radio

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.

RAJAR Q1 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.

50.9%.

UK radio is now more listened to via a digital platform than it is an analogue one. The rise has been steady over a number of years but as the chart below shows, we’ve finally seen the percentage of all radio listening breach 50% this quarter.

As I said previously, while this theoretically should kick-start the process for a digital switch-over, I don’t actually foresee anything major happening at this point.

What I’m not saying is that a great deal will happen very quickly once the 50% mark is breached. While theoretically allows processes to begin for an analogue to digital switchover for radio, I just don’t see that happening very soon. Generally speaking other things are using up lots of Parliamentary time at the moment. Similarly, I suspect that recently announced radio deregulation will take longer than many might hope, because there just isn’t time to fit in the primary legislation required to do anything.

Ofcom published a good primer on the subject last year:

In July 2010 the Government launched its Digital Radio Action Plan. As part of this, it was requested that Ofcom produce an annual review of the digital radio market.

The Action Plan was launched to ensure that if and when digital switchover occurs in radio, it can be delivered at a time when the market is ready and in a way that protects the needs of listeners.

The Government stated that a decision on whether to set a date for digital radio switchover would be considered when the following criteria are met:

  • when 50% of all radio listening is via digital platforms; and
  • when national DAB coverage is comparable to FM, and local DAB reaches 90% of the population and all major roads.

The Action Plan was finalised in November 2013, and on 16 December 2013 DCMS announced that while there had been steady growth in digital listening, it was not yet the time to commit to a switchover. The last version of the Digital Radio Action Plan was published in January 2014.

And of course the one outstanding key challenge is in-car listening. At this point 33.4% of in-car listening is digital. That’s good, and the vast majority of new cars come with DAB as standard. But there are lot of other cars on the road.

Elsewhere, it’s also worth noting that Q1 each year usually sees a bump in listenership because of devices sold over the Christmas period. This year, an awful lot of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices were sold. But stalwart DAB radios always do well at this time of year too. Combined, they mean that post Christmas, people change the way they listen to the radio.

Radio Listening

Reach is up to 49.2m people a week, or 90% of the population. But average hours per listener have fallen below 21 for the first time, down to 20.8 hours a week. Inevitably that’s a consequence of other things eating into overall radio listenership.

I hate to keep labour the same point every quarter, but this is being driven to a significant extent by younger listeners. 15-24s now only listen for an average of 12.7 hours a week, which is a whole hour lower than the previous lowest figure. To put this in context, five years ago this group listened for 15.8 hours a week.

The one thing I would bring to bear from this, is that any formats or licences that target listeners by age groups – particular younger groups – are on a hiding to nothing. For example, Radio 1’s average age is 35 (down from 36 last quarter), and at this point, it’s essentially impossible to lower its average age.

National and Digital

It has been a decent quarter for Commercial Radio, with reach up 1.5% on last quarter and 4.2% on last year, just putting it ahead of BBC Radio in overall terms.

BBC Radio has more listening, despite seeing hours fall 3.2% on last quarter, and 1.5% down on last year.

The BBC national radio networks have all seen some disappointing numbers this quarter. Five Live is perhaps most disappointing with a fall in reach of 5.7% on the last quarter, to 5.1m (down 3.7% on last year). Listening hours are worse being 9.2% down on the quarter and 13.0% down on the year.

Such are the declines that I’d probably wait another quarter to be certain that they’ve not just had a bad RAJAR. While the Premier League hasn’t been the most exciting this year, there was plenty of football on during this period, and it was a generally busy time for both news and sport.

Perhaps all the listeners have gone to 6 Music, because they’ve had another superb set of results, with record reach and hours. Reach is up 8.0% on the quarter (up 8.0% on the year), to 2.5m. Hours are up a whopping 12.3% on the quarter (and up a more modest 3.2% on the year).

The interesting thing here is that 6 Music listeners might be considered to be the kind of people more likely to have Spotify or Apple Music (RAJAR doesn’t measure that), so the audience is rising at the same time as more of its audience has access to more music. Indeed, as with younger demos, 35-44s are seeing a gradual decline in time spent listening, which somehow 6 Music is overcoming. That said, the average age of a 6 Music listener is 43, and that has crept up from 38 over time.

There’s probably an interesting question to asked around the musical breadth of knowledge of a 6 Music listeners – or at least their desire to have one – and the need for guiding voices in the stations’ presenters. On the other hand, a station that plays a much tighter playlist might have less demanding listeners, and therefore find itself more susceptible to listeners switching to playlists on Spotify et al. That said, listeners to those stations are probably less likely to spend £9.99 a month on music.

But I’m hypothesising wildly here. Let’s get back to the numbers.

Radio 1 will be disappointed with its fall this quarter after a decent set of results last time. It’s down 3.8% in reach on last quarter, although it’s up 4.0% on last year. Hours are also down, falling 7.7% on last quarter, but just falling 0.5% on last year. More worrying is that the average listener spends just 6.0 hours a week with the station.

Radio 2 sees small falls too, with reach down a fractional 0.5% on the quarter while being up 2.6% on the year. Hours are down 5.1% on the quarter however, and down 2.5% on the year.

The station has just made some of the biggest changes to its weekday schedule that it’s done for years, but it’s going to be another couple of quarters before we can see the first results of that. And even then, the most notable change in peak, is a slight change in hours of Simon Mayo’s show and the introduction of Jo Whiley to the mix.

Radio 3 is down 0.9% in reach on the quarter, but up 2.6% on the year. Hours are somewhat better as it jumps 5.6% on the quarter and 2.7% on the year.

Radio 4 ducks just below 11m in reach with a fall of 3.0% on the quarter (down 1.8% on the year). Hours are up 0.9% on the quarter, but down 4.0% on the year. It’s not as though there’s a shortage of news, but one suspects there’s only so much Brexit/Trump that some listeners can take, hence the slight dip in reach after a strong run of results in recent quarters.

Radio 4 Extra has had a disappointing quarter with reach down 8.1% on the quarter, although up 3.1% on the year – which if nothing else shows that smaller stations can see their numbers bounce around. Perhaps more concerning is the 15.6% fall in hours on the quarter (and a 8.0% fall on the year).

The World Service remains fairly consistent with 1.4m listeners down 5.1% on the quarter, but up 7.4% on the year. Hours are up slightly with 3.4% growth on the quarter and 2.3% growth on the year.

Classic FM has had a solid set of results with reach down a little to 5.6m – down 1.7% on the quarter, but up 4.0% on the year. Hours are a little more mixed falling 4.1% on the quarter yet rising 10.2% on the year.

Talksport has had a some of its best numbers for a while, and has risen back above 3m again to 3.1m reach – an 8.9% rise on the quarter and a massive 14.3% rise on the year. Meanwhile hours are back over 20m and are up a massive 25.4% on the quarter and 13.5% on the year. The station continues to receive newspaper marketing support from its parent company News UK, and they again seem to be more active in the sports rights market. Although not in this RAJAR period, they have recently bought some England Test cricket rights for upcoming overseas tours to Sri Lanka and the West Indies, while they also had exclusive radio commentary of the recent Anthony Joshua fight.

Digital sibling, Talksport 2 has some positive numbers with reach up 1.0% on the quarter, although up 15.9% on the year. More importantly, hours are up 37.2% on the quarter and 49.9% on the year. Perhaps their EFL rights which largely sit on Talksport 2, are beginning to pay off?

Good news for Talksport 2 listeners and others on the SDL mulitplex, is that owner Arqiva on Tuesday announced that they will be extending the reach of the mulitplex by a further 4m with 19 new transmitters due to come on board.

That will also be useful for TalkRadio, which had some positive numbers as well, with reach up 30.6% on the quarter (32.8% on the year) and hours massively increasing, up 55.7% on the quarter (up 155.7% on the year). While these are good numbers, there’s no doubt that the format is expensive, and the station needs to see more growth to get it from 316,000 reach closer to somewhere around 1m.

Absolute Radio had some great results last quarter, but slipped back to 2.4m this quarter, down 7.3% in reach, although still up 11.4% on the year. In hours terms they were flat – really flat. 18,517,000 last quarter v 18,514,000 this quarter. And they were up 6.4% versus last year.

Christian O’Connell leaves Absolute Radio tomorrow, before he relocates to Australia to present the breakfast show on Gold FM in Melbourne. These therefore aren’t quite the final set of results for his tenure at the station.

The wider Absolute Radio Network has fallen a little, down 3.2% on the quarter, although still up 7.2% on the year in reach. Hours fell 4.4% on the quarter and were down 2.0% on the year.

Absolute 80s, however, did better this quarter, growing 5.8% on the quarter and up 14.8% on the year in reach. It also rose 13.5% in hours on the quarter, but fell 11.1% on the year.

Recall that Absolute 80s has a new competitor on the block in the form of Heart 80s, and the newcomer has better coverage being on D1 rather than SDL where Absolute 80s moved to (Again, the increase in coverage of the SDL mux should benefit Absolute 80s in due course).

Heart 80s also grew, rising 20% on the quarter (it’s too new for year on year figures), while hours dipped 5.5%.

For those keeping score, Absolute 80s is 161,000 listeners ahead of Heart 80s with 1.560m listeners. Although as an aside, it’s clear that the two stations, whilst both featuring music from the 80s, are actually quite different. Read this excellent and enlightening Twitter thread from Nik Goodman to get a better understanding of the differences.

Partly as a result of the success of Heart 80s, the Heart Brand (including all the local Heart stations, Heart 80s and Heart Extra) overall has had some good results. Reach is up 3.6% on the quarter and up 6.1% on the year, while hours are up 1.9% on the quarter, although down 1.9% on the year.

Sister network, Capital Brand, fared less well with reach down slightly – down 0.7% on the quarter and down 0.8% on the year. Hours fared slightly worse, perhaps reflecting wider listening behaviours in their target age group, with a fall of 7.1% on the quarter and a fall of 7.8% on the year.

The Kiss Network targets a similar age group, and saw falls on the quarter, although better results compared with this time last year. Reach was down 0.8% on the quarter but up 9.0% on the year, while hours fell 12.2% on the quarter but were up 3.2% on the year.

The Magic Network didn’t have a great quarter with reach down 3.4% on the quarter, although up 5.8% on the year. Hours are down 3.7% on the quarter and down 2.7% on the year. None of their digital sister stations, Magic Chilled, Magic Soul and Mellow Magic are doing enormously well, with only Magic Soul seeing an increase this quarter. Mellow Magic is the biggest of the three with a reach of 432,000 and 1.7m hours.

LBC is one of the better performers this time around, and whatever you think of it, their mix of politically charged presenters and the various politicians (and ex-politicians) that they get in for phone ins, seems to work well for them.

Reach is up 7.1% on the quarter and 21.5% on the year to 2.2m. That’s their biggest ever audience under the current methodology (You’d probably have to go back to the 70s or 80s to get a bigger audience for its FM in London, and at that time, there were only two commercial stations in the capital).

Hours aren’t quite a record, but they’re up 0.3% on the quarter and 5.7% on the year.

Jazz FM isn’t a station I mention too often, but I probably should. Their reach is up 16.1% this quarter (and up 22.4%) on the year, to 591,000. Hours slipped to 1.7m – down 18.7% on the quarter, although up 7.6% on the year. I mention this particularly to put their numbers in perspective with some of the other newer, but smaller digital stations.

London

The London radio market is always worth looking at – if only for signs of things to come. The average London listens to 19.4 hours of radio a week – so a bit less than the UK average. In part, that will be due to fewer people driving in London, but it might also be down to things like propensity to subscribe to other audio services.

19.4 hours isn’t the lowest we’ve seen – that was 19.1 hours a week back in Q2 2017. But it’s definitely part of a trend that last saw the average London listening to the radio for more than 20 hours being back in the middle of 2016.

I will also dutifully point out that the most listened to radio station in London is, as always, Radio 4 with 2.7m listeners. That’s followed by Radio 2 with 2.1m, itself very closely followed by Capital London, also with 2.1m (I’m rounding here for simplicity).

So Capital is the reach leader commercially (Radio 1 has a reach of 1.6m). The station is up in reach on the quarter (up 1.4%), but down on the year (down 4.6%). In hours terms, it’s not so good, with a 7.9% fall on the quarter to 9.0m hours and a 16.6% fall on the year.

Heart London is the commercial music leader in terms of hours with 10.1m, up 11.6% on the quarter and up 8.8% on the year. Reach is down 4.2% on the quarter but up 7.0% on the year.

Another figure to mull over when comparing the two Global stations is their respective average hours. For Heart it’s 6.7 hours a week, but for Capital it’s just 4.2 hours a week. That feels very low for a market leader. Just a year ago, it was 4.8 hours a week.

Kiss is a close competitor to both these two services, with 1.9m reach (down 3.7% on the quarter and up 8.3% on the year) and 9.6m hours (down 10.1% on the quarter and up 14.4% on the year). It has 4.9 hours per week average listening.

But the actual commercial hours leader in London is of course LBC which has grown in London as it has done nationally. Reach is up 3.3% on the quarter and 17.1% on the year to 1.3m, while hours are basically flat at 11.2m (down 0.1% on the quarter and down 3.0% on the year). It’s listeners spend 8.9 hours a week with it. And interestingly, their average age has just fallen to 49. LBC is perhaps younger than you think…

Magic has not had a great set of results this quarter in London, falling 12.3% in reach on the quarter and down 5.7% on the year. In hours, they’re down 11.6% on the quarter and down 4.6% on the year.

A couple of other Global services with good figures are Radio X and Smooth. Very different, but both showing positive moves.

Radio X has seen its best reach since its rebrand from Xfm, and indeed even if you include Xfm’s numbers, it’s best figures since 2013. It’s reach is up 4.3% on the quarter and remarkable 40.5% on the year, to 531,000.

In terms of hours, it’s an even better story, with hours up 14.3% on the quarter and up 81.9% on the year to 3.7m. That’s an average of 7.0 hours a listener per week, and the best hours the station has had since it was Xfm in 2004! Global has spent a lot over time marketing the service, and it may be coming to fruition.

Smooth said goodbye to Russ Williams on breakfast, but he left as the station put on 13.3% reach in London on the quarter (and up 6.6% on the year), while hours were up 6.8% on the quarter and up 0.3% on the year.

BBC London‘s numbers have been a little all over the place of late. Last quarter they had some incredibly good record breaking numbers, and things have, perhaps, “normalised” a little this quarter. Reach is down 20.9% on the quarter, but still up 38.0% on the year to 454,000. Meanwhile hours are down 50.5% on the quarter, but up 59.6% on the year to 2.1m. The station’s numbers are, frankly, bouncing ridiculously. 50% swings between quarters don’t happen, and it suggests that measuring the station’s audience is hard.

BBC London aside, it feels like RAJAR in London isn’t swinging around as wildly as it had in the past, which is much better for the currency.

MIDAS

RAJAR’s MIDAS survey isn’t actually part of the regular RAJAR release and was published last week. But I thought that there were a few things that were worth mentioning here.

11% of the UK population listen to a podcast in any given week – that’s 6.0m people (down very slightly from last time around, although the trend remains upwards).

Radio’s share of all audio is at 75% which is the same as last time around.

But if there’s a theme, it’s that the share of audio that is live radio for 15-24s has fallen below 50% for the first time. In the Winter 2017 survey it was at 50% for this demo, and 63% for 25-34s. However, in this new release, the share amongst 15-24s has fallen to 46%, while that among 25-34s is the same as before. On the other hand, on demand music services (e.g. Spotify) has grown from 28% to 34% for the younger demo.

This rate of change is fast, and it’s entirely conceivable that within a year, radio will have fallen below on demand music services for 15-24s.

At the moment this is a youth oriented issue. Among 35-54s, only 6% of audio is on demand music, and it drops to 1% for 55+. That offers some comfort to radio, but it will need to adapt to match the growth of these new services.

The full MIDAS release is here.

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 1 April 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.

Shutting Down AM

Today, Ofcom published a short consultation based on a request from Absolute Radio to shut down a number of AM transmitters and reduce the power on some others.

In essence the request, which I confidently expect to be quickly agreed to, has three main details:

  • They want to close down completely 12 AM sites, and reduce the power of another 5 transmitters, leaving 20 transmitters in total.
  • These closures and reductions in power will see national AM coverage fall from 90.5% of the population to 85.4% of the population.
  • This would save Bauer Radio, Absolute’s owners, just over 50% of their costs.

So for a relatively small reduction in coverage, Bauer saves a lot of money for a service that is largely also available in one or more of DAB, FM, digital television or the internet in all the affected locations. I think it’s only fair to note that there are FM alternatives wherever the BBC is shutting down an AM station. But the point is still valid, especially with regards to music stations.

Bauer points out that the BBC has been shutting down a number of AM transmitters across its local radio network, and that AM music listening in particular is in massive decline.

This all seems eminently sensible to me. Indeed there’s a fairly incendiary line in Ofcom’s consultation:

“Absolute Radio has made these proposals in the context of declining listening to AM radio and increasing transmission costs and noted that, if it is not able to make these changes, it may have to consider shutting down Absolute Radio’s entire AM network and surrendering its national licence.” [My emphasis]

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that when I was previously employed by Absolute Radio, I too looked very closely at the AM transmitter issue, and we were also very close to shutting down the AM network and handing back the national licence.

While that might seem dramatic, in reality the business is driven by digital and FM. At the time FM was only in London, but Bauer switched its West Midlands licence to FM as well. And it had always been in the interests of first Virgin and later Absolute to transition its listeners to DAB as quickly as possible.

For me, the larger question is whether the entire AM network shouldn’t be shut down, allowing Bauer to make savings of those other 50% of AM costs?

Lots of stations are on lots of platforms, but there is a cost to every additional platform a station goes on, and most stations will try to break down those costs to come up with some kind of cost per listener-hour by platform.
For the average local station, for example, FM is relatively cheap. In many cases it’s a single transmitter somewhere on a hill, and the kit and running costs are relatively. For any transmitter you also have to factor in electricity costs, and these are also relatively low for FM.

AM transmitters require vastly more power, and the costs can be significant. DAB is relatively cost efficient, but it usually requires more sites than FM, with the advantage that digital transmission lets you “fill in” gaps without causing interference. You can’t do that with AM or FM, hence secondary analogue transmitters have to be on different frequencies.

It’s not always easy to figure out those costs per listener-hour since RAJAR doesn’t break things down to quite a low enough level. For example, if you broadcast on both AM and FM, RAJAR can’t really differentiate beyond making assumptions using geography. Similarly, there are several TV platforms (Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media etc), but RAJAR just reports “Digital Television” in general. If your favourite station isn’t on your preferred TV platform, it might well be because the station can’t really work out whether it’s worth going onto that platform.

Returning to AM, and Absolute in particular, there are some interesting things in the consultation document. The sites that are proposed to be closed are largely in rural areas, those close to FM coverage, or those with high DAB penetration. Obviously Bauer has done a fair bit of analysis to come up with this list.

They estimate that 19,000 current listeners on AM will lose access to the AM signal following these changes. A small cost in listeners compared to monetary savings.

Ofcom notes that this represents 4% of the total AM audience of 472,000. But I think that Ofcom’s figure is slightly misleading, and it’s to do with the way that RAJAR is measured.

I would hypothesise that the actual number of AM listeners is much lower than this for a few reasons:

  • All local London stations, including Absolute Radio, report with a common London transmission area (TSA). Think of the area as essentially being that encompassed by the M25. But anyone who lives just outside the area knows that FM signals actually reach much further than that. It’s possible to just about listen to a London FM station all the way to Swindon as you drive down the M4. So an Absolute Radio listener, somewhere in the commuter belt around London, who listens on an FM radio, has to tick the FM/AM box in a RAJAR diary. And from a reporting perspective, they’ll be thought of as an AM listener. (You might ask why London stations don’t change their TSAs to accurately reflect their coverage, but these things are complicated – all the more so with the fact that London FM stations all use the same TSA to make it easier for London advertising agencies to reach the valuable audience. Outside of London, stations are far more likelier to fine tune their TSAs according to actual geography.)
  • RAJAR determines your listening dependent on where you live. That’s fine in areas where people don’t travel too far to work. But think of someone who lives in, say, Cambridge and commutes into London. If they listen to Absolute on an FM radio all day at work, analysis of their RAJAR data will that listening must be AM because of where they live. You might think this is an edge case, but London has a substantial commuter belt with hundreds of thousands coming into Greater London daily.
  • There will be similar, if less extreme, patterns around the West Midlands.
  • Finally, we know that respondents aren’t necessarily fantastic at filling out RAJAR diaries correctly, and while there are lots of checks to ensure that platforms are correctly recorded, I strongly believe that some listening recorded as AM/FM should actually be recorded as DAB. Most people don’t think about radio transmission formats as much as the average reader of this blog!

When you take into account all of that, I think you could substantially reduce the number of true AM listeners that Ofcom suggests Absolute has. Indeed it’s notable that Bauer doesn’t make this claim itself.

That’s not to say that these closures and reductions won’t have any affect. In rural areas, particularly those with lots of hills, AM (and LW) signals are about the only ones that get through. While the DAB has been built out to reach a large part of the population, there are still pockets with either only the BBC DAB multiplex or perhaps no DAB coverage at all. While satellite TV can fill in the gap at home, that’s not much use if you’re in a vehicle – especially one without DAB.

So turning off the AM network entirely would lose some listeners. But I suspect that it’s far fewer than the RAJAR numbers Ofcom suggests.

Finally, if Absolute was to hand back its AM licence, what would that mean? Well probably not a great deal for the station. It would continue on DAB and all the other platforms. It wouldn’t affect its FM listening in London or the West Midlands. Those are entirely separate licences.

But I believe that Ofcom would have to re-advertise the licence. I think primary legislation would require them to, whether or not they really wanted to. And I suspect that there would be a taker or two. The most obvious would be a Christian station – they often crowdfund their running costs. But there are others who would have a look.

This wouldn’t be a cheap option. Those electricity costs alone are significant. And it’s true that having that licence does allow the owner to get onto the D1 national DAB multiplex. That might be problematical in itself, since the mux is basically full!

And then there are the kit costs. One of the reasons Bauer gives for shutting down many of these transmitters is that the transmission kit is now very old. It dates from BBC ownership prior to the launch of independent national commercial radio, when those frequencies belonged to Radio 3. Replacing that kit is going to cost money, and it seems like an odd investment to be making in 2018.

By the way, have you actually tried to buy an AM radio recently? It’s not that easy…

RAJAR Q4 2017

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.

49.9%, hey?

49.9%.

That’s the percentage of listening that is now digital. So very close to 50%, but just not quite. But I’ll come back to that shortly.

These are a few thoughts on the final RAJAR results for 2017 that are now in, representing the period up to and including 18th December 2017.

Overall radio listening remains at 90% of the UK population listening at least once a week, listening for over a billion hours cumulatively. Those listening hours are down a small amount however, falling 0.9% on the year.

For the record, the mean age of a radio listener is 48 (up from 47) a year ago. But averages are something of a brute instrument to measure listening, particularly when you consider that the population is ageing.

A more useful measure is to look at the number of hours age groups listen to over time. The chart below compares listening by age demo over the last five years, comparing similar quarters.

In general terms the story isn’t too bad, with the notable exception of 15-24s for whom there is a clear downward trend. The reach for this demographic is down to 80.3%, the lowest it has ever been. This is a “problem” group for radio.

Earlier this evening I attended an interesting event organised by the research and analysis company MIDiA, exploring radio in a streaming world. One of the metrics they talked about was the number of listening events people have during the week. While MIDiA’s research compares radio to streaming services which isn’t something that RAJAR allows, RAJAR does let you explore what’s happening with listening events.

This chart is another good way to explain things.

What it shows is the number of different listening events someone has in the course of a week. While a given listening event might be just a few minutes, or conversely many hours, the number of times someone turns to the radio is a decent indicator about how radio is doing as a medium in someone’s life.

I’ve just compared 15-24s with all adults in the above chart, and you can quickly see that there is a decline in the number of times the average 15-24 year old turns on the radio over a relatively short period of time. It’s now less than twice a day. The all adult number is steadier, but the key here is to make it easier for that number to be bumped up, and that will be the challenge radio has to face up to. Can smart speakers introduce more listening events?

But let’s get back to that digital listening figure, as it’s incredibly close to the point whereby half of all listening is through a digital platform.

49.9% is clearly the highest amount of digital listening we’ve yet seen, and I would confidently expect the 50% figure to be breached as soon as next quarter, in the main because I think we’re about see significant growth in radio listening via smart speakers.

Google reported selling 6m speakers globally between October and December, many of them heavily discounted. Amazon doesn’t give out numbers, but reported that the Echo was the biggest selling item on its site over Christmas.

A lot of speakers were sold, and these make very convenient voice controlled radios.

That’s why I think we’ll get to 50% digital listening as soon as the next quarter. But it is also true that these speakers make listening to services like Spotify also much easier. So there’s give and take there.

(It’s worth noting that I’m absolutely not going to round 49.9% up to 50% because we’ve been looking at this number closely for years, and always reporting it to the nearest .1%. To round up now would be wrong and somewhat misleading.)

What I’m not saying is that a great deal will happen very quickly once the 50% mark is breached. While theoretically allows processes to begin for an analogue to digital switchover for radio, I just don’t see that happening very soon. Generally speaking other things are using up lots of Parliamentary time at the moment. Similarly, I suspect that recently announced radio deregulation will take longer than many might hope, because there just isn’t time to fit in the primary legislation required to do anything.

If you dig a little further into the digital figures, then you find that commercial radio is ahead of the BBC in going digital. Commercial radio is 51.6% digital compared with BBC radio at 48.3%. This isn’t too surprising when you consider that BBC radio is generally older than commercial radio – the average of a listener is 50 v 45 for commercial radio. The older you are, the less likely you are to have switched to digital.

National and Digital

Radio 1 had a good quarter this time around, climbing to over 9.8m in reach, representing growth on both the previous quarter and year. Hours spent listening climbed too. The only very slight downside is that the average age of the audience crept up very slightly to 36. But I do think it’s harder to break music listening into age groups as much as would have been the case in the past. Nick Grimshaw also had his best performance at breakfast since Q3 2015, with 5.7m listeners.

Radio 2’s results were decent as well, with reach up 0.8% on the quarter and 2.9% on the year. While hours were up a very healthy 3.6% and 4.5% respectively. 190m listening hours is a new record for Radio 2, and represents 18.3% of all UK radio listening.

Radio 3 was down fractionally in reach on the quarter, but more so on the year. It was a similar picture in terms of hours, but it’s worth noting that Q4 2016 for Radio 3 was something of a freak result, particularly in terms of hours. Radio 3 also had some schedule changes take place during this quarter.

Radio 4 is fractionally up in reach on the quarter and fractionally down on the year. Hours are down 0.8% on the quarter, and a much more significant 8.1% down on the year. But of course, Q4 2016 was a US Presidential election quarter!

Radio 4 Extra reported some record figures being healthily up in reach and hours on both the previous quarter and previous year. It reached 2.26m reach and 13.3m hours this time around.

Five Live had quite a decent bounce from last quarter, up 7.6% in reach. That’s still 4.6% down on the previous year, but there’s a relatively new daytime schedule still bedding in, with some recent further tweaks that won’t yet have hit RAJAR.

Five Live Sports Extra had a small amount of Ashes commentaries in this quarter, although much of the Australian tour will come in Q1. What’s more, there was more summer sport in Q3, so this quarter saw sizeable falls.

6 Music didn’t have a record set of numbers! It was down a little in reach, although up on the quarter in hours. It ticks along very nicely.

Classic FM had a really good set of numbers, up 4.4% on the quarter in reach (up 5.7% on the year), and even greater gains in terms of hours.

Absolute Radio had a good set of numbers too, with reach up 10.9% on the quarter (up 5.9% on the year) and hours up 5.9% on the quarter (up 16.3% on the year). That represents easily the best reach the station has had since it rebranded as Absolute Radio back in 2008. Hours are also at a record level.

Talksport falls a little from last quarter in reach, down 2.2% on the quarter (down 4.8% on the year). More worryingly, hours fell 17.5% on the quarter (down 8.8%) on the year. The only thing I’d note is that there was quite a big swing last quarter, so some of this might be “correction.” The station is benefiting from News UK cross-promotions however, with regular ads to be found in both The Sun and The Times, but I wonder if it needs further refreshment?

It’s sister station Talksport 2 remains a little challenged, with reach down 9.1% on the quarter (but up 5.8% on the year) at 311,000. Hours are more stable, but there is still work to be done in establishing what the station really is – since it’s more than simply a spillover station as Five Live Sports Extra is.

The last few weeks have seen some big changes in the Talkradio line-up with some significant programming investment going into the station – not least signing up Eamonn Holmes, and moving Julia Hartley-Brewer to breakfast in place of Paul Ross. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next quarter to see the first fruits of these changes. In the meantime reach fell 5.5% on the quarter (down 4.0% on the year), while hours rose 6.9% on the quarter (and more than doubled on the year).

The Absolute Radio Network had a great set of figures, closing in on nearly 5m a week across the portfolio of services – a new record. The network was up 4.4% on the quarter (up 3.7% on the year), while hours were up 2.9% on the quarter (up 2.7% on the year). The main Absolute Radio service was the best performer, but it’s notable that Absolute Radio 90s has just won “promotion” to the national D1 multiplex. It’s interesting that Bauer chose not to shuffle the deck a bit and put Absolute 80s back on D1, and put 90s on D2 which has lower coverage. Absolute 80s launched in 2009, and we are now nearly ten years on. Does that mean that 90s is the new 80s, and 80s is in fact what we’d have previously called a “gold” format?

I tend to think that Absolute is being quite smart making a play for 90s, as demographics mean that those in their 30s-40s today grew up with 90s music in their teenage years.

As for Absolute 80s? Well it’s battling on with Heart 80s, and while it’s still ahead, things are getting tight. Recall that Heart 80s has the better D1 coverage.

Absolute 80s fell 3.8% in reach on the quarter (down 3.6% on the year), to 1.47m. Hours fell more down 12.6% on the quarter (down nearly 27% on the year) to 6.4m.

Heart 80s is still on a few months old, but it grew 7.4% in reach to 1.17m, while hours grew 25.3m to 6.1m. That means that the station is on course to overtake Absolute 80s in terms of listening perhaps as soon as next quarter. We’ll have to wait and see about reach.

That raises some interesting questions about loyalty. It turns out that only 200,000 people listen to both stations, suggesting that there’s more than simply having “80s” in your station name. But Heart does seem to be persuading people to make the switch.

Returning to Absolute Radio for a moment, the big question there must be who replaces Christian O’Connell who has recently announced that he will be moving to Australia to take up a new challenge in Melbourne. His reach of 2.1m is second only to Rickie, Melvin and Charlie on Kiss in the commercial radio world, and he’s going to be a tough act to follow. The obvious choice would be Dave Berry who looks to have quickly settled in at Drive on Absolute. But changes in breakfast presenters are always tricky times.

Elsewhere in Bauer, the Magic Network performed well with both reach and hours up. The 3.9m reach of the network is a new record for them. The main Magic station is also doing well.

Kiss is largely speaking flat on the quarter with only small changes, although it’s up on the year. Kisstory is down in reach and hours on the quarter, but it up on the year. Kiss Fresh starts from a lower based, but it up in reach and hours both on the quarter and the year.

Over with Global, the Heart Network saw some falls, with reach down 5.1% on the quarter (down 8.3% on the year), while hours fell 2.9% on the quarter (down 10.2% on the year). There’s a similar story with the Heart Brand which incorporates more than the main network. In London, there’s certainly been some marketing activity recently – I noticed that some of the current bus ads have actually put the FM frequency on them, something that many radio brand ads have shied away from in recent years. But I can’t definitively pinpoint what marketing was done in this quarter nationally.

Capital too has a current marketing campaign underway, in London at least, where they are still trying to bed in Roman Kemp on their breakfast show. Nationally, as with Heart, the network is down a bit, with reach down 4.1% on the quarter (down 4.5% on the year), while hours fell 7.5% on the quarter (down 5.0% on the year).

Radio X is doing well nationally with its best ever figures. Reach is up 3.7% on the quarter (and up a massive 26% on the year), while it’s also up 11.7% on the quarter (and up 26% on the year). Global has invested heavily here, and it looks to be beginning to pay off for them.

LBC is down a little on the quarter, but still up nearly 20% in reach on the year. It seems to have settled at just over 2m listeners a week nationally.

Overall commercial radio fell from 45.3% of all radio listening last quarter to 44.2% of listening this quarter. (It’s still up from last year’s 43.9% however).

On the other hand BBC radio grew from 52.1% of listening to 52.8% of listening this quarter. However it was at 53.5% this time last year.

London

As ever, London sees a certain amount of movement. Things are tight amongst the commercial stations with Capital London just pipping Kiss for the biggest audience in terms of reach.

Capital was down fractionally to 2.1m (although up nearly 22% on the year), while Kiss had a big 8.2% jump to 2.0m reach (up 8.8% on the year).

The tables are turned in terms of listening time however, with Kiss coming out ahead of Capital. Kiss actually saw a fall of 7.2% on the quarter (and a rise of 13.5% on the year), showing just how changeable the London marketplace is. On the other hand Capital’s hours fell more, down 9.2% on the quarter (but up 28% on the year!).

However, LBC still owns the commercial listening crown in London despite also seeing a fall in hours of 7.6% (down 1.6% on the year). Reach was nicely up 9.5% on the quarter (up 15.2% on the year) to 1.2m.

Absolute Radio had a decent reach result in London, up 5.0% on the quarter (up 22% on the year), although hours were down nearly 21% on the quarter (up 22% on the year).

The other station to note in London is Radio X, with its strongest London performance since it rebranded from Xfm. Reach grew 6.5% on the quarter (up 18% on the year), while hours jumped 31% on the quarter (up 12% on the year).

Finally BBC London had a good quarter, increasing 26% in reach on the quarter (and 60% on the year), while hours were up 59% on the quarter (and 99% on the year). It has to be said that BBC London’s figures have been all over the place in recent quarters, hence some of those gains. But reach is in line with recent quarters even if hours seem remarkably high.

Overall those BBC London figures contributed towards a better quarter for the BBC in London than commercial radio. While commercial radio is still ahead of the BBC with 50.3% listening in the capital, it has fallen back from 54.7% last quarter. However it’s still better for commercial than a year ago when the BBC had a rare victory in London.

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 [probably*] 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 18 December 2017, 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 day RAJAR comes out probably isn’t the best time to go for a meal and still leave yourself time to write up what’s happening!