YouTubers Doing Podcasts and the iTunes Chart

A slightly grumpy tweet prompted a mini-Twitter beef with YouTuber Marcus Butler.

Well, it’s 30ish days later, so let’s have a look.

Marcus who runs a couple of successful YouTube channels has recently started a podcast – Lower Your Expectations. My tweet was in response to his happiness at hitting number 1 in the iTunes Podcast charts before his show launched. My slightly mean spirited missive was less to do with the podcast and more about the nature of the podcast charts.

The iTunes podcast chart measures momentum, rather than success. It looks at a variety of indicators to show how a podcast is doing when compared to others. Over the years it’s seemed that new subscriptions, recent five-star reviews and new comments are key contributors.

iTunes doesn’t want a static chart, it wants movement to give an interesting, of the moment, list to iTunes users. Marcus who comes with a significant established young fan base was always going to be able to dominate the algorithm.

This, alongside some iTunes home page promotion in the key spot, gave the show a great start – with over two weeks at the top of the charts. His current position, 30ish days later, is 94 – still very respectable, though it bounces around a bit.

It’s a good reminder that when launching a podcast you, too, should marshal your fans to drive yourself up the chart. Doing this prompts new sampling from people you don’t know and if they then like what you’re doing, then these new subscribers will help you play the algorithm and keep you on top.

But also it’s a reminder about pacing. If you direct everyone to the podcast straight away you’ll be using up your ability to game the algorithm in a shorter period. If you can arrange a solid stream of subs, comments and reviews over a sustained period you’ll likely keep yourself at the top longer – and therefore give you the ability to be exposed to non-fans over a longer period of time.

YouTubers

As I understand it, there are more podcasts on the way for YouTubers. Particularly ones from Gleam, the talent agency that manages Marcus.

It’s a sensible idea. 2016 has seen YouTubers who’ve built significant audiences diversify into different media. The bedrock of their brands is, of course, YouTube, where they generally produce ‘Main Channel’ videos weekly and “Daily Vlogs” close to daily. For someone like Marcus his channels generate around 10million views a month.

YouTube revenues vary significantly person to person but tend to be a combination of AdSense revenue from Google (you get about £1,000 per million views) alongside specialist brand deals where YouTubers promote products/services in videos (around £5k to £30k for most of them).

On top of the videos most of the big name YouTubers have been creating bespoke online series (for YouTube Red or DVD sell-through), books, other products and doing live tours.

Clearly these things can be great for generating some dosh, but it’s also about trying to embed and grow personal brands.

Building a business on a single platform – in this case YouTube – can be dangerous. Just ask the Viners. A change to the algorithm or the discoverability can have a dramatic effect on your views and revenue. Recently there’s been a spate of YouTubers worrying that YouTube has done just that as they’ve seen big changes to the way that people can see their videos and they’ve seen a drop in views and subscriptions. This is the first public manifestation of the panic many YouTubers have been sharing with each other on their own private Facebook group.

Whilst I think there’s definitely something in this being an alogorithm issue, there’s also pressure on established folks from new entrants. Viewers only have a certain amount of time, so as they start to watch new channels, it’s likely older ones will see some form of a drop off.

Marcus, was one of the 2nd generation of Vloggers. The 1st generation were those who stumbled across the fact YouTube could be a place where native content could thrive. In the UK that’s probably people like Charlie McDonnell. The 2nd Gen, like Marcus, Zoella, Alfie were often inspired by some of these and then very much took it to the next level with higher production values and more regular uploading.

For many in this 2nd generation, five years on, and the platform is harder to work. For many in this group, Marcus included, their YouTube subscription growth has halted.

In many ways it’s the same as any product life cycle for a brand – Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline. In the maturity/decline stage, the product has to try and keep as much of the existing audience as possible whilst adapting and changing to refresh and bring new people in.

YouTubers on Podcasts

Creating a podcast for YouTubers is a good way to diversify. It’s another free-to-consume platform, its about content generation and iTunes is somewhere that has discovery mechanisms to get you noticed.

However, it is somewhere that has a distinctly different demographic to YouTube. This is potentially both a pro and con. Pro is that it’s a new audience that you can reach. The Con is the same – it’s a new audience who won’t necessarily be aware of you.

In demo terms YouTube for Creators is very 13 to 24, whilst Podcasting is probably more upmarket 25 to 44s.

Fundamentally it’s:

vs

There’s probably two ways to go with this. If the purpose of the podcast is to preach to the converted, the gamble is that you’ll have a new way to reach your existing audience. Even for those who haven’t heard of podcasts before, your pull is such that you can probably drag some of them over. This, combined with those who are already into podcasting, could give you some success.

The other option is to take as many people as you can with you, but use content designed particularly for the platform to reach out to new people and expand your reach.

Marcus isn’t the first YouTuber to try podcasting, many US creators have been making shows. There’s Rhett and Link from Good Mythical Morning who had Ear Biscuits (interviews). They managed 80 weekly episodes before ceasing in September 2015. Shane Dawson has Shane and Friends (interviews), Tyler Oakley has Psychobabble (gossip) and Grace Helbig has Not Too Deep (interviews).

In the UK, none of these, except for Shane, have managed sustained success in the iTunes charts.

The Podcast itself

My default view on all new things in audio form – is that it’s good that they’re there. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to do anything, if your material can establish and grow an audience then that’s a good thing. I don’t particularly like The Archers, but I have no issue with it existing, as plenty of people like it very much. I feel the same about Marcus’ podcast – if it gets new people into the audio habit, that can only be a good thing.

Also, it’s unfair to critically review things that are still new. At the time of writing it’s merely four episodes in.

Having listened to it though, there are some more general observations that I’d hope be useful for any new podcast or radio show.

Podcast Tips

1. Listen to some other podcasts

Like radio, or YouTube, podcasting has a certain grammar that people are used to. It’s fine to ignore it and go your own way – successful people often do – but it is important to at least understand it first. As Hamish Blake says in this podcast, you have to understand the rule book before you throw it out.

If you’re trying to make a splash in an existing industry, analyse the things that are successful and try to work out why. What techniques are they using? How do they format it? How long is it etc.

2. Respect your audience

I think the biggest fault of many podcasts as well as things like student radio shows is that they’re doing the show for themselves rather than the audience. Sitting in a room with your mates and having a laugh is fun. Of course it is. But you can do that in the pub. However, if you’re going to the trouble of recording it – then it needs to be more than that.

If people could always be naturally entertaining for an hour, comedy shows would never need scripts or any preparation.

I always think that someone is giving you a really precious thing – their time. How do you make sure that you respect each minute of that?

In radio we talk a lot about what the ‘out’ is. What’s the end of this bit of content and then how do you get there in the most entertaining or informative way, ideally in the least amount of time necessary. Now, that doesn’t mean it needs to be short. It just needs to be appropriate to the story.

3. What are you trying to achieve?

Why should someone listen to your podcast/radio show etc? If the answer to that is ‘me’ then it’s not enough. If you have a theme – do you then deliver on it in every episode?

If you say your podcast is about something in particular, how much of your podcast is dedicated to that. There’s nothing wrong with going off-topic, but if you sell it on a certain thing – do you deliver it on it?

4. Does your topic and focus have the ability to attract new listeners?

The podcast world is a competitive one. You have to have a clear proposition that can be explained to people (ideally in the artwork or title). The podcast needs to sell itself without you doing all the heavy lifting. If someone hits play on a podcast, they’ve also got to be able to understand it in the first 30seconds. Most people will try before they buy!

5. Role definition

If you’re podcast is a group show, then people need to understand who the participants are. Great radio shows have great character definition.

If you take the Scott Mills show – Scott and Chris have very defined characters. When they introduce a topic you already know how they’re each going to react – that’s part of the fun. But, guess what, how they act isn’t an exact facsimile of how they are in real life – their personalities are adapted to service the show and its listeners.

6. Leave out things that are unnecessary and unrelatable

It’s connected to respecting the listeners’ time, but it annoys me when shows leave in things like technical cock-ups or long meta discussions about what you’re doing. It’s never as interesting as hosts think it is and it gets in the way of delivering the content that listeners want to hear.

On commercial radio it’s an even bigger crime. As a listener I know a breakfast show has to fit in 10mins of ads, news, travel etc that’s never dropped, so if a presenter is wasting a link taking about the show, rather than delivering it, it’s incredibly frustrating.

Also – remember your listeners lives. Talking about how hard your life is etc, when a Nurse could be listening, I find quite offensive! Generally if you’re making media, you’re in a privileged position, remembering that can be a good thing that keeps your focused on delivering for a listener.

7. Get a mentor.

If you’re new to podcasting, or a show, find someone who’s done it, or something like it, to help you out and critique your material. Yes, you may figure it out on your own, but you’ll have wasted loads of time getting there.

If the world’s number one tennis player, Andy Murray, has a coach, then it wouldn’t go amiss for someone new to something – and in podcasting that’s the producer or presenter – having one too. Coaches and mentors are good for everyone.

Summary

Great radio/audio seems effortless. It rarely is.

It’s the same with many videos that successful YouTubers make. It looks like they’ve thrown something together, but they’re often well-thought out, tightly produced and edited.

If there is an influx of YouTubers into podcasting, I hope they learn about the medium, get help from those who are experienced with it, and produce great content that delivers for their existing audience as well as bring in loads of new listeners too.

The most successful radio stations on YouTube

I’ve been spending a lot of this year looking at YouTube, and with Fun Kids we’ve been putting a significant effort into growing views and revenue.

As part of this work, I’ve been looking at how UK radio has been doing and I thought it made sense to share some of the data. Here’s a link to a Google Sheet with the stats for all UK radio stations on YouTube (that I could find).

Firstly though, why should radio stations bother with YouTube?

I think it’s easy to forget that, for many, YouTube is itself a social network. Audiences, particularly younger audiences, subscribe to channels so they see new videos in their feed. For these groups delivering regular, consistent content is essential. And it can pay dividends too.

Growing a subscription base means that new videos grow views faster. Having a direct relationship with the people who like your content means that you’re more likely to get ‘thumbs up’ and comments. Creating engagement around your videos also means that YouTube’s algorithm is more likely to show your video to other users too.

Creating quality content is also an important measure. It will help your videos be promoted around the site if you have decent viewing times for your content. That’s people watch through your videos rather than abandoning them part way along. If you have high view times, then YouTube regards it as a ‘good’ video. The result? More viral distribution around the site.

The other way to make sure your videos are discoverable is to ensure that the metadata is good. Titles, descriptions and tags are the tools that YouTube uses to power its search engine (the second most popular search engine on the internet after Google). Are you maximising the chance of your content being found?

Building audience on YouTube is good for radio too. Great video can reinforce the connection with your existing audience, and it can show non-listeners the kind of station you are. But it can work against you too. Badly filmed content without purpose or respecting potential listeners time can damage your brand values as well.

It’s also something that can be profitable. 1 million views generates around £1,000 in Google Adsense money. Strong audiences to all videos (aided by a good subscription base) can also provide a revenue source from direct clients too.

In my stats below I’ve grouped together multiple channels from brands. For example Radio 1 has its regular channel and a Vevo channel, Capital has a profile for each station and at Fun Kids we have a number of channels doing different jobs. The data is also showing all consumption, including non UK. However, what I’ve tried to do to compare stations more honestly, is to look at data from the last 30 days. So all this is mainly what happened in November.

The chart is sorted on total views in the last 30 days.

Station

Last 30 Days: Views

Last 30 Days: Subs

Total Subs
(not deduped)

1 BBC BBC Radio 1 (All) 42,483,624 58,407 3,951,607
2 Global Capital FM (All) 13,604,269 19,909 1,301,502
3 Wireless talkSPORT 5,599,242 7,786 596,352
4 BBC BBC 1Xtra 4,062,933 7,640 374,773
5 Folder Fun Kids (All) 3,318,413 15,691 40,396
6 Bauer Magic 1,358,325 922 7,287
7 BBC Kermode & Mayo 895,949 1,159 109,805
8 BBC BBC Asian Network 759,866 2,342 33,360
9 Bauer Absolute Radio 692,216 582 38,945
10 BBC BBC Radio 2 625,311 998 39,571
11 Global Capital Xtra 604,447 1,907 31,895
12 UKRD Pirate FM 362,416 180 866
13 Premier Premier (All) 309,171 739 16,893
14 Bauer In Demand 299,234 187 63,321
15 Bauer Heat Radio 218,711 109 75,570
16 BBC BBC Radio 6Music 208,425 662 21,158
17 Global Classic FM 163,187 256 8,258
18 Global LBC 158,704 994 17,125
19 BBC BBC 5 Live 157,401 189 6,653
20 BBC BBC Radio 3 155,841 415 18,390

Radio 1 and 1xtra, Capital and talkSPORT are doing really well. If you have a look at their channels, the reason is obvious – high quality content, regularly updated and focused.

Whilst there’s now a load of Jingle Bell Ball videos on the Capital channel, if you scroll backwards a little bit you can see the regular content they put online. Yes, there’s good video of studio guests, like the Shawn Mendes video below, but it’s highlighting a specific part of the interview, with a good thumbnail image too (if you look in the grid view). It’s designed to be appealing for Shawn fans and be clickable, rather than just be ‘Shawn Mendes radio interview’ dumped onto YouTube.

Much of Capital’s other video content is bespoke material, again with a view to it being consumed by those who live on YouTube. But often these are off the back of people coming in for a radio interview. Here’s a piece about How To Be A YouTuber – taking guests and doing more with it.

Radio 1’s main channel takes a different approach. Looking across their grid it shows a whole variety of different material. It’s part of the problem they have because of the nature of their radio station which comprises specialist music, silly games, celebrity interviews, massive live lounge guests, stunts etc. Whilst an accurate reflection of the nature of what they do, it does not help them benefit from how YouTube is used.

This may sound a little harsh when their channels is by far the world’s most popular radio station channel, delivering 40m views a month! However, much of their video consumption is to the content with superstars. Whoever does a Taylor Swift cover is going to generate millions of views for that video. I think what tells more of a story is when you look at the smaller videos – things that are the more regular content.

Radio 1 talks a lot about their 3m YouTube subscribers – an amazing success. But their YouTube strategy isn’t turning those subscribers into regular viewers of the content. For non-superstar content the videos average 5k to 20k views. Usually on YouTube each video should be generating 10% of the subscriber base, they’re clearly not.

Generally having lots of subscribers is good, as more people then see each new piece of content in their feeds and so are more likely to watch it. But with such diverse content and lots of different reasons that people are subscribing, are they actually prompting feed blindness, with people automatically ignoring the material?

Of course, all of this is a lovely problem to have!

I think talkSPORT’s channel is a great example of not needing the budgets and access of Radio 1 and Capital to do well.

They upload a new video daily, but they’re usually based on graphics rather than bespoke filmed video. The content is focused, usually funny and with good clickable hooks. Sport is also a passion centre for many and can prompt lots of discussion (good for YouTube’s audience-driving algorithms).

This video is a great example of something most stations with a copy of Adobe Premier could, if they wanted, for their station.

At Fun Kids we’re operating six different channels that are all doing different jobs. Our aim is to build a variety of distinct platforms on YouTube that captures young audiences’ imaginations. We’re making a concerted effort at creating channel brands around topics driven by particular presenters. Our first major effort is around video games, with N60Sean.

The recent success that channel has had, has come from combining different elements that are popular with younger audiences alongside good production and personality. In these videos we’re less about promoting Fun Kids as a radio station and more about getting viewers to love Sean and the videos he make. As he’s the breakfast presenter of the radio station, we hope doing it this way round builds him up as a celebrity people also want to listen to as well as growing the channel for us in its own right.

The video below shows Sean using the WWE 2k17 game to create a narrative with other videogame YouTubers.

If you’re committed to growing a channel on YouTube for your radio station, the best thing I can recommend is reading YouTube’s Playbook for Brands. It’s a brilliant insight into growing a channel and will really help.

There’s a lot more to say on YouTube – both from good and bad radio practice, to what other people can teach us, so I’ll try and do some more posts.

 

 

RAJAR Q3/2016

I’ve spent most of today in Denmark, working with the programming team planning Radio Days Europe (early bird tickets available now!), so I haven’t been able to do a deep dive into RAJAR, so here’s a quick look at the toplines.

London

It remains a ridiculously close commercial market share battle in London. LBC leads healthily with 5.1%, then Heart and Kiss are tied at 4.4%, Capital at 4.3% and Magic at 4.1%. All so close.

Global

Capital continues to grow its network reach with the brand now reaching 8.7m people and generating 50m hours. The addition of the old Juice to the network doesn’t harm that headline figure, as the Liverpool station has delivered marginally higher numbers now it’s branded as Capital.

Over at the Heart network it’s pretty stable Y on Y and Q on Q, though this quarter they’re publishing data for Heart Xtra (the nationally delivered fill-in-the-gaps version) which has a reach of 663k

Radio X is still struggling to make a mark in London. The people who like it, love it! Its average hours in this incarnation are strong – around 6 – but its reach has dropped back again – to 378k – when it used to do c500k as XFM. Across the UK, however, it’s had its best network figure for a long time with 1.2m reach and delivering over 9m hours.

Capital Xtra has been consolidating in London with reach fairly stable at 599k and across the UK, again, delivering record figures with 1.3m tuning in and generating over 6m hours.

Digital

Digital figures on the whole are good. 45.5% of all radio hours are now digital (that’s DAB, internet or through the telly) with DAB continuing to make up the bulk – 71%. It’s also DAB’s biggest ever quarter with 24.23m people listening on the platform each week.

Bauer

Kiss has taken a bit of a hit with London and the Network down year on year and quarter on quarter. Its sister station, Kisstory, though continues to grow from strength to strength and is now the biggest commercial digital station, racking up 1.6m listeners and 8.9m hours.

Magic’s been recovering after a few poor books in both London and across the country, whilst its new stations are doing good business. Magic Chilled is generating 240k reach, up a touch on its first book whilst Mellow Magic is up from 380k to 423k.

The main Absolute Radio has been steadily building its reach and now hits 2.6m – the highest since the 2008 re-brand, aided by a good performance from 105.8 in London and 105.2 in the West Midlands (where reach is up from 199k to 241k). 80s continues to drop back, still probably feeling the pinch from it’s move from D1 to D2. Overall the Absolute Network is delivering record reach for Bauer.

A tough book for the Wireless Group which sees talkSPORT and talkSPORT2 drop around 12% in reach (whilst hours hold up). This pops talkSPORT under 3m reach the first time in a while. TS2 sees a small drop from 284k to 250k.

A shame for the new Virgin Radio which sees a reach drop from 409k to 344k for its second book, whilst its stable mate, talkRADIO grows reach from 224k to 303k. talkRADIO also grows its average hours too, resulting in a solid hours bump from 839k to 1.3m.

It’s probably not wise to read too much into the ups and downs of national stations with a sub 400k audience, especially those reporting quarterly, as the sampling is resulting in quite a bit of volatility at the moment.

Nation Broadcasting

But, it’s not just the big boys that are playing digitally. Nation Broadcasting has three new digital projects on the go – Thames Radio (which has yet to report), Chris Country which from a standing start hits 35k passionate listeners in London (who are listening for 8.5 hours each) and digital-only Dragon Radio in Wales (which this book doesn’t entirely cover) starting off with a small 11k reach. Early days for all of these stations, but it will be interesting to see if they can build consistent growth over the coming books. They’re the first smaller radio group to launch new digital-only’s, but right behind them are UKRD with stations like Encore and their Oldies spin-offs and Lincs FM with things like Suffolk First.

Nation’s original analogue stations have had their best book this year (with a 16% Q on Q reach bump) and their hours back over 2m.

Over at the Beeb, Radio 1 is up Q on Q, heading back towards 10m (this quarter – 9.87m) and is back over 60m hours (62m) for the first time this year. R2 continues to have ALL OF THE LISTENERS with a slight drop in reach and hours but still delivering a stonking 15.1m people every week. Radio 3 does what it always does – bobs over and under 2m reach (this one’s an under). Radio 4 consolidates a good Brexit quarter, with its reach remaining over 11m and sister station 4 Extra is back to a reach over 2million. 6Music has its highest ever reach at 2.3m

Fun Kids

It was the first RAJAR for our children’s radio station Fun Kids this quarter. We’ve always held off being part of RAJAR as it doesn’t measure our actual audience – kids under 10! But, as we’re now national it made sense to experiment a bit and see what data it can give us and whether we can use it to support the business. So, we decided to just measure the London bit and see what drops out.

So, today’s figure shows that 10+ in London we’re at 58,000 a week (with the 15+ bit at 24,000). It’s at the lower end of what we expected, but looking at the data a bit more closely I expect that 10+ figure to probably bounce around between 50k and 100k in the capital over the next few quarters.

As a business we also use TGI Youth to measure the important bit – the children tuning in. It has a nice, large, robust kids sample, that shows we reach 291k kids (aged 7 to 19) across the UK each week.

It’s been an interesting first book, we’ll see what the trend’s like, but in the meantime there’s still a little way to go before we’re challenging Capital for the top spot.

More to read:
Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough

Radio Formats & Union Jack

I’ve just got back home after a lovely holiday in Bergerac, followed by a quick trip to Amsterdam for a RadioDays Europe production meeting. If you’re aren’t aware RDE is the biggest conference in European radio and is an amazing melting pot of different people and ideas.

I’ve been involved with the event for a number of years supporting what they do online, but this year I’ve been bumped up to the programme committee. Hark at me etc.

The committee is made up of a load of radio folks from all across the continent and we’re tasked with putting together around 50 sessions that reflect the diversity and vibrancy of the radio sector. We had a good kick off meeting and were joined by lots of other radio folk who were contributing ideas and thoughts. Oh – and if you have an idea for a session please email me – and I’ll suggest it too.

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Anyway, the thing I want to talk about is the dinner we had after the first meeting. At my end of the table it was me and new radio colleagues from Finland, Denmark and Switzerland. As I’m sure you’re aware, radio folk are never short of topics to talk about, so aided by some booze it was a good night.

What I was a surprised about were some of the UK radio things I got interrogated about and also how some general assumptions about radio formats and interest in show types was very different.

There was lots of interest in the new D2 stations and the performance of things like LBC. Many European public broadcasters are, often because of DAB, suddenly facing new formats competing with their heritage position, so they were keen to know what was coming next. They were also interested in finding out about Bauer – as the company has started to make a big splash acquiring stations in the Nordic countries and much of the reporting lines lead to the management in Golden Square.

The biggest surprise though were that none of my colleagues, later joined by a Swedish one too, could understand why you would want to talk about sport on the radio. Listening to sports – fine. But a discussion afterwards, they said there would be entirely no interest from their listeners.

Now, sport isn’t exactly my core interest, but I performed a spirited defence of 606 and talkSPORT. They knew it worked in the UK, but were adamant it wouldn’t work in their own countries – and a station like talkSPORT would have no chance whatsoever – their listeners cared about what the scores were not why they were.

Was it just received wisdom, assumptions or a deep understanding of their audience? Who knows. Though I did find myself volunteering to start a competitive sports radio station in Stockholm. Perhaps I’d had a little too much wine.

What is in no doubt is that in the UK, we forget how vibrant and developed our radio market is, something I think is a result of a very well funded BBC, a resilient commercial sector and the potential that DAB has brought to the country.

Indeed, another new station has just popped on the dial as of a few minutes ago – Union Jack – a new national radio station that’s taken the very last few kilobits on D2.

Union Jack is the brainchild of the guys behind Jack FM in Oxford and the original progenitors of Absolute Radio – Donnach O’Driscoll, Clive Dickens and Ian Walker.

The station’s based on the main Jack service – an irreverent classic hits format – but with a slight twist in that it’s only going to play British music. I think this is a neat concept and something that will lend itself to marketing and stunting pretty well. It’s also driven by Futuri’s Listener Driven Radio product. This allows listeners to vote up songs (from a wider database than would normally be on a similarly formatted service) to get them on the radio.

In reality it’s got some clever rules around it to stop it being, er, Boaty McBoatfaced all the time, whist still giving the perception of being listener-controlled. It’s also a good way to engage listeners and build a database.

No doubt it will be another format our friends in mainland Europe are interested in and I wish all the Jack guys success with their new radio station.

RAJAR Q2/2016

A plethora of DAB related news in this quarter’s RAJAR. This is the first survey that’s included stations from ‘D2’ the Sound Digital national multiplex that launched at the end of February.

This saw the addition of new stations including talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and Magic Chilled as well as “upgrades” of stations like Jazz FM and Heat going from a smaller number of areas to nationwide coverage. It also saw some “downgrades” too, with Absolute 80s and Planet Rock moving from D1 which covers over 90% of the UK population, to D2 which covers around 75%.

Plus some of these stations – Magic Chilled and Jazz FM – are broadcast in DAB+, so it’s the first time we’re seeing DAB+ listening behaviour.

The topline digital news, is that 65% of the UK listen to some form of digital radio (DAB, DTV or Online) each week. This digital consumption now accounts for 45.3% of all radio listening (up from 44.1% last quarter).

Half of the UK’s radio listeners (49.7%) now listen to radio on DAB each week.

As I mentioned on the Radio Today podcast, I really think we’re in a golden age of radio right now. The scale of the broadcast platforms means that these news stations can get decent-sized audiences and justify investment in a range of content with significant presentation and production.

Areas that had around 10 radio stations on analogue 10 years ago are now likely to have easy access to 50. Whether it’s new national stations like 6Music or Virgin Radio, upgrades of stations like Kiss and LBC to be nationwide or new local stations like Radio Yorkshire and Great Yorkshire Radio, listeners have never had it so good.

The idea of having to put up with a “least worst option” is long gone and listeners now get to self-schedule by picking and mixing a variety of stations to match their mood or need.

Wireless Group and Bauer

The second national multiplex was a big investment for the Wireless Group with the launch of talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and talkSPORT2.

Virgin Radio’s kicked off with 409k reach and 1.4m hours. talkSPORT2’s tempted 285k to tune in and added nearly a million hours for the sales team to sell and talkRADIO’s debuted with 224k and 840k hours.

Over at Bauer, the reduction in coverage for Planet Rock and Absolute 80s seems to have had an effect on the audience figures.

Planet Rock has declined from 1.2m to 986k and Absolute 80s has fallen back 1.720m to 1.581m. Kisstory, on the hand, which has seen its digital coverage grow, adds 100k reach going from 1.440m to 1.540m, putting it in spitting distance to capture AR80s ‘biggest commercial digital station’ crown.

Heat has seen no appreciable gains in their coverage upgrade with their figures dropping back from 878k to 872k, though seeing a small increase in hours. Heat hasn’t really seen any growth for a little while, so I’d assume it’s more likely to be a programme-related rather than platform-related issue.

Two of Bauer’s new stations are interesting to compare – Mellow Magic (think Ace, Percy Sledge and Sutherland Brothers) and Magic Chilled (Adele, TLC, Rhianna). Both are on D2, but Chilled is broadcast using the newer flavour of DAB, DAB+, whilst Mellow is in the regular version of DAB.

Mellow’s done 380k, whilst Chilled’s reached 233k. For both around 80% of their audience is through DAB. I think this bodes very well for DAB+ as a digital radio format. Obviously a like for like comparison is impossible – as they’re two differently formatted radio stations – but Chilled really is a great sounding station and it’s had an impressive debut.

For new stations, the first quarter isn’t always brilliantly indicative, and as the stations grow and develop their trajectory may change significantly. What is interesting though is how similar the Magic Chilled and talkRADIO audience figures are. 233k vs 224k. I imagine the cost base of the two are quite different even if the reach is very similar.

I think Chilled’s success is partly down to cross-promotion and the power of the umbrella brand. No above the line marketing, but it’s clearly a very understandable format. Two songs in, and you know what it’s there to do.

For talkRADIO, as an occasional listener, it clearly varies significantly across the day – it’s challenge is to communicate this breadth, or what the specific shows do. In a competitive media environment this is even harder, but the opinionated/funny nature would surely benefit from well and speedily executed social media – particularly more video – combined with some aggressive PR pushes of content.

I don’t think this is something particularly limited to talkRADIO – cutting through is very hard without big advertising budgets, I know it’s something that we often worry about with Fun Kids. But with the changing nature of listening and the breadth of stations available, marketing is something that all new stations are going to have to more heavily invest in to stand out and grow.

The acquisition by NewsCorp may be the saviour of these new Wireless Group stations, as access to both money and NewsCorp talent and titles will surely benefit the growth of their new stations.

Back to the DAB+, the other DAB+ addition is Jazz FM – who seemed to have added around 100k listeners outside of London (where they broadcast in regular DAB).

The worry for DAB+ use in the UK is that it would deliver Sunday League style audiences. But it looks like it’s making a solid Division 1 performance compared to the Premier League of DAB’s distribution, these all seem very respectable numbers to build on.

Global

More oddities from Radio X. After a poor London performance and strong national data last time round, this quarter London’s had a bit of a resurgence but national (and Manchester) have taken a hit. Another aberration? Or has Virgin Radio’s appearance stolen some of its thunder?

A stellar performance though from LBC – jumping to the number 1 spot in the capital’s share chart – surely driven by three months of pre-Brexit vote discussion? I know it’s a station that generated cume from me from the first time.

Radio 1

Radio 1 continues to face significant pressure. Lowest reach since 2003 at 9.4m and second lowest hours. The station, of course, is up against changing listener behaviour from younger audiences, but I don’t think it can hide entirely behind it.

Radio 1 remains, I imagine, the world’s best funded CHR radio station. £40m on content, significant cross-media marketing support and a digital team any other radio station for kill for. It’s “psychological” 10m reach point is now surely permanently broken and beyond defending. Arresting the decline of 15-24s and 15-34s – where this quarter they’re delivering lowest ever reach and hours for both, is surely what it should now be concentrating on.

Capital Xtra

Global’s Capital Xtra smashed to pieces Choice FM and started afresh, something that destroyed audiences in those early months, but is now paying dividends looking far more prosperous, up from 950k to 1.3m reach year on year.

Jack

Digital opportunities are not limited to the big boys. The guys behind Oxford’s Jack FM launched a digital only version in Surrey and South London, delivering nearly 60k reach, pretty close to the figures their Oxford analogue station gives them. Another demonstration that consistency,  branding and distribution can help build success for any new service.

More to read:
Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough

Snapchat & Radio

Some interesting news from Snapchat today as they announce Snap Ads and their advertising API. It’s a couple of announcements rolled into one. Firstly the non-stop feed of stories you watch as a consumer will be interrupted by commercial content and secondly they’ve created a way for those ads to be submitted and traffic’d by third parties.

Snapchat, up to now, has strongly controlled access to its platform, but the scale of interest from commercial players has meant that it needs to lower its barriers to entry to allow the waves of cash to come flooding in.

In the last few months, the mentions of Snapchat on Kiss, Radio 1, Capital and The Hits have gone through the roof, as they catch up with the audience’s interest in the platform.

If you don’t know how Snapchat works, then pretty much you’ve failed as someone who works in media dealing with audiences. Go download it, and work it out.

There’s basically three ways it’s used – Messaging, Stories and Discover.

  • Messaging allows just that – the ability to send text/images/video to people and for it to be self-destructive.
  • Stories are public/public-to-your friends grouping of the last 24hrs of your videos and images.
  • Discover allows a small selection of brands to create daily expiring magazines for the platform.

Most radio stations, especially those with a youth targeted skew, will want to have a Snapchat presence and the easiest way is through Stories. But it’s a big challenge.

Right now, there’s no real professional tools to make your updates. You have to do them all on a phone (and only one phone can be logged into an account at any one time) and you can’t add saved pictures/videos from your phone to the app. You need to pretty much do it all live.

But more than that, I think Snapchat potentially shows up radio stations that have very little of their own content. People who are great at Stories, often individuals, can communicate the excitement of taking you, the viewer, somewhere. Can you radio station do that?

Much radio social media is about links and memes – reformulating other people’s content and ideas and pushing it at an audience hoping it will generate some ‘engagement’ – likes, clicks, whatever. It’s generally very bad at showing a radio station’s personality or creativity. Often it just shows up the DJ’s bad image cropping skills.

Snapchat is very different – there are no links and it’s hard to re-hash someone else’s content. Instead you have to actually make something new and fresh and you keep having to make it as your old stuff expires in 24 hours!

Done right though, and you have an IV drip into consumer’s brains. If much of radio’s ratings come from recall and listening opportunities, Snapchat is the perfect platform.

I also hope that the necessity to keep feeding it with actual radio station content will encourage stations to make more of their own. If you have little or no non-music content on your radio station from 10am to 4pm and from 7pm to 6am how can you use these and other platforms to describe what you do and keep people interested?

The production, or actually the thinking, needed to drive these products could also be very valuable for your station as a whole. What are we doing today? What are we doing this week? Where are the interesting moments going to be? Who’s coming in? What are we going to do with them? What platforms is it going to go on? These should all be core questions for any radio station. Of course there’s room for spontaneity, but there’s a lot more room for delivering great, planned content, for audiences.

Radio is now more competitive than ever. Not just from the explosion in stations – most areas now have 20 more this year than they did last year – but also the competition we have for people’s time. We are in a brilliant position. We have great access to talent and audiences – we’re in the perfect position to build on these new platforms. Other products would kill for what we’re able to do. The trick is how we more aggressively use these positives to think about what we do, and make, for our audiences.

 

RAJAR Q1/2016

This is the first book when we can start to look at Radio X’s figures since the re-brand. But they are somewhat confusing.

Really, there are three Radio X’s. London, Manchester and Rest of the UK. London and Manchester are on FM and have always been the two big markets for the station. All the bits in between have had a variety of coverage and no real marketing. Taken together, they all then form the network.

London’s Radio X figures are a bit of a disaster. Reach is 337k (down from 517k q on q and down from 362k y on y) – I believe that’s 104.9’s lowest reach ever, definitely lowest since Q3/04). The one slight saving grace is its average hours are up to 5.9 (from 5.7 q on q and 3.5 y on y).

Moyles has hit 170k (down from 229k q on q, but up from 117k, a particularly terrible quarter a year ago). Historically, XFM London’s breakfast has hovered about 200k, so this is not a great showing.

Manchester for the station (and Moyles) is pretty flat when looking at the past few years. A station reach of 178k (Q4/15: 182k Q1/15: 194k), for Moyles 113k (Q4/15: 104k Q1/2015: 87k). Again total hours does a bit better, as the average hours are up to 6.5 when historically it’s been around the 5s.

An analysis of the launch of Radio X London & Manchester would make pretty grim reading. Star power and marketing is generating not a lot of good news.

An analysis of the launch of Radio X London & Manchester would make pretty grim reading. Click To Tweet

BUT and there’s always a but with research. If you take the results from Manchester and London from the network total, there’s a bit of a different story. In this whitespace area, Radio X has (when comparing it to XFM a year ago) nearly tripled its reach and quadrupled its hours. Moyles himself has quadrupled the breakfast audience and generates about eight times the hours.

So looking in aggregate at the network as a whole, the new Radio X has year on year grown from 892k to 1.2m reach and hours have nearly doubled from 4,605k to 8,830k which is great for the brand as a whole and for the sales department.

However if London and Manchester had followed the same pattern as the rest of the country, the station would be comfortably over 2million reach and on the way to 3.

I think you would have to say that Moyles/the re-launch has probably churned a high proportion of old XFM listeners so the current figures are a lot of new people. BUT at the same time they don’t seem to have been able, particularly in London, to pull enough of people who previously listened to Moyles on R1.

I think this is probably a combination of things

  1. Moyles was off-air for three years. People had plenty of time to settle with a new breakfast show. If you think of the breakfast show you listen to, what would it take for you to switch to something else? I imagine quite a lot. It’s hard to get people to switch.
  2. Other London/national breakfast shows are good. Most people switch shows because their old one was merely their least worst option until something better comes along. That’s less of a thing for London’s listeners.
  3. Global don’t seem to been able to communicate that Moyles is back and what the show is. I think there’s a lot of warmth and humour in the programme and it suits a 30s/40s audience really well. For many, historically Moyles-rejectors, it could be a pleasant surprise.  I think they need to work out how to market what the show is today to potential listeners.
  4. It needs to be much more noisy. It would really benefit from aggressive PR and stunting. Moyles is a naughty character, even if he’s now ‘older and wiser’, there’s lots you could do with that. The show’s in a much better position than many to generate headlines and grow awareness and trial.

To me, the difficulty of finding and moving audience to a station like Radio X is a particular warning for Wireless Group and their new Talk Radio and Virgin Radio stations. I think the quality of radio is probably the highest it’s ever been and the volume of stations fighting it out for audience shows how difficult it is to establish something new. Success is also much much more than just programming. Of course what comes out of the speakers needs to be good – but strong branding, positioning and marketing is essential to establish something new.

News in London

One station that’s doing better than Radio X in London is LBC. In fact, both of them. Of course, with 1m listeners LBC (the Nick Ferrari one) continues to do well, but so does the ‘rolling news’ AM variant – LBC News, which pulls in 482k listeners a week. I was one of those that tuned in during the quarter and it’s not a bad listen – a station that takes updated news, travel and weather and combines it with interesting speech packages made by the Global News team. All very listenable – especially in short chunks.

But in reach terms, more people are listening to it than listening to the new BBC Radio London, who’s relaunch has seen it crash to its lowest reach ever – 354k. That’s a well-funded BBC service with a lower reach and hours than a news jukebox.

Indeed 6Music has a bigger listenership in London and Absolute 80s isn’t far behind either.

The argument will be that it’s still early days on its new schedule (but oldish format), but I think that belies the core issue. In a truly competitive environment like London it needs a much clearer, cleaner proposition on-air and that then needs to be communicated to audiences.

London Figures

Looking at the other commercial stations in the Capital, it remains razor tight.

In share terms it’s: 1. Heart (4.7%), 2. Capital (4.7%), 3. LBC (4.5%), 4. Magic (4.4%), 5. Kiss 4.4%.

In weekly reach terms it’s: 1. Capital (2.2m), 2. Kiss (2.0m), 3. Magic (1.7m), 4. Heart (1.5m), 5. LBC (1.0m)

At Breakfast, Kiss has recently extended Ricky, Melvin and Charlie’s hours to match Capital’s show – 6 to 10am. Last quarter that would have made them number 1. Unfortunately (for them) in this one, the new Capital Breakfast has had a good book with 1.164m listeners vs Kiss’s 1.042m.

Radio 1

Not a brilliant book for Radio 1. They drop below the “psychologically important” 10m reach figure – down to 9.9m. This includes a loss of around a quarter of a million 15 to 24s this quarter, that’s down around 100k on the year.

Grimmy posts his lowest ever reach for the breakfast show – 5.435m. He’s also got 250k less 15-24s than he started with, back in Sept 2012 and about 500k less than Moyles was delivering in his final year.

Digital Radio

The quality of radio, and new radio stations, particularly in markets that have been starved of choice, has made this another good quarter for digital radio.

Listening on digital radio (that’s DAB, DTV and the Internet) now accounts for 44.1% of all radio listening (up from 41.7% last quarter). If you break down the listening to platforms – 30.9% of all it is to services through DAB, 5.4% from listening on the telly and 7.8% from listening to the internet/apps.

We’ve also seen analogue listening increase – from 50.7% to 55.9%. Huh? How is digital and analogue up? Well, there’s always been an unallocated part of listening – people who for some of their listening, don’t know which platform they’ve been listening on. This is now allocated based on the rest of their attributed listening. There’s no digital bonus – as people who haven’t ticked a digital platform in the rest of their diary will still be seen as an analogue-only listener. RAJAR explain it a bit more here.

But that 44.1% is still yet to included any digital audience boost from the addition of the new D2 stations and Heart Extra – we’ll find out about those in the next quarter. Suddenly that 50% digital listening mark doesn’t seem that far away!

Hitting that target kicks off a load of discussion for the plans to transition off analogue radio. Indeed, in the BBC White Paper the Government have mandated that the BBC will help lead that process.

And finally…

If you want some ideas to help keep your RAJAR’s up, pop in your diary this year’s Next Radio Conference. It’s on the 19th September in London AND we’re giving away 10 tickets. Register to win here!

Check out more RAJAR fun with Adam BowiePaul EastonJohn Rosborough and media.info has all the RAJAR figures in historical graph form – https://media.info/radio/data/rajar for more.

Two Radio Podcasts I’m Enjoying

Two radio podcasts I’m really enjoying listening to at the moment are David Lloyd’s Conversations and Craig Bruce’s Game Changers: Radio.

David‘s the Group PD (in old money) of Orion Media and somewhat of a radio historian. Now, to be honest, radio nostalgia isn’t really my thing. I’ve always been an anorak of now, rather than then.

However, I am interested in radio people. I’m interested in finding out what they did and why they did it. It’s hard to do this for things happening today as people are often worried about letting their guard down or revealing some commercial confidentiality. As you drift back through time, it’s less of an issue, but often the decision making and thought it still very relevant.

I think Conversations as a title is a bit of a misnomer, as David clearly works hard to edit as much as himself out as possible. What’s left is a beautifully produced part-history, part self-analysis of some people who’ve had a significant effect on radio.

Many of the people are ‘famous’ for their roles in later management, it’s lovely to hear the real radio roots.

Craig Bruce was, up until recently, the Content Director for Australia’s largest radio group Southern Cross Austereo. He’s worked with some fascinating people and what I’ve read about him and what I felt when I spent some time with him, is that he’s incredibly focused on delivering great performances – be it from talent or teams.

His podcasts are long-form interviews with some big Australian radio talent from in front of, and behind, the radio mic.

As a Brit, it won’t be a surprise if you don’t really know who these interviewees are. I actually think it makes it more interesting. If you’re fascinated by the craft of radio and how brilliant radio folk think and work, this is a great podcast to give you ideas and to re-think how you approach your radio work.

  • A good place to start is the episode with Hamish and Andy’s producer Sam Cavanagh.

Radio Market Shares

News today that Bauer Media have acquired Orion Media (the people that own Free Radio/Gem etc). It made me have a look at the current market shares of operators in the UK.

  • BBC: 53.5%
  • Global Radio: 19.5%
  • Bauer+Orion: 15.0%
  • Wireless Group: 2.9%
  • Communicorp UK: 2.3%
  • UKRD: 0.7%
  • Lincs FM Group: 0.6%
  • Celador: 0.4%
  • Jazz: 0.2%
  • Nation Group: 0.2%
  • Anglian: 0.2%
  • Q: 0.2%
  • Tindle Radio Group: 0.1%
  • Adventure: 0.1%
  • kmfm Group: 0.1%
  • Quidem: 0.1%
  • CN Radio: 0.1%
  • Cheshire Radio: 0.0%

A couple of things. Firstly the BBC is still a stonkingly strong part of the UK radio market. It continues to dwarf the rest of the sector.

Secondly, we’re pretty much getting to the end of ten years of radio consolidation.  BBC, Global and Bauer account for nearly 88% of all UK radio listening – their dominance is almost, to pardon a pun, absolute.

Bauer have been acquiring UK radio hours over the past couple of years through the purchase of Absolute, Planet Rock and now Orion in an attempt to reach a similar scale to Global. That, alongside their digital successes have increased their share from 10% to 15% in the past ten years. There options now though are somewhat limited.

When you look at further major consolidation possibilities you’re only really left with Communicorp and Wireless. Communicorp is tough for Global or Bauer, to own outright because of market dominance issues (though Global own the national hours for sales), so Wireless is really the last potential operator that would give either Global or Bauer that final boost.

Whether it’s up for sale is, of course, another matter.

 

How Are People Listening and What Happens Next?

You may have gathered that I’m a fan of radio data.

I love it because deep down I’m really a fan of listeners. I think radio’s job is to cater for their tastes, interests and needs, as well as giving them the occasional surprise by providing them something they didn’t know that they wanted.

To a do a good job at this, you have to understand them and their lives.

I am always wary of people who slag of (any form) of radio research. How arrogant to think that you, on your own, know what’s best for other people?

Now, I have a strong idea of what people want because of the experience I’ve built up making radio and radio stations, but I always want to test these ideas from real feedback from the listener.

In this modern multi-media platform world, it’s much harder know what people want, because their world is changing. Tablets, Sonos, Wifi, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook – (for non early adopters) the last five years have been incredibly disruptive. People have formed super-strong new habits with new technology and content.

You would be fucking mental if you didn't think this has had an effect on 'our' listeners. Click To Tweet

Reach and Hours as a measurement has been pretty good for radio. It tracks how many people we’re reaching and how much time they’re spending with us. Where people used radio and how they listened has never been that important – it’s always been a car radio or a home/office radio.

The battle we’ve fought has been against each other. The battle we’re now facing is winning people’s time.

To do that it’s essential that we understand how we’re doing in different places, against other devices. It’s vital to be able to see where you are, to work out where you want to go and then how you’re going to do it.

It’s great that RAJAR have published its MIDAS survey in more detail than they previously have – really looking at how time listening to audio is split amongst radio, streaming, music videos on YouTube etc as well as how that changes with different ages and different devices. There’s quite a bit in there, but what I find interesting is where radio is winning the battle for time and where we’re losing.

And indeed, what we should defend and what areas should we attack?

On the face of it, it’s pretty good news:

shareofaudiotime

Live radio still totally dominates in listening. We’re lucky because we’ve got these industry-specific audio-consumption devices (radios) that people have got and love. We have vendor lock-in! A proprietary device that limits the number of new entrants – APPLE HAVE NOTHING ON US.

 

When we look at how people are listening to ‘live radio’ it’s these devices that continue to rule.

bydevice

This chart is the reason that there are no successful internet radio stations in the UK (my judge of success – actual listeners, run as a business, making money, investing in content).

To have any chance of being successful you need to be on FM/AM, DAB or, at a push DTV. If you’re playing on the other platforms, even if you’re doing AN AMAZING job, there just isn’t the volume of listening to be able to do well.

However there is a tyranny with the success of our platform. Live radio is significantly challenged in other places.

newplatforms

We’re doing okay in the PC world – but streaming services are coming up fast. I think it’s amazing that our PC listening is so strong when, generally, our web products are pretty dreadful. Why aren’t we building on the success of Radioplayer to build out more cross-industry web products? We need to strengthen our lead there, not let it be lost.

Similarly what’s our, and when I say our, I mean YOUR station but also our industry approach to creating something great for tablets – it’s our least successful new platform. When was that last time someone even mentioned it in your station?

On the mobile, I think we face our biggest challenge. There is lots of good stuff on a phone that’s non-audio but it eats into our time with listeners.  Looking at audio specifically – podcasts are doing well, and music video is starting to make an impact – where are our products in those sectors? Not, where is Station FM’s podcasts – but where are we working together to show radio industry content and make our brilliant stuff discoverable?

Today we dominate audio listening, driven by radio devices. We reach 90% of the country and they spend a ridiculous amount of time with us. It’s time to take that lead, reach and impact and start invading other sectors, doing a better job to defend and grow radio’s position.