radio

Trends in Podcasting: News Podcasts

In January last year, The New York Times launched a new podcast called The Daily. Spinning off to an extent from what the paper had been doing during the 2016 Presidential election, The Daily quickly developed a following. With a strong voice – both authorial and audible – in Michael Barbaro, it grew quickly. For a certain demographic, it became a must listen.

The Daily is excellent at digging into stories that The New York Times has covered in that day’s paper. A usual episode will deal with one or perhaps two stories, speaking with the Times’ journalists involved, and using clips and other archive material to give the story colour. The production quality is excellent. It’ll end with a summary of other things you need to know. The podcast is released early in the morning US time, so it’s available to listen on listeners’ commutes.

The Daily is by no means the first attempt at a daily news podcast. Lots of broadcasters have been doing lots of news things for an awfully long time. Many of them were spin-offs of radio programmes, but there were also standalone podcasts including ones from major newspapers like The Guardian. And there are certainly popular news podcasts. The Global News Podcast from the BBC World Service is the BBC’s single biggest podcast in terms of downloads, by a significant margin.

But somehow The Daily took off when others haven’t (or at least hadn’t).

Since its launch, The Daily has also become a syndicated public radio series, with episodes airing on a number of public radio stations after 4pm the same day, allowing it to remain a podcast-first property. Meanwhile the FX channel has ordered 30 episodes of TV version called The Weekly, with episodes going onto Hulu the day after broadcast. The series is due to start later this year. All in all, The Daily has become a very multimedia property for The New York Times.

To nobody’s great surprise, lots of other people want to get into the mix.

Recently The Guardian announced that it was launching a new daily news podcast presented by Anushka Asthana. Today in Focus has just launched. As with The Daily, Today in Focus concentrates on a single big story, although it is also carrying a second supplemental story too. In the first week Today in Focus has concentrated on Brazil’s new far right president, and the upcoming mid-term elections. The podcast is available early each morning, in time to be listened to for the morning commute.

The Guardian’s podcast managed to launch the same week that the BBC launched it’s new daily news podcast – Beyond Today. This launched at the same time as BBC Sounds, the big new audio app was formally launched by the BBC (it has been available in a public beta for a few months now). 

Beyond Today also follows the well-trodden path of concentrating on a single story. And as with Today in Focus, the podcasts tend to be around 20 minutes in length (The Daily tends to run twenty-something minutes a day). 

In the first week Beyond Today had episodes about Britain’s finances, ahead (or in fact just after) the budget, a very sad story about an Iraqi Instagrammer, middle class drug use (Although I think that episode missed a trick concentrating largely on a dealer and a real addict. It should have looked more closely at general users.), WhatsApp and a piece about who makes the news with Amol Rajan. Incidentally, although Rajan sometimes feels a little over-exposed appearing everywhere from The One Show on BBC1 to The Media Show on Radio 4, this episode is worth a listen, since it examines a real class issue in the media which often gets overlooked in issues of representation and diversity.

The one thing I’m slightly curious about is the name. When I first heard the name, I thought that it was a Today programme spin-off. But it’s not really, in that it has its own presenters – Tina Daheley and Matthew Price – and that it doesn’t sound at all like it’d appear on the Today programme. That said, I believe excerpts have indeed aired on Today this week. But I’d actually say that in tone, it’s closer to Five Live rather than Radio 4.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Slate has been running What Next, a

Interestingly, both What Next and Slate’s other daily podcast, The Gist, get published later in the day rather than earlier.

Earlier this year, Vox launched its own competitor,Today, Explained which it very much pitches as a more fun version of The Daily. You won’t be surprised to learn that it runs around 20 minutes. So you can maybe listen to three of these daily news podcasts if your commute lasts an hour!

Today, Explained is definitely more casual than some of the others, although the stories are always interesting. In the last week it has run episodes on white hat hackers (i.e. hacking for good, often identifying vulnerabilities and reporting them before bad guys can use this), universal basic income and fracking in Colorado amongst others.

Elsewhere, HotPod alerts us to The Washington Post hiring producers for its own upcoming daily podcast. It already has a daily political podcast – The Daily 202’s Big Idea which has been running for a while now. 

These are by no means the only news podcasts of course. There are plenty of news podcasts out there. But many of these are more like traditional news programmes. 

The BBC, for example, makes available in podcast form several of its flagship news programmes including the World At One and The Six O’Clock News from Radio 4, and Newshour from the World Service. All of these are the same as the broadcast versions.

The BBC’s flagship news programme domestically, is the Today programme. But that has a rather odd podcast presence. The radio programme runs for three hours Monday to Friday, so is too big to simply put out as a podcast – at least, not if you want people to listen.

Instead, Today publishes 3-4 separate podcasts a day. The first is inevitably the business news of the day, while the remaining 2-3 are based on segments of the programme, or gather together different segments on the same news story. The issue here is that the offering feels very piecemeal, and there’s little urgency in publishing the podcasts. Given the importance of the 8.10am interview – usually with a leading politician – the podcast may not appear until late morning, if at all. (Also, I’d love the podcast to lose the phrase, “You can listen to more free content from Today…” for obvious reasons.)

Of course the success of The Daily is in part due to it being available in time for listeners’ commute, so simply re-purposing morning news radio programmes leaves podcast rebroadcasts of radio news programmes at a slight disadvantage. But then, you probably shouldn’t be using podcasts to get “breaking news.”

As long as producers realise that they’re not trying to compete with 24 hour news channels that are rushing to break news, then podcasting publishing timescales can work well.

Publications like The Financial Times and The Economist do publish regular news programmes, but they have more weekly than daily output. Perhaps the closest equivalent I know of in UK radio is the BBC World Service’s Business Daily which is a Monday to Friday radio show that is nicely re-edited into a daily podcast. It’s business in its very broadest, and like The Daily has a deep dive into a different subject each day.

Could LBC do something interesting with Eddie Mair? A sharply edited 15-20 minute version of his 2 hour radio show? For some reason, there doesn’t yet appear to be an Eddie Mair podcast at all. LBC has had good success with viral videos, but I’m not sure that’s true in the podcast world. Interestingly, LBC is now winding down its paid-for download operation in advance of a new app that will let people listen-again, no doubt with targeted audio ads.

There is certainly room for a UK-focused daily podcast, and I’m sure other outlets aside from The Guardian and the BBC are working on them. I shall be listening.

[Update: Brett blogs about news podcasts and highlights a CBC called Front Burner.]

Note that these are my personal views, and do not reflect those of my employer.

Localness

Ofcom has published an update today on what it considers localness in commercial radio.

The tl;dr is that it’s not very local any more.

Your mileage may vary on whether this is a good thing or not. But for now, stations that provide local news regularly throughout the day, must only broadcast three hours between 6am and 7pm on weekdays within their local area (more on those shortly).

If you only provide local news at breakfast and drive, then you have to make six hours of programming locally between 6am and 7pm.

The really big news is that breakfast no longer has to be local.

In other words, the big groups – Capital and Heart instantly spring to mind – can start networking a single breakfast show across the country. Previously, I hypothesised that News UK might simulcast Chris Evans on their FM stations once he’s started on Virgin Radio. They’ve since said that they’ve no plans to do this, but then, until today, they wouldn’t have been allowed to (It’s also worth saying, simulcasting Evans wouldn’t necessarily mean rebranding all those station as Virgin).

Any stations that want to make changes will have to request a format change from Ofcom to do this, but that should be eminently achievable.

Will some do this? Yes. Of course they will!

Breakfast is a key show on any station, and you tend to put the biggest and best names you can on the show. So there will be some careful consideration before anyone throws out their market-leading local breakfast presenter and just networks someone in from London (or Manchester).

And they still have to do three hours locally somewhere. The cynic in me suspects that this might not be drive, but either mid-mornings or afternoons.

Networking breakfast means a few things that could see bigger and stronger breakfast shows:

  • Bigger guests on breakfast – getting on a networked Capital or Heart breakfast will be more appealing to PRs wanting to reach larger audiences.
  • Better and more creative promotions – at the moment, it’s quite complicated for a national promotion to run on a station like Capital. You need to keep mechanics simple and replicable across the country. You can do smarter, cleverer and more impressive things if you do it once everywhere.
  • Global and Bauer can take on the BBC at breakfast – with Radio 2 changing shortly and Greg James still fresh at Radio 1, they can begin to get the BBC in their sites. In my RAJAR summary the other day, I mentioned that Global was likely to have a certain amount of house inventory as a result of its shopping spree of outdoor companies. They could go hard to take on the BBC at breakfast.
  • Local stations that aren’t part of a big group can trumpet their localness on air. That goes for BBC Local Radio too.

So good news all round? 

Well, if you’re a commercial radio group, then probably. You can save some money – perhaps lose a few more local presenters, but at the same time build some bigger and stronger shows that could become more profitable at the same time.

It’s not great news if you work on breakfast. You may well be kept on – they need someone for that three hour block after all. But will it be the whole breakfast crew that you have currently? Will you even have a producer when you’re doing mid-morning or afternoons?

And there’s a larger philosophical question. What does Independent Local Commercial radio mean any more?

Some of the ads are still local, yes. There’s some local news. A bit anyway. There are station trails and junctions that mention local towns and cities. Perhaps. But “Local”? Really?

It’s not even as though you can easily go through some kind of beauty parade and win a licence against an incumbent. It happens very occasionally, but when was the last time a London licence even came up?

Commercial radio has always complained that it’s vastly more regulated compared with other media.  That’s definitely true. But analogue spectrum in particular is scarce, and the reality is that new entrants find it very hard to get a leg up. DAB sorts a lot of that out, and digital continues its upwards march. But FM spectrum remains valuable. How much would an FM station go for if it had a London frequency?

Over the years we have ended up with national brands broadcasting nationally. In many respects that’s fine. That’s market forces at work. And yet licence rollovers tied to DAB simulcasting have meant that new entrants who might want to offer a more local service are never even given a opportunity to compete for a licence.

To be clear, grabbing 95.8 FM in London, would be vastly more powerful than securing a London DAB slot.

Ofcom has also defined some ‘Approved Areas’:

In essence, if you make your programme within an approved area then it counts as locally made. These have been around for a while, and have been used to create production hubs around the country. There’s a lot of sense in that – having regional clusters of stations coming from one building.

These new areas are a lot bigger – Southampton is a 220 mile drive from Penzance, but they’re both in the same area. Canterbury and Northampton would seem to be very different places, but they’re in the same area (circling, but excluding, London).

We’re approaching winter, and last winter the ‘beast from the east’ meant a lot of snow and a lot of disruption around the country. Local TV bulletins had their biggest audiences during this period. RAJAR doesn’t measure radio on a day by day basis, but it’s fair to assume that some stations will have had their biggest audiences on those snow days.

Next time around what happens? BBC Local Radio is becoming more local, dropping the networked evening show.

Yes, some commercial stations in bigger groups will no doubt drop networked programming to stay local, but they won’t truly have the staff or resources to really do a great deal. In truth, that’s already the case. Should we just drop the word ‘local’ altogether?

RAJAR Q3 2018

RAJAR
As ever, this post is brought to you in association with RALF from DP Software and Services. I’ve used RALF for the past 9 years, and it’s my favourite RAJAR analysis tool. So I am delighted that I continue to be able to bring you this RAJAR analysis in association with RALF. For more details on the product, contact Deryck Pritchard via this link or phone 07545 425677.

Radio 2

It has been something of a tumultuous period for radio in the last few months, and especially for Radio 2‘s line-up. First there was Chris Evans announcing he was upping and leaving Radio 2 to head to Virgin Radio, to be replaced by Zoe Ball in Wogan House. Then at the start of this week Simon Mayo announced he’d leaving his Radio 2 drivetime show where he had recently been paired with his “radio wife” Jo Whiley. He leaves the station altogether – although thankfully his Five Live show with Mark Kermode remains – while Whiley gets a new evening show, pushing Radio 2’s specialist music slightly later into the evening. Come January, the station is going to look and sound somewhat different to how it does today. No news yet on where Mayo might also go. The release on Monday mentioned a new two-book deal following the publication of his first adult novel, although he’s been writing young adult books for a number of years. I don’t think one precludes the other. Mayo also recently launched a book-focused podcast away from the BBC – I suspect that his Radio 2 book club, and the book review slot he had before that on Five Live, are both missed by publishers.

Digging a little into programmes is worthwhile. Chris Evans saw his show fall 2.4% on the quarter to 8.8m, but it’s down 5.7% on the year. Those are Evans’ lowest ratings in a while, although his announcement didn’t come in time to unduly affect them. In any case, I’d be amazed if we don’t see a bump in the next RAJAR release for his final shows.

There was a lot of interest in the Jo Whiley and Simon Mayo last time around, since if you believe the reviews, the show is not good – the chemistry between the pair reportedly wasn’t there (I don’t listen, so can’t really say). In spite of that, reach for the show increased last time around, not fitting the narrative. This time around it’s a different story. Reach is down 6.6% on the quarter and down 6.9% on the year – leaving the show with 6.0m listeners. Hours are also down, falling 6.7% on the quarter and 5.7% on the year. A little low for the slot?

Where does all this leave the station in the latest RAJAR – with all the current shows still in place? Well it’s down a little. Reach falls 2.0% to 14.6m on the quarter, although it’s down 4.7% on the year. Hours are broadly in line, down 3.1% on the quarter to 176m, while they’re down 4.2% on the year.

Before we go too much further, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this data is for summer 2018, from the 25th June until 16th September (at least for big national stations). Overall radio listening wasn’t too weather affected. Reach was down 0.4% on the quarter and down 0.9% on the year, but hours were up 1.0% on the quarter, but down 1.9% on the year. I remain most worried by that last number. Hours are still over 1 billion, and average hours are up slightly to 21.1 hours a week. The average age of a UK radio listener is 48.

That means that the Radio 2 has under-performed slightly compared with the radio as a whole. But it’s comfortably the UK’s largest station.

National and Brands

Over on Radio 1, Greg James moved into breakfast over halfway through this RAJAR period, so it’s not easy to say how he’s doing so far. However, Radio 1 itself, had a decent bump during the period. Reach was up 3.9% on the quarter to 9.6m listeners (although down 1.0% on the year), while hours were up 2.6% on the quarter (but down 0.5% on the year). Those are good numbers for Radio 1.

Elsewhere across the BBC, Radio 4 saw reach grow very slightly on the quarter, up 0.4%, but it’s down 5.1% on the year. Hours are down 0.6% on the quarter and 3.7% on the year. Brexit boredom? The data doesn’t say. (Today is down 0.4% on the quarter and down 3.9% on the year, while hours are up 2.3% on the quarter and down 3.9% on the year. But nor does the data indicate which presenters people like.) Will Eddie Mair’s departure for LBC, with Evan Davies replacing him make much difference to PM? Again it’s too early yet to say with Davis having only just started on the show.

Radio 3 got its Proms bump with reach up 1.4% to 1.9m (down 1.5% on the year). Hours were well up this quarter – up 10.3% on the quarter and up 13.7% on the year. I hate to disappoint Radio 3 listeners, but the jump looks a little too good to me, so expect some “correction” next quarter.

Five Live had quite a decent quarter. Most of the World Cup was over by the time data started being collected. Nonetheless, reach was up 6.3% on the quarter (down 0.7% on the year), while hours were up 11.7% on the quarter (down 0.3% on the year).

6 Music can’t claim to have broken any records this quarter! But with 2.5m listeners, it has its second highest ever reach, up 3.0% on the quarter and up 3.6% on the year. Hours were down 9.1% on the quarter, but up 5.3% on the year. Recall that Lauren Laverne is lined up to take over breakfast in January, but there’s still another final quarter of Shaun Keaveny before then.

Over at LBC, they have been busy trumpeting the arrival of Eddie Mair. They’re certainly spending in broadsheet newspapers promoting his new show which runs 4-6pm and goes head to head with his old slot in the second hour. Interestingly, away from radio, owners Global has bought no fewer than three different outdoor companies. Aside from going from zero to the joint largest outdoor company in the UK in only a couple of months, it does also mean that there might be a lot of inventory for cross promotion of other Global assets like its radio stations. Can we expect to see lots of LBC, Capital and Heart digital outdoors adverts? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Mair’s show didn’t start until September, so is not really measured in these figures (notice a theme?). Overall LBC was broadly flat – down 0.5% on the quarter in reach, but up 0.3% on the year with 2.1m listeners. Hours show a 1.4% increase on the quarter, but have fallen 9.6% on the year. They hover just over 20m a week.

Classic FM was broadly flat this quarter, up 0.6% in reach on the quarter but down 4.6% on the year. Meanwhile hours are up 0.4% on the quarter, but down 3.3% on the year.

Virgin Radio is obviously an interesting station to keep an eye on. We’ve not heard any more stories about presenters who might be joining Evans at the station. I think it’s safe to infer that Charlie Sloth (he of ARIAS stage invading infamy) isn’t heading there.

While we wait to see what plans owners News UK have in store for the station, reach has fallen 2.1% this quarter to 414,000. That’s a 25.5% decrease on the year. Hours meanwhile are down 9.4% on the quarter and down 13.9% on the year. However I think we can expect a massive marketing push once Evans arrives. As Private Eye has noted, newspapers like The Sun are already onside.

TalkSport has been busy buying up cricket rights to overseas England tours recently. Right now the station is the official rights holder for the tour of Sri Lanka, and they have more tours upcoming. Interestingly, the BBC’s TMS team has adopted something more akin to what TalkSport used to do when it didn’t have rights – doing unofficial quasi-commentaries “off-tube” (aka with TVs on silent). So we’ve had the Cricket Social which seems to actually be going down quite well.

But back to TalkSport. They had a decent quarter in reach terms, up 2.2% to 3.0m on the quarter (up 1.1% on the year). Hours aren’t quite as good, down 4.4% on the quarter and down 4.2% on the year, just dipping below 20m. Sister station TalkSport 2 bounces around much more because its listening is still very low. Reach was up 2.2% on the quarter but down 18.4% on the year, while hours are up 55.5% on the quarter and up 29.1% on the year.

TalkRadio is very similarly sized, but reach was up 10.1% on this quarter to 261,000 (up 2.0% on the year). Hours are up 24.3% on the quarter but down 7.6% on the year.

Absolute Radio had a mixed set of results, with it’s reach down 4.6% on the quarter (but only down 1.4% on the year). However hours were up 9.6% on the quarter, but down 6.2% on the year. Across the entire Absolute Radio Network, reach was up 2.4% on the quarter and 7.8% on the year to 4.9m – the highest number ever achieved by the brand.

Good news at Absolute 80s where it achieved a record of 1.8m – up 14.7% on the quarter and 15.0% on the year Hours were down 3.5% on the quarter, and up 6.3% on the year. And Absolute Radio 90s also achieved record figures with 913,000 listeners – up 11.1% on the quarter and up 20.8% on the year, with hours even more impressively up 12.4% on the quarter and 31.3% on the year. A reminder that 90s are fast becoming the new 80s.

Kiss fell back a little this quarter, down 3.2% on the quarter and down 2.0% on the year, while hours were down 2.5% on the quarter and down 18.2% on the year. But the whole Kiss Network achieved its best ever figures with a combined 5.8m listeners.

Magic was down a little in reach, down 2.2% on the quarter and down 2.8% on the year. But hours are nicely up, increasing 11.4% on the quarter and up 11.1% on the year. But across the entire Magic Network, it was another record for Bauer with 4.1m listeners.

It’s also worth mentioning Jazz FM which has recently been bought by Bauer. They’ve not quite been moved into Golden Square just yet, but they’ll be bringing 657,000 listeners with them (down 2.2% on the quarter, but up 15.3% on the year), with 2.7m hours (down 10.6% on the quarter but up 18.9% on the year).

Overall Bauer did well this quarter, with a combined 18.165m listeners – up 2.6% on last quarter and up 2.1% on last year. They have 159m hours, up 4.4% on the quarter and up 3.2% on the year.

Over in Leicester Square, Global Radio doesn’t show an enormous amount of change this quarter. They’re essentially flat in reach and hours with 23.668m reach and 207m hours. (Note they sell slightly more than this, since some of the brands they sell aren’t actually owned by them).

The Capital Network shows no real changes on the quarter, but there are some falls on the year. Reach is essentially flat, up 0.2% on the quarter, but it’s down 4.2% on the year. Meanwhile hours are also up 0.2% on the quarter, but they’re down 16.3% on the year. The broader Capital Brand (i.e. including Capital Xtra) is similarly flat to slightly up on the quarter but down on the year.

The Heart Network didn’t perform fantastically this quarter, down 2.1% in reach on the quarter and down 1.9% on the year. More concerningly, hours were down 6.4% on the quarter and down 4.7% on the year. The picture improves across the entire Heart Brand which includes Heart 80s.

Heart 80s had some good results this quarter, up 15.9% on quarter and up 25.0% on the year. Hours were down 9.6% on the quarter while still being up 12.1% on the year.

Radio X saw another decent set of numbers with reach and hours both continuing to climb. At the moment, it’s probably the most improving brand Global has (although Smooth’s doing fine too). Reach was up 2.3% on the quarter and 12.7% on the year, with a reach of 1.7m, while hours were up 8.8% on the quarter and up 36.5% on the year.

Meanwhile the Smooth Brand reached 5.8m with reach up 3.5% on the quarter and up 2.5% on the year, while hours grew 6.2% on the quarter and were up 0.8% on the year.

Finally a word about Jack FM, which has just announced a national version of the station, Jack Radio, that will be 100% female in output. Recall that their existing national station Union Jack, is 100% British artists. While they’re doing some interesting things, you can’t help but wonder about the branding. More than once I’ve had to explain that Union Jack isn’t some kind of Brexit-favouring right leaning station. And I’m not sure that “Jack” shouts female listeners to me. In their Oxford home TSA, Jack continues to beat Heart which is a strong result. Nationally, reach was down a little to 111,000 for Union Jack, while hours grew to 508,000.

Digital

Digital listening continues to grow, reaching 52.4% of all listening this quarter. 34.4m people listen on a digital platform each week – 71% of the population.

Internet listening has reached a record level this quarter, with 11.1m listeners. That’s up 3.9% on last quarter and up 11.7% on last year. Average time spent listening is also growing – up from 8.4 hours a week to 8.9 hours a week. I suspect, but cannot prove, that this is a combination of the growth of smart speakers (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) and cheaper and bigger data bundles on mobile.

15-24s

There were actually slightly more 15-24s listening to the radio this quarter than last! 6.5m, up 1.0% on the quarter (although down 1.6% on the year). Listening hours for this group remain a concern, down 1.7% on the quarter and down 5.8% on the year.

Further Reading

For more RAJAR analysis, I’d recommend the following sites:

The official RAJAR site and their infographic
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Go to Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
Mediatel’s Newsline will have lots of figures and analysis
Paul Easton for more lots analysis including London charts
Matt Deegan will have some great analysis
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site

All my previous RAJAR analyses are here.


Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 16 September 2018, Adults 15+.

Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else, including my employer. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Drop me a note if you want clarifications on anything. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.

The One Podcast to Rule Them All

Tom Webster of Edison Research wrote a very good piece on Medium recently to back up a presentation he recently gave at the Podcast Movement conference in the US. The main theme of his piece was about getting to 100 million weekly (i.e. regular) podcast listeners in the US. Currently they are at 48 million weekly listeners, so there are another 52 million to go.

Using Edison’s research, he shows that while 17% of Americans listen weekly, 64% have heard the term. And of that group, 37% of them have never tried to listen. His thesis is that to get to 100 million, we need to understand what is stopping people who have learnt about podcasting as a thing actually going further and listening to one. He has a great video of real people explaining why they’ve not bothered, and of course there are lots of good reasons for that.

Webster’s thesis is that if the right show comes along then people will work out how to get to a podcast. He uses the example of Netflix. They didn’t go around explaining how the Netflix app on people’s new smart TVs or Roku boxes work. Instead they made and marketed Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. People wanted to see those shows and they worked out for themselves how to get to them. Around 50% of US homes now have Netflix, so something is working there.


As an aside, it’s interesting to note that massively popular video game Fortnite has just been released for Android devices. Unlike most apps, the game’s creators Epic have sidestepped Google’s Play Store. They want you to download it direct from their site. In order to do this, users have to jump through some hoops  to allow “sideloading” of the app to their devices. Epic is doing this because they create a direct relationship with games players, and more significantly, they don’t have to pay a 30% commission to Google on every in-game transaction. Epic’s gamble is that players are so keen to get the game that they will educate themselves about how to get it for their device. This is almost certainly true, and backs up Webster’s thesis.


One really good point Webster makes is that the top performing content in the podcast landscape being different to, say, the TV landscape. He shows a screengrab of the iTunes top podcasts which are full of public media and highbrow programmes: The Daily, This American Life, Serial, Pod Save America.

Compare and contrast with the Nielsen top TV ratings which are full of mainstream, or even low-brow shows like The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Celebrity Family Feud, Little Big Shots and The Bachelorette.

It’s not that TV doesn’t do lots of highbrow material, but that this isn’t the most viewed. OK, there are comedians in the iTunes charts, and 60 Minutes is in the Nielsen chart, but in general it’s a good point.

Now what I would say is that in recent weeks in the UK, the Love Island: The Morning After podcast did very well, and was fighting tooth and nail with World Cup podcasts when both events were happening. So low-brow can get an outing.

But it does feel, especially in the US, that there’s a certain type of audience that is being super-served, and a mainstream that isn’t.

The question in my mind is whether there could ever be any one “show” that would achieve what is being suggested?

In a recent HotPod, Nicholas Quah wrote a bit of a follow-up to Webster’s piece. He notes that there are at least three potential counter-arguments against the “show” notion: that it’s antithetical to the open publishing medium; that Netflix is a bad example because it controls it own platform centrally, while podcasting can’t; and that there already are shows like Serial, Pod Save America and so on that fill that gap.

Quah isn’t totally sold on any of these counter-arguments, and neither am I. However, I would note that it’s incredibly hard to make a single programme that will cut-through on such a scale that everyone flocks to it. US TV networks spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying, and mostly failing every year. Reality shows like America’s Got Talent, or sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory are the exception rather than the rule.

And since we don’t have figures from Netflix, we don’t actually know how successful House of Cards or Orange is the New Black actually are. We know that at one time or another they’ve been the single biggest shows on the platform, but as Netflix has grown it has developed a very wide roster of programming. Yes there are the big budget awards contenders like The Crown and House of Cards, but there are also reality shows like Queer Eye, and very mainstream comedies.

Recent research from UK regulator Ofcom found that the single most popular show in the UK on any of the streaming services is Friends which is available on Netflix in the UK (and is on the Comedy Central UK TV channel). It had twice the number of streams of the next biggest programme The Grand Tour from Amazon.

Top 20 SVoD programmes in the UK, Q1 2018

I realise that Friends has many more episodes than many of these other programmes, and the chart is sorted by the total number of streams. But it’s notable that a lot of sitcoms and more popular genre programming take up a number of places in the chart. Oh, and kids programmes sneak in at the bottom of the top 20 too.

I would love to know how many listeners to the Love Island podcast  discovered podcasts for the first time with this show. I suspect that a number of them did, since the TV show was such a big summer hit for ITV2. But there are plenty more fans of the show who did not download the podcast, and still haven’t discovered the medium.

Webster also highlights music as a problem. Podcasts really can’t do music. Yes, you get a few podcasts that include bits of music here and there. But they’re probably not licenced to include that music, even if the artist has actually given them permission. Certainly a podcast that promotes new music is unlikely to feel the long arm of the music industry law because everyone realises it’s better for all concerned to let it slide. But that doesn’t mean that it’s strictly legal.

Webster talks about  use of the word “Subscribe” which I know a lot of people find off-putting. Subscribe does normally entail payment of money. But he mentions YouTube who I think have possibly put that idea to bed a little. Many people happily “Subscribe” to YouTube channels and have come to realise that it doesn’t come with any commitment, financial or otherwise. So I think that’s probably the direction things need to go. I believe that for that reason alone, podcasts can continue to use the “subscribe” terminology.

I absolutely do agree that “Subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts” is awful, and there need to better ways to do it. 

For a lot of podcasts it’s actually more like “Subscribe to us on iTunes, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.” That’s even worse because you’re basically disenfranchising anyone without an iPhone, and spoiler alert, that’s most of the world.

So yes, yes, yes, build a website! There are enough website building platforms out there – often advertising on podcasts – that can help you out and get something simple up and running. If you can navigate making a piece of audio, finding a host, learning about RSS feeds, and making your podcast available in places like the iTunes store, then a basic website is well within your grasp!

I do agree that if you make the right show, people will come looking for it. However you can definitely make that journey easier – producing basic guides to how to get a podcast on your phone, or walking your audience through the steps. Having a web home for your podcast helps – those browser streams do count, and they provide you with search engine juice. Discovery is made a bit easier too. I admit that it’s a particular bugbear of mine when someone’s new podcast is promoted solely with an iTunes link.

Podcasting needs a more diverse range of populist, mainstream shows to become a bigger medium – sport and comedy go some way towards this, but  there is more to be done. I don’t believe it’s a single show, because that’s a nirvana that is closer to a moonshot than a commissioning strategy for a nascent medium.  And of course the journey to getting people to a podcast needs to be made easier.

Eddie Mair on LBC

So now we know. Eddie Mair will be taking over drivetime from Iain Dale on LBC, broadcasting 4-6pm Monday to Friday. He settles into his new desk next Monday, while previous incumbent, Iain Dale, shuffles into the evening 7-10pm slot.

Interestingly, this also means that Mair has the “pleasure” of handing over to Nigel Farage at 6pm which is where Farage’s show lands in the new schedule. I feel certain that there won’t be any droll back-handedness to any of those links. (LBC’s late night presenter Nick Abbot was perhaps the master of these. Years ago, at Virgin Radio, when he had the afternoon slot, his handovers were something to behold.)

I think like many others, I had been perhaps anticipating that Mair might move into breakfast, since Nick Ferrari has been doing breakfast shows for an awfully long time now. But Ferrari’s obviously not ready to stop yet, although this safely lines up Mair for such a time as Ferrari is ready to stop. Drive presenters are regularly first in line for the breakfast throne.

A lot will be made of the fact that Mair is up against his old programme, however it doesn’t necessarily follow that thousands of Radio 4 listeners will follow him over the parapets. 

The chart above shows the overall station overlap between Radio 4 and LBC. It shows that around half a million people listen to both stations in any given week. But, perhaps more relevantly, it means that while 24% of LBC’s audience listen to Radio 4, only 5% of Radio 4’s audience listen to LBC, at least in the course of a week.

There will be a myriad of reasons for that disparity, not least that the stations offer very different things. But in part this can also be explained by the loyalty of listeners to both stations.

That loyalty can be measured in a couple of ways. First of all, there are average hours per listener. According to the latest RAJAR and based on 6 month weighting:

  • Radio 4 listeners spend an average of 11.2 hours per week with the station
  • LBC listeners spend an average of 9.6 hours per week with the station

Both of these are high figures. In other words, listeners to those stations love them and spend many hours with them. Every hour they spend with their preferred station, is an hour they’re not spending with another station.

And then there are station repertoires – the number of different stations a listener hears over the course of a week. The lower the number, the more loyal the listener.

  • Radio 4 – 3.4
  • LBC – 4.1

Radio 4 listeners are slightly more loyal than LBC listeners.

If your station has a high listeners per hour figure and a low repertoire figure, you’re in heaven. Your listeners are going nowhere else, and they’re listening to hours of your station a week!

Finally, to examine the overlap between the stations, you can also do something called a Switching Analysis. RAJAR measures when listeners switch from one station to another, or indeed where they turn on and turn off their radios. 

Looking at the data, there’s nothing very conclusive about Radio 4 and LBC listeners. The biggest gain by Radio 4 from LBC comes at 1pm Monday-Friday, when 4,000 LBC listeners switch over to The World at One, and 3,000 come over from LBC for The Archers instead of staying for, er, Nigel Farage.

On the other hand LBC gains 8,000 listeners from Radio 4 at 9.00am when Start the Week, In Our Time etc begin, tuning for the final hour of Nick Ferrari. A further 4,000 head off to James O’Brien instead of staying on for Woman’s Hour.

But these are all trifling numbers in the scheme of things, when you consider the overall respective stations’ sizes.

And Eddie Mair’s new programme on LBC, and PM on Radio 4 are likely to be very different beasts. The LBC show is twice the duration, although it will have to accommodate 10-12 minutes an hour of advertising. LBC doesn’t anything like the resource the BBC’s news operation has, so it’s unlikely that we’ll be hearing very carefully constructed packages from teams of producers and reporters. On the other hand, Mair will have more time for his interviews, and to engage with listeners.

None of this is to say that there aren’t some enormous fans of Mair, so his personality alone is likely to see some giving him at least a trial. LBC would love to gain a few more Radio 4 listeners, even if only for a couple of hours a day. It will be interesting to see how much marketing Global gives LBC to promote their new signing.

And while that awkward 6pm junction when he’ll have to hand over to Nigel Farage is not perhaps a natural one for Mair, the rest of LBC’s daytime output of James O’Brien in the mornings and Shelagh Fogarty in the afternoons, probably makes Mair a natural fit for the early evenings.

In any event, Mair’s show comes at the start of RAJAR Q4, so don’t expect any reports on the relative audience changes until the end of January next year.


Note #1: I do hope Global does something interesting with Mair and a podcast. Although they publish a number, I’m not sure that they’ve fully adapted to podcasting, still earning a few quid selling complete shows behind a paywall. It’s notable that Mair is going to continue to present the BBC’s Grenfell Inquiry podcast until the end of November.

Note #2: Global’s press site is incredibly hard to navigate. It looks like some junior web designer was allowed to run away with themselves building without any thought as to visitors. It’s user unfriendly. I’m pretty sure it’s not accessible. And criminally, it’s not responsive. Seriously – try looking at it on your phone!

Read more on the challenges faced by LBC on this move over at Earshot, where Steve Martin has written more about the issues.

Bauer Buys Jazz FM

Bauer today announced it was buying Jazz FM, which is good news for the continued existence of a musically important station. I imagine that they’ll be squeezing into Golden Square away from their current Margaret Street studios which will save some money. But I suspect that the key thing in this deal is that Bauer’s national sales team will be able to monetise the brand pretty well.

I’m not completely certain who they’re represented by currently, but in the past First Radio Sales has done the job for them. The problem is that as both Global and Bauer have grown, they’ve squeezed out other operators. While Global might have around 45% of the UK commercial market place, they probably demand more. Assume that Bauer does the same, and those not represented by the Global and Bauer sales teams get squeezed.

Jazz is now inside the Bauer tent, and it gets to profit.

As far as the station itself goes, I trust they won’t mess around too much with the current formula. They have 672,000 reach and around 3m listening hours at the moment which are decent. But there might be some envy about how well Smooth is doing. Although it benefits from some good FM transmitters, it brings in 5.6m reach. 

Bauer’s press release sounds like it’s going to be respectful of the format, and that’s a good thing. 

The other interesting thing about Jazz FM is that just over 40% of its listening is via the internet. Bauer notes in its press release that they’ll be using their InStream technology to monetise this, and that should work will with a service with such a strong internet presence.

Overall an interesting move by Bauer, going to show that it’s not just Global out acquiring stations right now.

Overly Mannered Podcast Presentation

I wrote this as a podcast thread last week, but thought it was worth re-visiting a little more here.

If there is one thing I hate in many podcasts (or radio programmes), it’s a presentation style that I would describe as overly mannered.

What I’m talking about is a podcast that’s likely to be scripted, but where the delivery is over-emphasised, often in an attempt to sound empathetic.

There is one podcast – no names, no pack drill – that I’m getting close to stopping listening to at all, because although the subject matter is fascinating, and it explores subjects I’m really interested in, the presenter speaks in such a s-l-o-w deliberate and affected manner that it becomes painful to listen to.

Other examples are those voices that feel like they should instead be reading a story to a kindergarten class. While podcasts are said to always be about telling stories (except that sometimes that’s not true, but we’ll park that thought for another day), they don’t need to adopt the same vocal stylisations of a presenter of Jackanory or Story Time on CBeebies.

This certainly isn’t an attach on scripted podcasts. And nor is it an attack on high production values. I don’t think every podcast should adopt the soundscape that a series like Radiolab creates, but I would certainly not complain about beautiful layered audio.

I think the problem with stilted or unnatural delivery tones stems in part from a kind of ‘learned behaviour’ that almost certainly derives from US public radio. I’m not a historian of US public radio, but I suspect that this kind of delivery has become the standard for many years.

And of course, much of the talent in, especially, the US podcasting sector today, was honed and trained in a US public radio sphere. That’s no doubt changing, but I still feel that a certain tone of voice is what is expected, and so is what is delivered.

To give a related example, consider the Smashie and Nicey characters created by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. That trans-atlantic ‘pop-tastic’ style was a vicious take on a generation of pop DJs on British radio who honestly did speak like that. It became the norm until it became a parody of itself. Yes, radio presenters have always ‘turned it on’ to an extent when the mic goes live, but that was an era when presenters were practically making up new personas.

Note that these kinds of ‘learned behaviours aren’t unique to US public radio. In the past the same could be said to be true for many Radio 4 presentation and delivery styles. I think they’re less of a problem now, but I know that some, for example, struggle with the generic delivery of British radio drama.

I’m also absolutely not talking about so-called ‘Vocal Fry’ which some listeners seem to take exception to. You have the voice that you have. I’m talking about speech patterns as much as anything else.

I know that reading from a script can be a challenge. There are elements of annunciation, the forcefulness of delivery and tone of voice to get right. But just because others have a certain tone of voice, it doesn’t mean that those should be adopted by all.

With podcasts in particular, listeners have made a conscious choice to hear the output, and they’re often listening directly via headphones.

I just want podcast and radio presenters to be a little more original, and mostly natural.

RAJAR Q2 2018

RAJAR
As ever, this post is brought to you in association with RALF from DP Software and Services. I’ve used RALF for the past 9 years, and it’s my favourite RAJAR analysis tool. So I am delighted that I continue to be able to bring you this RAJAR analysis in association with RALF. For more details on the product, contact Deryck Pritchard via this link or phone 07545 425677.

We’re into the depths of summer, and many people are on holiday. But there’s still a new set of RAJAR results to look at.

Earlier this week a new Advertising Association/WARC report said that radio was the fastest growing medium, with growth of 12.5%. Commercially, radio is in a good place, but how about audiences?

Radio Listening

Overall radio listening has fallen a small amount this quarter, down 0.7% on the quarter in reach, and down 0.8% on the year. Reach is down to 89% from 90% for the last few quarters.

Of bigger concern (see all previous RAJAR pieces I’ve written), is the drop in hours. They’re down 0.9% on the quarter and down 1.7% on the year to 1.015bn hours a week (the lowest since the start of 2016). Average hours per radio listener remains constant at 20.8 hours a week, although that remains a record low.

The BBC’s reach has fallen slightly to 34.47m (down 1.5% on the quarter and down 1.4% on the year), with Commercial Radio also falling a little to 35.51m listeners (down 1.3% on the quarter and down 1.0% on the year). Commercial Radio reach remains higher than the BBC’s reach as it has done for the past few quarters.

In terms of listening hours, the BBC remains bigger with 51.7% of radio listening compared with Commercial Radio’s 45.7%. For the BBC, listening hours have fallen – down 1.2% on the quarter and 2.7% on the year. Commercial Radio has grown a little however, up 0.9% in hours on quarter, although down a fractional 0.1% on the year. A reminder that the missing bit in the middle to get to 100% includes stations not measured directly by RAJAR including some internet radio stations, smaller local stations and community stations.

Digital listening was the big thing last time around, with the 50% mark broken reaching 50.9%. This quarter it has slipped back a little to 50.2%, but the numbers can bounce around a little so I’m not too concerned about that. It’s always the longer term trends that really show what’s happening, and they’re upwards.

National and Digital

This hasn’t been a great quarter for Radio 1, which has fallen 2.4% in reach on the quarter, and is down 3.7% on the year. It now reaches 9.236m listeners a week (15+), the second lowest its reach has ever been.

Listening hours are a slightly different story however, with hours up 4.6% on the quarter, although down 7.3% on the year.

The big programming news is the forthcoming switch between Nick Grimshaw at Breakfast and Greg James on Drive. They don’t start their new shifts until September, but I thought it was worth having a look at their final full quarters

In his last full quarter on Breakfast at Radio 1, Nick Grimshaw is up 3.8% in reach to 5.3m, although down 3.8% on this time last year.

Meanwhile Drive was down slightly (measured on 4pm – 7pm inclusive), reaching 4.05m this quarter – down 4.3% on last quarter and down 3.2% on last year.

It’ll take a while for the new shows to settle, and indeed it won’t be until the Q4 results are in that we’ll even be able to see how the new presenters are doing.

Over on Radio 2, reach has fallen a bit this quarter, down 3.1% to 14.93m listeners (But up 0.3% on the year). Hours are more positive, up 0.6% on the quarter and up 4.3% on the year to 181.48m a week.

The big news on Radio 2 is the new Drive show, with Simon Mayo now joined by Jo Whiley. As is the way of these things, there were a few negative stories surrounding the change – even though this was obviously a way for Radio 2 to get at least one woman into the peak daytime schedule. I would just point out that the more popular a show is, the more reaction there is from listeners when there are changes. And that it of course takes time for a new show to bed down.

The new show only began midway through the RAJAR quarter, with roughly half the figures reflecting Mayo’s solo show.

The other key thing is that Mayo’s previous show was for two hours – 5.00pm – 7.00pm daily. The new show runs three hours – 5.00pm to 8.00pm daily, except Fridays when it is two hours. I’ve used the new hours of the show for a point of comparison, even though that would have included specialist music shows in the 7pm hour previously.

Reach for the show is up on last quarter, with 6.31m listeners compared with an equivalent timeslot of 6.23m last quarter. That’s up 1.3% in reach on the quarter, but down 0.6% on the year.

Radio 3 is down 1.3% in reach on the quarter, and down 7.5% on the year. In terms of hours it’s down 3.3% on the quarter, and down 9.1% on the year.

Radio 4 has seen some falls this quarter, down 2.9% in reach on the quarter (and down 8.3% on the year), while hours are down 3.2% on the quarter (and 6.2%) on the year. That’s the lowest reach since Q2 2015, although in overall terms the Radio 4 audience is relatively consistent over the longer period.

The Today programme has seen a certain amount of attention shone on it in some circles recently. There was a long piece in The Observer a few weeks ago by Miranda Sawyer which took clear aim at the programme. And in these politically charged times, different presenters cause different reactions to different parts of the audience.

To be clear, I don’t believe in using your own social media network to determine the relative success or failure of a particular programme. But looking at listening figures can be useful.

Considering the Monday-Friday edition of the programme, running 6am-9am, the reach is down 3.6% to 6.82m a week. Year on year, this is down 11.0%. On the other hand, this time last year was the Today programme’s biggest ever audience. As recently as Q1 2016, the Today audience was lower than it is today. It might be useful to include a chart here to show, that in fact, Today is a pretty consistent performer.

I’d also point out that only Chris Evans has a higher audience in either radio or television at that time of day.

This quarter included the end of a not especially competitive Premier League season and about ten days of what would prove to be a very lively World Cup. However neither were enough to stop Five Live’s reach falling 8.0% to 4.73m (and down 11.0% on the year). Hours were down 1.7% on the quarter and down 10.6% on the year.

By way of comparison, Talksport was also down, falling 7.2% in reach on the quarter, and down 3.2% on the year. However it was up last year, climbing 10.4% on the quarter and up 31.8% on the year. It should be said that last year’s Q2 Talksport figures were pretty poor, and quite likely “rogue” as I said at the time.

The main question each quarter with 6 Music is whether it has broken any records this time around?

Well, it has.

Reach has dipped a little, down 3.4% on the quarter to 2.44m. But it’s still up 9.4% on the year. But hours are a new record, up 0.5% on the quarter to 24.28m (and up 25.3% on the year).

BBC World Service English is up 5.7% on the quarter, but down 5.0% on the year to a consistent 1.51m reach. Hours are down a little however – down 2.8% on the quarter and down 22.6% on the year (although last year’s hours were exceptionally high).

Classic FM’s reach is a little disappointing – down 7.6% on the quarter and down 10.9% on the year to 5.15m. That’s the lowest reach since Q1 2016, and the second lowest reach the station’s had in all time.

Hours are also down for the station – down 7.6% on the quarter and down 12.2% on the year – to 35.34m

I’ve already mentioned Talksport, but stablemate Talksport 2 is still struggling, with reach down 13.1% on the quarter and down 18.8% on the year, to 273,000. Hours were down 40.0% on the quarter and down 31.4% on the year to 681,000.

LBC has been riding high for the last few quarters, but this quarter has seen a small dip. Reach was down 2.8% on the quarter to 2.1m, but that’s still up 3.0% on the year.

Hours were down 0.7% on the quarter and down 6.1% on the year.

The big question with LBC is where they’re planning to put their major new signing Eddie Mair, who is leaving the BBC and the PM programme on Radio 4, that he has made his own. You imagine that he’s going to get quite a big slot somewhere on the station. Nick Ferrari has been in the breakfast slot on LBC since the start of 2004 – a run over more than 14 years now. With 1.13m listeners, he’s a solid performer, up very slightly on both the quarter and the year. But how much longer does he want to go on in that slot? You certainly feel that LBC is likely to reshuffle the deck a little.

In Christian O’Connell’s final RAJAR quarter, Absolute Radio saw an increase in reach of 5.0% to 2.54m. Year on year, the increase was a very healthy 20.9%. Hours were down 6.0% on the quarter, but up 1.8% on the year.

O’Connell’s final show was at the midway point of the RAJAR quarter, but his final set of numbers showed a 6.1% increase in reach to 2.15m. That’s also up 16.6% on the year. Note that O’Connell’s show was carried across the entire Absolute Radio Network, and those figures are calculated on 6 month basis. Of course Dave Berry also has a claim on some of those figures, and Bauer can position his show as the biggest breakfast show on commercial radio.

The Absolute Radio Network itself is growing very nicely with a reach of 4.74m, up 4.2% on the quarter and 10.3% on the year. Hours are also growing, up 6.0% on the quarter and up 4.0% on the year to 34.44m. Those are both record highs for the network!

After the main service, Absolute 80s is the next biggest constituent part of the network, and it was fractionally down this quarter in reach. With 1.54m listeners it was down 1.5% on the quarter, but up 1.6% on the year. However hours are up both on the quarter (up 11.0%) and the year (up 8.8%) to 8.06m.

(Close competitor Heart 80s did less well this quarter, with reach falling 16.3% on the quarter to 1.17m, but up 37.4% on the year. Hours were better, up 4.7% on the quarter and 55.3% on the year. A reminder that Heart 80s has better distribution than Absolute 80s in terms of DAB, because its multiplex has better coverage.)

It’s also worth having a look at Absolute Radio 90s, because – well – the nineties are becoming the new eighties. If you were 15 in 1995, you’d be 38 today and hitting that moment when you get nostalgic about the music of your adolescence.

Absolute Radio 90s has just had its record reach and hours audiences. Its reach of 822,000 is up 20.2% on the quarter and up 26.3% on the year. Hours are up a massive 42.0% on the quarter and 34.4% on the year. This follows the station rejoining the D1 national multiplex back at the start of the year, having spent three years on local muxes. This rejig by Bauer would seem to be paying dividends, and I suspect that this is a station to watch.

Bauer has had a good quarter with all its national brands.

Kiss is up 3.3% in reach on the quarter (and down 0.6% on the year) to 4.58m reach. Hours are up 2.1% on the quarter and up 2.5% on the year to 20.89m.

The Kiss Network is up 1.9% in reach on the quarter (up 4.4% on the year), and down 0.4% in hours on the quarter (up 4.8% on the year). Kisstory continues to do well, up 9.5% on the quarter (and up 21.1% on the year) to 1.94m reach. Hours are up 12.9% on the quarter and up 14.0% on the year. On the other hand Kiss Fresh sees declines across the board.

Meanwhile Magic is up 10.9% on the quarter and up 11.6% on the year to 3.29m in reach. Its hours are also strong, up 8.4% on the quarter and up 18.9% on the year. The overall Magic Network is up in reach and hours – up 3.0% in reach on the quarter (up 6.8% on the year), and up 2.7% in hours on the quarter (up 3.5% on the year). All three sub-brands are also up on the quarter.

Bauer has also rebranded Key 103 in Manchester to Hits Radio, at the same time creating the Hits Radio Brand which incorporates the Manchester FM station with all their other city FM stations (e.g. Clyde 1, Hallam FM, Radio City). However the rebrand only took place at the start of June, and those services as well as the Hits Radio Brand network are all 6 month reporting stations, so it’s not really worth examining closely just yet for any impact of the rebrand on RAJAR.

Overall Bauer Radio is up 1.2% in reach on the quarter and 2.6% in reach on the year – with 17.71m reach in total. In terms of hours, it’s up 0.6% on the quarter and 3.4% on the year – with 151.9m hours in total.

Over at Global, the overall reach for Total Global Radio (UK) is up very slightly to 23.69m – up 0.1% on the quarter, and up 1.5% on the year. Hours are down slightly to 207.5m – down 0.4% on the quarter and down 2.3% on the year. Global obviously remains the biggest commercial radio group with just over 50m more hours than Bauer. And it continues to grow through buying other stations. Only this week it bought 2BR in Lancashire. Earlier this year it has also bought Juice 107.2 in Brighton (Update: Which is to rebrand as Capital in September). At the end of last year it also bought two other stations in Lancashire – The Bay and Lakeland Radio.

As for Global’s main brands, Capital Brand UK (which includes Capital Xtra) is up 1.3% in reach on the quarter, and down 3.2% on the year to a total of 8.34m. Global is keenly waiting for the day that overtakes Radio 1’s figures. Hours are down 2.9% on the quarter and 12.5% on the year to 42.34m. So as with Radio 1, this is a challenging audience to maintain listening with, as more listeners spend more time with streaming services.

The slightly older Heart Brand UK fares slightly better, up 2.7% in reach on the quarter, and up 5.9% on the year to 9.76m. Hours are also up to 68.26m – up 2.6% on the quarter and up 1.8% on the year.

Smooth Brand UK also performed well this quarter, up 2.3% on the quarter and up 1.1% on the year in reach, while hours are up 4.7% on the quarter, and down 5.2% on the year.

Radio X is perhaps Global’s strongest performing brand in percentage, turning in another set of decent numbers across the network. Reach is up to 1.68m (up 6.3% on the quarter and up 20.7% on the year), while hours are up to 13.21m (up 8.7% on the quarter and 32.5% on the year). The station has had a set of solid upwards numbers over the last 12 months, and this would seem to be set to continue.

London

I’ll leave others to get into the detail for London, but I’ll highlight the biggest stations.

In terms of reach it’s Radio 4 with 2.46m although it’s down 10.1% this quarter (and down 14.3% this year). That leaves Radio 2 a close run second biggest station with 2.42m listeners (up 12.9% on the quarter and up 9.3% on the year).

Third placed is Kiss with 2.09m reach (up 7.1% on the quarter and up 1.9% on the year). It can claim the biggest commercial radio crown. It’s just ahead of Capital in fourth place with 2.06m reach (down 3.5% on the quarter and down 10.8% on the year).

The other stations with over 1m audiences in London are Radio 1 (1.49m – down 3.9% on the quarter, down 1.6% on the year), Magic (1.67m – up 21.6% on the quarter, up 7.8% on the year), Heart (1.40m – down 6.0% on the quarter, down 17.4% on the year), LBC (1.28m – up 2.0% on the quarter, down 9.3% on the year), Classic FM (1.12m – down 19.1% on the quarter, down 24.7% on the year), and Radio 5 Live (1.08m – down 3.9% on the quarter, down 6.5% on the year).

In terms of hours, it’s Radio 2 (27.4m hours – up 23.4% on the quarter, up 14.3% on the year), Radio 4 (25.9m hours – down 13.0% on the quarter, down 15.3% on the year), and LBC 97.3 (13.16m hours – up 17.9% on the quarter, down 16.1% on the year).

Overall radio listening in London is always something to keep an eye on, as trends in London often precede wider national trends. In fact reach in London is up very slightly this quarter to 10.74m. That’s up 1.0% on the quarter, although down 1.2% on the year. Reach in London is at 88%, just behind the national reach of 89%. In terms of hours, listening is down slightly to 204.9m hours. That’s down 0.8% on the quarter and down 1.2% on the year. That hours figure is going to be something worth keeping an eye on, as it is at its lowest since the start of 2016 – although its lowest ever figure was 198.0m at the start of 2015.

Further Reading

For more RAJAR analysis, I’d recommend the following sites:

The official RAJAR site and their infographic
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Go to Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
Mediatel’s Newsline will have lots of figures and analysis
Paul Easton for more lots analysis including London charts
Matt Deegan will have some great analysis
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site

All my previous RAJAR analyses are here.


Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 24 June 2018, Adults 15+.

Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else, including my employer. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Drop me a note if you want clarifications on anything. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.

Radio is Fastest

If you wanted to know what was happening in Moscow as fast as possible last night, your best bet was the radio.

I’ve mentioned before that when a big fixture goes to penalties, I always listen on the radio, because I get the news first. More regularly, if there’s a match that’s both being covered by Five Live and Sky TV, I might have the TV switched on in my lounge, but the radio on in my kitchen. If I hear a goal described on the radio, I know that I can take my time strolling into my lounge to see the goal scored.

This was beautifully illustrated in a Tweet that showed some Brazilian fans watching a game on a big screen, with one fan listening to the radio:

During the England semi-final, at a point of tension, I decided to see what got me news from Russia fastest. Here are my non-scientific findings in order:

Fastest to Slowest

BBC Radio Five Live AM

— ~0.2 seconds ahead of —

BBC Radio Five Live DAB

— ~5 seconds ahead of —

ITV Freeview SD
ITV Freeview HD
ITV Sky HD

(All TV roughly the same)

I didn’t bother with streams because they introduce too many variables based on the technology I’m using, the internet speeds I have, and so on. But I do know that UHD is especially slower than other streaming options. I also noted earlier in the tournament that BBC’s VR experiment delivered video faster than regular iPlayer! (I was, however, completely underwhelmed by the VR experience)

Note that I can’t accurately measure the time because I comparing things I can see myself with things that are being described by a commentator. In other words, radio is perhaps even further ahead than I’m estimating here, since the radio commentator has had to see and describe something before I hear it. On TV, I can simply see the net bulge with a goal.

What’s more, I’m told that AM is deliberately delayed by about a second – perhaps to keep it closer in sync with DAB.

I suspect that the overall delay is closer to 10 seconds for events happening in a stadium and me seeing them on a television. There will be uplinks and downlinks from the venue to the broadcast centre, then more from the broadcast centre to the UK broadcaster’s playout systems. Then that signal too is probably propagated by satellite to many transmitters and direct-to-home satellites. Each satellite “hop” might take 250 milliseconds, and then there encoding and decoding delays to account for. Finally a broadcaster may deliberately introduce a delay to ensure that they can cut the picture in case something happens that they don’t want to show (the equivalent of the “dump” button in many radio studios).

All of this shows that if you want to know what’s happening fastest, radio gets there first.

Diversity in UK Radio

Ofcom has just published its diversity monitoring report into the radio industry. It replicates the work Ofcom did in television, and the report makes interesting reading.

The first note in the report is that the data for this is very poor. They contacted 16 broadcasters to compile the report, and while all 16 reported on gender, there was missing data from at least some on ethnicity, disability, age, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

Some topline findings:

  • 62% of senior managers are male
  • 81% of board level managers are male
  • technical and engineering jobs are 81% male
  • 52% of programming roles are male – but in commercial radio it’s 68% male compared with the BBC’s 46% male
  • women have higher proportions of roles in marketing (70%), support (66%) and sales (63%)
  • only 6% of the workforce are from an ethnic minority compared with 14% of the population
  • of those groups that disclosed ethnicity at board level, there was no representation at all of ethnic minorities

With respect to the high proportion of men in technical and engineering jobs, Ofcom notes that there is a wider issue of encouraging women to pursue STEM subjects, with the numbers being especially bad in the UK.

The report details specific results from the BBC, Global and Bauer. Ofcom says that BBC leads the industry on diversity and inclusion, setting targets and putting initiatives in place. But this perhaps isn’t surprising since it is both a public company and recently having issues with regards to the gender pay gap.

Global has some data gaps with some ethnicity data missing and nothing on disability, age, sexual orientation or religion. It has acknowledged this and has launched a diversity strategy.

Bauer’s data is fuller, only lacking sexual orientation and religion, and has put in place initiatives to promote diversity in under-represented groups.

What Ofcom Doesn’t Measure

There is something missing from the report, and it’s something I’ve noted before since I’m certain that it impacts on many of the other measures. That’s social group or class. The social background of employees, especially within the media industry, is heavily skewed towards the upper end and this simply isn’t measured.

As I’ve said before, I believe this is down to media jobs being widely seen as glamourous, if not highly paid. Therefore, lots of people are willing to “get a foot in the door” meaning low wages. Often self-support is required, quite probably from “the bank of mum and dad.” Furthermore there is still far too much unpaid “internships” and “work experience” often lacking payment even for transport. Only those from wealthier backgrounds can afford to take up such opportunities that often require people to have accommodation in London. In so many cases, getting that foot in the door really does work, and when a job comes up, it will be those who have some experience, and perhaps are already a known quantity, who get the gigs.

I know this isn’t easy to measure, but it I wish Ofcom would attempt to do it.

Also, I’d like to know what the spread of jobs in the industry is around the country. A regional breakdown would be great. I strongly suspect that it’s heavily skewed towards London. All the major radio groups are based in London, and often have significant sales or production presences there. All this in turn means that measures like levels of ethnicity are probably are even worse, because in London the population is far more ethnically diverse than it is in the rest of the country.