December, 2010

A New Broadcast Code

December Snow-18
The big news today is that Product Placement on television is finally allowed, as long as some kind of logo is also displayed on-screen to alert viewers to the commercial arrangement.
But far more exciting to a radio audience is the new Section Ten of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code dealing with radio advertising. After a long and tortuous consultation period – involving two separate consultations – commercial radio is now able to do a lot more.
Ofcom has adopted what in the industry has been called “Option C”. It means that commercial communications and programming can be intergrated far more than they are currently, as long as there is some kind of “signalling” to listeners.
What does this mean?
Well the simplest way of explaining it is using the example of a radio promotion – or sponsored competition. If you listen to commercial radio, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a new film out next week, and every day on the breakfast show, we’re offering you an amazing prize to celebrate the release of this exciting film. You know the sort of thing. Commercial radio stations get paid by the film’s distributor to promote the film’s release as well as supplying the prizes. Listeners get the chance to win a hopefully entertaining competition and win a prize. The mechanic of the competition should be interesting enough that it’s fun to hear even if you’re not taking part.
Hitherto, the amount that the presenter could talk about the film in the mechanic of the competition was actually really limited. And the prize had to be tangentially rather than directly related to the film to avoid “undue prominance” of the film or brand. Now, when the next James Bond or Harry Potter film is released, the questions or mechanic can actually be directly related to the film, and the prize even more so. The stars of the film might actually come into the studio to help out (at least on larger stations)
Other examples could include on-air advertorials, advertising supported programming or simply having an outside broadcast in a location for commercial purposes.
Normal advertising minutage – “spot-advertising” in the parlance – is unaffected by all this. But with listeners generally not enjoying spot-advertising, and non-spot revenue growing, it’s probably no bad thing for listeners that these relaxations have been made. I’m not saying that there’ll be a fall in spot-advertising, but as revenues shift out of those interrupted areas of output, and into the less-intrusive parts of programming, that makes stations less reliant on 30 second spots, and perhaps in the fullness of time, we’ll see less ad-heavy services.
There are specific rules limiting things like sponsorship of news programmes and what’s allowable in children’s radio. And interestingly, “payola” has been outlawed. Under the new rules, there was a possibility that stations might be paid to play specific music to a greater extent than might have otherwise have happened. Effectively, cash could influence the playlist. Listeners would have had to have been told about the commercial arrangement, but nonetheless this would have been quite revolutionary! However, Ofcom has decided not to allow this, with the music industry itself not being in favour of it.
Commercial radio is always a balance between providing listeners what they want, and earning revenues to pay for it all. Driving listeners away from the station is not in the playbook, so a station that goes too far will probably feel the fall out in a drop-off in listening. Similarly, trust can be at stake. Radio is a very trusted medium because it’s so personal. A station that harms the listener’s trust in it by over-stepping the mark, will again be at risk of losing listeners. Our listeners keep us honest.
So I don’t expect to hear too much of a radio revolution from today (the new rules come into play immediately), but carefully and gradually as stations and groups find their feet under the new regime. Mistakes will probably be made, but lessons will be learnt.
[These are my own views, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer. Although as you may imagine, we’re pretty much on the same page here.]

In Car Radio Listening, And Other Locations

One of the things that RAJAR measures is the location that radio is being listened, and oddly enough, it’s a figure that’s rarely reported. This blog is prompted by something James Cridland asked me when he was chasing down some figures recently about in-car listening. Because the numbers aren’t talked about a great deal, they can be quite hard to come by.
The location of listening can be quite a hot topic. From the forthcoming closure withdrawal of funding of Traffic Radio on DAB, to licencing requirements of businesses who want to play music – including the radio – in the workplace, location does matter.
Sometimes we can be misled a little by statistics from other countries. For example, according to Arbitron’s Radio Today 2010 report, 42% of listening between 5am and 10am, Mon-Fri, is at home in the US. This compares with 67% of radio listening in the UK in the same time period. In the UK, we’re far more likely to listen to the radio in the home than elsewhere, whereas the US is much more a car society, so more listening takes place outside the home.
The information presented below is for All Radio, and can obviously vary by individual station or different times of day, but here are a few facts about where people listen.
Overall 65.6% of listening to radio is done at home, with 19.3% in cars (or vans), and 14.3% at work (or elsewhere).

Perhaps it’s slightly surprising to discover that just less than 20% of all radio listening takes place in the car. It’s obviously a very important listening location, with drivers especially interested in things like traffic news. But it does still account for just one fifth of listening.
Over time, this is pretty consistent behaviour: So I’m not sure that it’s because we can all listen to our iPods or mp3 players in car now when perhaps it was more difficult in the past (think of either having to go to your boot to load up your CD changer, or juggling a pile of cassettes that end up lying in the well of the passenger seat floor).

Of course, that’s all “listening” – that is, a representation of the percentage of time spent listening in each location. There is also reach, and there all the numbers jump. You may only listen for five minutes a week to radio in your car, but you are listening at some point.
85.7% of all people who listen to the radio in a given week, do so – at least for some of the time – at home. 61.5% listen at some point in car, and 23.6% listen at work at some point in the week.

Location does of course vary by time of the day, but it’s not an extraordinary picture:

More listening is at home than anywhere else all day, but there are in-car peaks in the morning and evening commute periods, while at-work listening peaks during the day. No shocks there.

Perhaps slightly more interesting is listening in-car by day of week.

At weekends, there’s less in-car listening than there is Monday to Friday. This is undoubtedly because of the people who drive for work during the week, but to some it might seem surprising!

One final thing to look at, is the demographics of who listens where.

This tells us that men listen to significantly more radio at work than women. But women listen to more radio at home than men. C2DE listeners are more likely to be in your workplace audience – perhaps reflecting more than anything, the ability to listen in those jobs. But 15-34s listen to a higher proportion of radio at work than older listeners. Perhaps a reflection of listening via the internet?
Anyway, I hope I’ve shed a little light on the location of listening. But feel free to ask questions.


Following James’ comment below, I’ve run a couple more charts going back a bit further.

The first shows the long term car listening figure going back to the start of 1999, the furthest possible under the current methodology. It does seem to suggest a steady climb until a peak around 2007/8 from where it fell back, although it’s climbed a little recently.

I guess that this goes to show that data can be deceptive without examining the bigger picture. I should point out that I relatively arbitrarily chose the period above.

The second chart shows you the relative absolute numbers – useful for comparing against radio’s overall performance. Hopefully this shines a little more light on the issue!

Note: All UK stats are sourced from RAJAR./Ipsos MORI/RSMB. Where one number is quoted, it’s based on RAJAR Q3 2010. All this data is based on All Radio.

[These views are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Then again, this is all factual.]

[Update 2 – April 2014] Google Charts seems to have broken all my previous charts at some point, so I’ve remade them all as flat image files. Not as useful for getting hold of the data, but the best I can do for now. Some typos corrected too.