It’s early May, and that means it’s another RAJAR – that exciting time when radio stations in the UK learn their new listening figures.
As ever, it’s a mixed bag, with ups and downs.
In the up box is radio listening overall. It’s once again recorded a record reach, with 91.6% of the population listening to the radio each week. Listening hours are also at record levels.
Nationally most of the BBC’s main services have had decent results. Only Five Live has experienced a bit of fall back from its record results last time around. And Radio 3 will probably be pleased with its growth in listening hours although reach is always more important to the BBC.
My employer, Absolute Radio, has seen a healthy increase in hours of 10.5% nationally, while Classic FM has seen a decent increase in reach, but is flat in hours. TalkSPORT, which also had record listening figures last time around (and is currently basking in the glory of a Sony Station of the Year award), saw a 5.2% increase in reach, while its hours dropped back 9.3%.
Of the national and quasi-national networks, this is the first time that the Capital Network is able to report a true reflection of itself since itse rebrand, with a modest increase in hours nationally. The Heart Network has slipped a little in hours.
The BBC’s clutch of digital services have all performed really well with significant increases in reach and hours for 1Xtra, 6Music, the reprieved Asian Network and Radio 7 (this is pre the 4Extra rebrand). 6Music’s reach and hours are now at record highs.
In London, Capital is firmly the most popular commercial station in London, squarely beating Heart and Magic for the crown. It has bounced back with an enormous 43% increase in listening hours, helped perhaps, by a significant marketing spend earlier in the year. Heart also had a very good RAJAR, although like Capital, this followed a poor quarter last time around. Absolute Radio in London shot up 83% in hours – again from a very poor result last time around. It too saw London marketing.
Smooth’s increase is notable too, with a 72% increase in hours, while Kiss was flat, and Magic lost 10% of its hours.
It’s worth noting that of late, London has seen a number of significant swings in reported numbers.
At breakfast, Chris Moyles continues to do well, and has seen a significant upswing in London, although he still sits behind Johnny and Lisa on Capital. Chris Evans has also put on the better part of 500,000 listeners on Radio 2.
As ever, I’ve completely ignored the rest of the country, and there are hundreds of local stories that I’ve not covered here, but hopefully it gives you a taster.
Now let’s get on to digital. This quarter the RAJAR publication code has changed, and for the first time individual stations’ digital listening figures can be put into the public domain. Overall, digital listening has risen from 25.0% to 26.5% – a new high. It’s worth remembering that digital listening always shows increases in the first quarter – due in no small amount to all those new DAB sets given at Christmas being turned on (it really is a key time of the year for purchases).
Here’s the chart that you might be familiar with demonstrating that growth:
But while 26.5% is the overall industry average for digital listening, not all stations are the same. My employer, Absolute Radio, has never been shy about talking up its number (32.2% of all listening to Absolute Radio is digital), but now comparisons can be drawn.
Here are some of the key national stations and a comparison of how they perform. (Note that all of these charts are interactive so hover your mouse over them for individual figures. And if someone can help me with the Google Charts “bug” that means some scales have lots of decimal places, drop me a note!):
I’ve compared 3 Month stations here, but here’s a separate chart for some other national brands that report on a 6 Month basis:
And here’s a snapshop of London:
What it really shows is that some stations have significantly different digital footprints to others. Radio 1 is 21.3% digital and Radio 2 is 22.7%, whereas Radio 3 is 29.4% and Five Live (which has barely mentioned its AM frequency in the last few years) is at 39.2%.
Youth brands like the Capital aren’t as attractive to digital listeners (given both their audience and strong FM signals) whereas Gold does very well having to live on AM in analogue world. Digital is a significant step up.
Obviously I’ve excluded 100% digital services like 6Music and Planet Rock. But I think this gives an interesting flavour. It also suggests that the youth stations are not as digital as we might imagine. That said, there are differences in how exactly that digital listening takes place. Capital Network is proportionately stronger online, whereas Heart does well on digital TV (it has a good presence on Freeview unlike many radio stations).
Find out more figures at RAJAR, or somewhere like Media UK.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending March 2011, adults 15+.
[Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. However, this piece is based on work done for Absolute Radio, and the access I have to the data is only due to who I work for. Read about Absolute Radio’s results here.]