlier. I’m not sure how wise it is for broadcasters who have a vested interest in a station (and indeed a show on a station) to hint at stories they’ve heard – whatever the source – prior to the figures being released. But one way or another by about 6pm this evening, a Twitter search for “6Music” showed lots of excitement about the station’s figures.
In fact, we didn’t need to wait until 8am later today to find out the story. The station has had a rise in reach and hours through the stratosphere, putting on very close to 47% in reach – which means just over 1m listeners per week, up from just under 700,000 previously.
What’s more interesting, although will be less widely reported, is that listening hours more than doubled. In some respects you’d expect reach to have gone up given the enormous amount of coverage the “Save 6 Music” campaign has achieved. If nothing else, people who perhaps hadn’t previously discovered the station, have now found it. I say that the hours result is surprising because “trial” of a station is one thing: you look around – listen for a bit – and then perhaps don’t tune in again. But hours reflects the volume of listening, and it’s there that the figures are really impressive.
What this will mean for the station is hard to say. The BBC Trust consultation closes in just less than two weeks, and rumour has it that they’ve had a staggering response. But will this growth in audience help the station? Or might it hinder things as commercial competitors begin to feel the pain (more anon)?
Those are the two stories you’ll probably read about, but what else is there?
Well RAJAR helpfully pointed out that the overall number of people who listen to radio has increased to a new record high – 46.5m people listening every week. And all radio listening returned to over one billion hours. Last quarter it dipped for the first time in a long time below that amount. It’s a testament to the medium that despite the many other things seeking our attention, radio remains so important and so relevant to so many people.
That’s undoubtedly fantastic news for a medium which is never at the forefront of people’s perceptions. Radio’s often just there.
Digital listening has massively increased. We all know that there are a lot of digital “naysayers”, and sometimes there are some valid points to be made. But just as most other media have gone digital, so radio’s digital growth continues. There was something of a “blip” – a statistical aberration, if you will – last quarter, when digital listening actually fell from 21.1% to 20.9%. Statistically, this wasn’t a significant decrease, but it got reported in some quarters as though listeners were rejecting digital radio as a platform.
The post Christmas period has historically always shown increases, and this quarter is no different. Think of all those DAB radios gift recipients unwrapped! Of all the radio listened to each week, 24.0% is now via a digital platform – significantly up on that 20.9%. Both commercial radio and the BBC saw increases in their digital listening shares achieving 22.9% and 24.6% respecitively.
Does the radio industry still have a way to go until we reach the 50% suggested by Lord Carter in 2009’s Digital Britain report? Certainly. But this is a significant leap forward, and is terrific growth. Set against a backdrop of DAB radios continuing to become cheaper (Sainsburys is currently selling DAB radio alarm clocks for just £9.99) and before the UK RadioPlayer has launched (which should drive online listening), this is a superb result. Nearly 35% of homes now have a DAB radio too.
I should at this point mention one of my employer’s stations – Absolute 80s. This only launched at the end of 2009, and this quarter had its first set of figures. They are stunning. It already reaches well over a quarter of a million people and delivers 1.4m hours a week. To put this in perspective, it’s more than NME Radio and Q Radio, and delivers nearly as many listening hours as Heat. All of these are stations that have been around much more than three months.
Remember that this is a station that so far is only available on DAB in London! And to say that it has had a modest marketing budget is unfair on the word modest. It’s success to date has been totally based on discovery.
Perhaps its success isn’t too surprising given the success of TV series like Ashes to Ashes, and one look at the compilation album charts will highlight the demand for eighties music.
What else is there to say? Quite a lot.
Absolute 80s contributed to a solid overall impression on the Absolute Radio Network of stations which showed an increase in reach and hours (although the main service did see small declines. Perhaps some of our listeners moved across to 80s?).
That’s not a bad result set against an overall disappointing picture for commercial radio. All of the four biggest commercial radio groups saw falls in market share (i.e. listening hours) against a successful BBC set of figures.
Indeed Evans helped BBC Radio 2 to what I believe is Radio 2’s biggest ever reach figure. And while Evans is stealing all the limelight, it’s worth noting that Radio 1 has also had a great set of numbers with Chris Moyles also getting a great breakfast result, and leading Radio 1 to reporting its biggest reach since at least 1999 and possibly ever as well! (I don’t have the paper figures to hand to check right back to the start of RAJAR).
With all five of the BBC’s main networks reporting increases in reach, and many of them reporting increases in listening hours too, it’s not perhaps surprising that the BBC’s lead over commercial radio increased to 56.5% compared with commercial radio’s 41.3% (No – they don’t add up to 100%. The difference is non-RAJAR radio listening). That’s something that will concern commercial operators.
It’s also interesting to note that while 6 Music has obviously received an enormous boost via the threat of its closure, the same isn’t true of the Asian Network. It saw decreases in both reach and hours. While I imagine 6 Music’s future isn’t completely determined yet, you must imagine that the Asian Network’s future has been.
In London, there’s a great merry-go-round happening. Look forward later this morning to hearing top-of-hour jingles from both Captial and Magic, each claiming to be the city’s biggest music service. This is because more people listen to Capital, but people spend more time with Magic. Rumours that this is because Magic listeners fall asleep listening to the station are not fair…
Capital’s reach is a real storming number, since in one fell-swoop, it overtook three other competitors to reach top spot. I rather suspect that we’re going to continue to see lots of changes in London listening figures each quarter, because there’s no overall trend really happening.
Global will also be pleased with Classic FM’s results which show decent increases in both reach and hours. UTV will be less happy with Talksport which sees a 5.1% dip in reach but a much more significant 20.0% drop in hours. Quite why that might be is difficult to say, since as far as I’m aware, programming has remained consistent. But they did have a good previous quarter, so perhaps there’s something of a statistical correction happening.
Planet Rock is probably still celebrating its Sony Radio Academy Award as digital station of the year (more on these awards in the next couple of days – I’m still catching up). And they’ve now received a record number of listening hours, which is great news for the station.
Do feel free to ask questions in the comments. I’ll try to help where I can.
Disclaimer: I work for Absolute Radio and these are my views, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer. I’m also on the RAJAR Technical Management Group, but I don’t really think that comes into play here. That all said, if it wasn’t for all of that, I probably wouldn’t be able to write this. I certainly wouldn’t have full access to the figures. And this piece is based on something I wrote for my employer internally earlier yesterday.