The last quarter of 2011’s UK radio listening is out now, and the big news is that RAJAR has a new logo (see above) – Audio Measurement!
OK, there’s some other news too. So let’s run through the highlights and lowlights from my perspective.
First up is that radio listening overall is down a bit. Down 4.2% on last quarter, although it’s only down 1.4% on the previous year. The end of the medium? Not quite. Listening moves around a bit, and it was lower 18 months ago.
But commercial radio has taken the bigger hit. Listening to commercial radio is down 6.2% on the previous quarter while to the BBC it’s down 2.4%. That means that the BBC/Commercial Radio gap has widened in the BBC’s favour.
Among the national stations, there aren’t any massive stories. Radio 3, Radio 4 and TalkSport have all seen increases in reach. Although Radio 4 is hovering around it’s highest ever reach (which was in Q2 last year), and TalkSport is similarly not far off it’s biggest ever reach (Come to that, neither is Absolute Radio since it rebranded).
Chris Moyles saw a modest increase in listeners, and Chris Evans saw a modest fall. But the two heavyweights continue to slug it out for the title of biggest breakfast show in the country, with Evans winning comfortably despite having a shorter duration for his show.
And Radio 4’s Today Programme continues to perform very strongly jumping up in audience this quarter to 7.1m listeners, just 40,000 short of its all-time highest ever figures.
In London, Johnny Vaughan managed to achieve very nearly his highest ever audience in his final set of RAJAR results. Capital London saw 1.3m listeners during Q4. You have to go back to Q1 2005 to find higher figures between 0600 and 1000. Though it’s fair to point out that Vaughan left approximately two thirds of the way through the period, with Greg Burns filling in for the remainder.
That does place Capital’s breakfast show as the leading music breakfast programme in London. Jamie and Harriet, Neil Fox and Richie, Melvin and Charlie are all well behind. Even Chris Moyles is over 300,000 off Vaughan and Lisa Snowdon’s final figures.
And that breakfast result means that Capital is number one in London in both reach and hours, leaving Heart as number two in reach, and Magic as number two in hours. You have to go back to Q2 2005 for the last time Capital was number one in London on both measures. The station’s fortunes have really swung upwards in recent years as it has become more focused.
In one of those freak results, Heart lost nearly a quarter of its hours this period. I suspect that the only way is up for them next time around. It could be worse, and for Smooth London it was, with the station dropping 40% of its hours in the capital. Kiss on the other hand, saw its hours jump 27.9%. These all go to show that it’s the long term trends that are more indicative of stations’ performance in RAJAR rather than individual quarterly results.
Elsewhere, Radio 4 Extra’s rebrand continued to reap dividends, and that station increased leaving it just 50,000 listeners short of its record audience from Q2 last year. 6 Music also bounced back in a big way, leaving it with easily its all time highest audience of 1.4m.
Completing a generally very successful RAJAR for the BBC’s digital services, Radio 1Xtra also achieved a record audience, passing 1m listeners for the first time as it put on over 100,000 listeners. Tim Westwood will be pleased!
The more disappointing results came from the Asian Network that saw a fall, and Five Live Sports Xtra, who’s audience can vary dependending on sporting events, fell back quite a lot. No cricket to be found in Q4.
Of the commercial national and quasi-national digital services, Smash Hits did best, regaining an audience of just over a million. Absolute 80s and Planet Rock both fell back a bit, while Jazz FM was pretty flat.
Of the big groups, there weren’t any really notable changes, with perhaps the exception of Xfm that saw a disappointing fall of 15% in reach on the quarter.
Among the major commercial groups, TIML (owners of Absolute Radio’s brands), GMG and Orion (owners of the Midlands stations that are soon to rebrand to Free Radio) all saw increases in share on the year, although TIML did see a fall on the quarter. Global is modestly up on the year, but Bauer has seen a fall on the quarter and the year in its share.
The amount of listening on a digital platform showed a nearly a full percentage point increase – quite substantial in the scheme of things. Now 29.1% of all radio listening is on a digital platform. While 1% might seem quite marginal, that comes in a quarter before the annual jump usually seen post-Christmas following healthy DAB set sales. We’ll have to wait to find out how many digital sets were sold over Christmas. Reach is also very healthy, with 49.4% of people listening to a digital platform across a week.
The digital share does of course vary – sometimes quite substantially by station. For example, across the Absolute Radio Network of services, it’s now 71.1% digital. Whereas on Radio 1 it’s only 20.4%.
Services you might think as AM stalwarts are now surprisingly digital. Five Live is now 39.0% digital (it was entertaining hearing Simon Mayo telling off Mark Kermode on last week’s movie show, for mentioning the station’s AM frequencies when they were talking about a transmitter problem in the northwest). And TalkSport is now 30.8% digital. It’s interesting to note that in London, two stations serving quite similar audiences have very different levels of digital penetration. Capital London is now 22.6% digital, whereas Kiss 100 is 32.7% digital.
One thing I bang on about a lot is the problem radio as industry faces in the younger demographics. Since RAJAR really only healthily measures from age 15, I’ve used 15-24s in this instance.
The chart below shows that from around 2004 onwards, radio has been losing listening hours amongst the youngest element of its audience.
The reach picture looks a bit better:
But it doesn’t take account of the growing population, so using percentages is better:
And the picture isn’t that much brighter among 25-34s either:
I’m not sure what the answer is. But I still believe that as an industry we need to work harder to address it.
And finally, I’ve of course updated by big interactive Hans Rosling inspired national services RAJAR tool.
As ever, you want to play with the big version for full-screen viewability.
And be sure to read the notes I put together when I first made this. They still apply, and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of it.
For other RAJAR analysis, I would visit the following sites:
Matt Deegan always has some worthwhile thoughts.
Paul Easton regularly writes about the new figures.
And Nik Goodman usually has a few things to say.
Read about Absolute Radio’s performance right here.
You can see all the data at the RAJAR website.
I suspect that James Cridland might write a piece (either on his blog or at Mediatel (some areas subscribers only)), but he’ll certainly be updating all the station data at Media UK.
Radio Today has loads of coverage.
And finally, the Media Guardian guys will have been trying to get at the stories beyond the press releases.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending December 2011, adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they’re based on work I’ve done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.