RAJAR Q1/2018: Analogue Radio Falls

In 2018, the UK listens to more radio digitally (through DAB, Digital Television and the internet) than they do through their AM and FM radio. Digital now accounts for 50.9% of listening and analogue the remainder. And it’s only going to grow.

If your business was built on being granted scarce spectrum and a local monopoly, your time is running out.  Or if you’re successful because of the spectrum you’re on, rather than the programmes you make, then you are in trouble.

It’s not all going to fall apart tomorrow. There isn’t going to be a analogue switch-off in the next few years. But quarter by quarter it will get harder and harder to succeed.

The latest RAJAR figures show that unlike many countries around the world, our listeners aren’t disappearing, they’re just listening to other stuff.

Through a mixture of dumb luck and canny judgement we’ve managed to create a parallel radio product – digital radio – that for many people is better radio. Planet Rock, 6Music, Kisstory, 4 Extra, LBC outside of London, the return of Jazz FM, Fun Kids… 50 stations for everyone, rather than 15. Radios that are easy to use, car radios with more choice, less interference and crackle, better reception. We’ve upgraded the plane while keeping it flying.

All the investment in content has also meant that our internet products are much better and more interesting. We haven’t chucked up a load of jukeboxes, we’ve created well-programmed stations with presenters and content. Apps, Alexa, catch-up have all been enhanced because we created great, broadcast brands.

Taken together it has worked. This combination of new platforms and new content has replaced, in listeners minds, what radio is.

In the last year Absolute 80s is up to 1.5m listeners from 1.3m, Kisstory’s 1.8m (from 1.5m), 6Music’s at 2.5m (up from 2.3m), 1Xtra’s over a million, Heart 80s didn’t exist a year ago and now has 1.4m. Planet Rock’s kept it’s million, Jazz FM has hit 591k (up from 469k) and talkRADIO’s hit a high at 316k.

talkSPORT’s analogue audience has remained static over the past year – 1.6m. It’s digital audience has increased from 1.5m to 2m. Five Live’s analogue audience has dropped from 3m to 2.5m, whilst its digital audience is the one that’s holding steady at 3.5m. Absolute Radio now has more listeners on just DAB than it does on analogue, and that’s combining their AM network and the two big FM licences that they have in London and the West Midlands.

At home, digital listening now accounts for 58% of hours, at work it’s 55%. In car listening lags behind – but it’s still 33% digital. I don’t even think we’ve seen the impact of connected speakers in the home yet – that home digital number will be growing fast. And it won’t be from people’s first digital radio – it’ll be for their 2nd, 3rd and 4th device.

Switchover

Now we’ve hit 50% it’s not surprise that people with analogue licences are starting to panic a little as suddenly it’s all. Very. Real.

But just returning to 5 Live and talkSPORT, they’re in an interesting position. AM is crap. It’s also getting worse, as more and more electrical things are interfering with the signal. For these brands, both of which have this great, premium football content, is AM really the best platform when positioning their brand? What’s interesting is if you look at average hours – for AM on talkSPORT it’s 4.9 and DAB is 6. For 5 Live it’s 4.5 on AM and 5.9 on DAB. If listeners convert to digital radio they listen longer to these radio stations. To me though, the people who are remaining on AM are probably the die-hards. I mean they have to love you if they’re taking that trouble to listen on AM. Just think what their average hours would be if it was a pleasant experience to listen to those radio stations.

The worry though, is stations always think “if we switch off AM (or any platform) will they find us on another one, or just stop listening”. If I was 5 Live or talkSPORT I think now’s the time to do a test. Turn off a region on AM and see what happens. My hunch would be that the net effect would see an hours increase (even if you lose a few listeners in the short term). I also think in the medium term it would be better for their brands to lose the AM association.

London

In London the regular battle for audience carries on, digital radio or not. The top 10 commercial stations, this time around (based on market share) are:

  • LBC (5.4%)
  • Heart (4.9%)
  • Kiss (4.6%)
  • Capital (4.4%)
  • Magic (3.7%)
  • Absolute Radio (3.1%)
  • Smooth (2.1%)
  • Radio X (1.8%)
  • Capital Xtra (1.0%)
  • Gold (0.9%)

LBC stays atop the chart through a combination of solid reach – 1.2m, but a stonking 8.9 average hours. That’s the key to its success. Heart London has more listeners – 1.49 million, but it’s average hour of 6.7 keep it number 2. Capital are 4th even though they have 2.1m listeners but average hours of just 4.2. Kiss’ listeners listen longer with 4.9 hours each meaning that even though they have less reach than Capital – at 1.9m – its the hours that drive them up the market share chart.

When you break down the demos, Kiss leads Capital in 15-24s, 15-34s and 15-44s in both reach and share. Capital’s 2.1m reach number really does reflect its broad heritage position, as 627k listeners of its listeners are over the age of 45.

The big battle in London, though, is over breakfast. There’s relatively new shows at Capital with Roman and Vick and at Magic with Ronan and Harriet. Over at Kiss, Rickie, Melvin and Charlie are now the heritage show in the market. Last quarter they managed to wrestle the number one breakfast show off of Capital, but they’ve lost it again as Roman increases a little to 1.023m vs RM&C at 968k.

Magic Breakfast has not fared so well down to 544k (vs 779k in the last quarter). They’ll definitely be disappointed and is probably the reason every London bus seems covered with a Ronan and Harriet poster and there’s heavy promotion in other dayparts.

In other news…

Radio 1 are going to be a bit disappointed. They had a good 2017, but the first quarter has seen reach drop to 9.4m, down from 9.8m in the last quarter, though up from 9.1m year on year. They’ve also been hit by a breakfast drop with Grimmy a smidge over 5m (down from 5.7m last quarter and 5.1m a year ago).

Key 103, soon to become Hits Radio saw reach drop a little to 382k (vs 385 quarter on quarter and 399k year on year). The Breakfast show follows the same pattern a little down q on q and y on y. The station’s figures have been pretty flat for the past 12 months – though a decade of decline seems to have bottomed out, so it’s probably a good time to make the change.

Most importantly, at our gaff we continue to RAJAR Fun Kids even though it only measures 10 plusses and so misses out our main audience! For this reason we just measure London rather than our full UK coverage. This allows us to benchmark ourselves against other stations when we talk about our audience to advertisers. And also means I can mention it in these blog posts of course.

Our 15+ audience in London has gone up from 50.9k to 58.7k (which means we’re bigger than talkRADIO, Union Jack and The Arrow in the capital) and our complete 10+ audience has increased from 89.7 to 91.2k (which is bigger in London than Magic Chilled and talkSPORT2).

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

Alexa, are you radio’s saviour?

When you have a problem there’s always a bit of you that hopes something will magically happen that won’t make it a problem any more. Of course, wish-based solutions aren’t the most reliable.

For radio stations that don’t have a well-thought out distribution strategy, there seems to be a hope that ‘the internet’ will solve any problems. IN THE FUTURE, these people often say, you won’t have to worry about FM or DAB (or whatever), THE INTERNET will make all that irrelevant.

The current adjunct to all of that is that SMART SPEAKERS are radio’s future.

But first, let’s rewind. What are radio’s problems?

Radio listening is pretty steady – 90% of the population consuming around a billion hours a week of radio – and it’s been like that for a long time. I think the key thing to be concerned about has been around young audiences – 15 to 24s.

Clearly there’s been a decline for both, though I think reach has held up pretty well – radio in the last 12 months reaches 80% to 84% of youngsters whereas 10 years ago it did 87% to 89%.

Hours have seen a much greater decline. It’s now 90m vs 10 years ago when it was 130m. However, though we’ll see what the next lot of data says in the coming weeks, if anything (looking at the last two years) I think that decline is slowing.

Why’s it been dropping though? Well, I think that’s two things.

Firstly radio, up until the beginning of the naughties has a lock on free music and entertainment. In 2000 – little broadband, no data on mobiles, we’d only had Sky Digital and Channel 5 for three years. Radio existed in a lucky monopoly. Limited new radio entrants, no real digital products and limited mass media competition. I think we have to look at 1973-2000 as the ‘we didn’t know we had it so good’ years. If anything youth consumption (and what will follow as that group age) is really just a true market correction.

I think our second issue is a lack of radio product development for teenagers.

Of course there’s stations like Radio 1, Capital and Kiss but they’re not really designed for teenagers. They need to have broader 15-34 appeal. Capital delivers more 35+ hours than it does 15 to 34s and for Radio 1 and Kiss around 40% of their hours are 35+ too.

Bauer’s in the process of closing The Hits, it closed Smash Hits quite a while ago and Kerrang has less distribution than its had in the past. Radio 1 itself is now playing significant ‘greatest hits’ content.

I find it difficult to listen to the radio sector prattling on about it being really important how we get young people to listen to the radio when they don’t really provide that much to grow the next generation of radio listeners.

Anyway, I digress, so if we hold demographic changes as a threat – some decline today with the young (and a potential for that to grow across other demos in the future) what else have we got?

Well, I think the big threat isn’t to the medium, I think its to prior business models. As mentioned before, in the ‘never had it so good years’ the market was entirely invented – a planned economy. The regulator decided where radio stations should be, what content they should provide and whether they got any competition.

The radio sector now, with 50% listening through digital platforms, is a market-led economy. Many small stations are still trying to operate the same business models they operated in the 90s without understanding that their competitive environment has changed. And that’s not just audiences with a choice of what station to consume. That car dealer who used to only be able to advertise with you? Now they can use Google AdSense and appear on local computers and mobiles with targeted messaging.

For decent sized local radio stations there used to be a nice national revenue cheque appearing each month. The inventory was sold at a lower price than local and it was a bit annoying around Christmas, but fundamentally it was free money. Now though, Global and Bauer’s share deals means that spot revenue isn’t as easy to come by.

This is why I get confused when people say that the internet as the delivery mechanism of the future will put everyone on the same playing field. Why? Let me get this straight, you want to gamble the way people listen to you at the moment (primarily for devices designed for that purpose) and you want to swap it to a device where you face untold more competition AND on a device that makes it harder to find you?

If a radio person says to you that the internet is the future for radio, the question to always ask them is “what’s your station’s website like and how does it do financially?”. If the answer is “it’s not very good or doesn’t make much money” then ask why you think they’ll be able to do any better in an internet-delivered audio world.

There are lots of companies that have made a fortune on the internet, where it has truly transformed what they do. It’s usually because they’ve smashed a monopoly, or the barriers of entry to a sector. It hasn’t tended to have come from the people who’s monopoly has been smashed.

If anything, Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, only exacerbate the problem for small or new stations. Why? Because you need to know the name of the radio station to get it to play for you. New station discovery on those devices will be non-existent – there’s no channel guide or EPG to look at. The only people who will be successful in that space are those with brands and/or non-radio marketing spend.

So is it all doom and gloom? No, not at all.

I think there are a number of things that radio as a platform and radio stations themselves need to do to secure a strong future for their businesses.

1. Radio as product. Think about the radio ‘offer’. What is it that radio provides audiences? And can we make all of the UK get that product? That’s about content, being free-to-air, on any platform, but on those platforms always easy to use and easy to find. It’s the BBC and commercial radio nationally – 40-odd stations that cover the vast majority of interests and it’s local stations and those with local content too.

Yes there’s probably some build-out still to do, but the vast majority of people can get this radio product today. Rather than battling against each other shouldn’t we be selling these bundle of stations like Sky or Virgin do?

2. Primary radio platforms. We shouldn’t forget our biggest positive is that loads of consumers have these cheap boxes, that they like, that does ‘playing free audio’ really easily. FM is pretty good, but DAB is better. It’s better because it improves the radio offer. We deliver a better (and larger) bunch of stations, to more people in an easy to use device. Consumers have a better radio experience – a better experience of our platform through that device. A better radio product in that device means that Spotify and Bluetooth’d podcasts and all the rest has a harder fight to unseat us.

I’m absolutely not saying that we shouldn’t be in other places – of course we need to be everywhere. BUT we need to re-enforce our core broadcast platform. Right now we overwhelmingly own the audio space – we should defend it mercilessly, whilst attacking other platforms and colonising them with our great radio product.

The best thing I’ve learned from the Norway analogue switch-off is that they’ve upgraded the radio product. Everywhere gets more radio stations, some are new digital only others were the old analogue stations that just didn’t go to all parts of the country. Strikingly some of the ‘new’ stations have overnight become the most popular stations in the country. It turns out that analogue radio wasn’t delivering the services that consumers wanted, so when it went all digital their listening reflected their true desires, rather than relying on the planned economy of the 80s!

Getting people off FM is important. As digital listeners they get a better radio product. They will consume more radio and listen to more radio stations when they’ve been converted. The faster we move people across, the longer they’ll be exposed to our radio brands – and the deeper connection we’ll make with them. We don’t want people to think ‘there’s nothing on the radio’ if they’ve only got an FM radio and live outside of a big city.

I wouldn’t switch off FM tomorrow and I’d much rather consumers switched themselves – but it’s in our best interest to be more aggressive. Let’s send a clear message from stations and government that analogue will be ending (that doesn’t even necessary mean a date), let’s stop analogue only radios being sold, let’s turn off some more AM stations. At the same time we should be better promoting the content offer and reasons to switch.

3. The non-linear offer. Stations have to be delivering audio and multi-media that isn’t just re-hashed versions of what’s on their linear stream. I hate to break it to you, but the mobile phone is never going to be a successful linear radio. A phone is all about choice, interactivity and personalisation. Growth is not going to come from linear radio. Yes – of course – have an app that streams your station and be on Radioplayer etc – but it will, at best, replace some existing listening from a different linear device.

If you want to be successful digitally you need new products. You need to use the money you make from, and the talent that makes your linear broadcast to build out new products. What’s your podcast strategy? If it’s ‘Best of the Breakfast Show’ go into the iTunes chart and see how many of those do well. Where is your expertise – local, music, comedy, news – whatever it is to build out a suite of audio products and use your linear channels to kick start them and grow your scale. Podcasts, flash briefings, short-form clips – it could be anything.

What are you doing differently on video? I’m sorry you spent all of that money fixing cameras (with generally poor lines of sight) in your buildings, but clips from studios rarely work on YouTube. You are trying to impose your media style on a platform that has devised its own. Learn from the vloggers they build relationships and audiences with content – we should be great at that!

Have you got a content management system that allows you to distribute your content to new devices that may pop up? If you do good local news is it formatted for Google Assistant, Facebook Instant Stories, Apple News, AMP etc? Is it in a CMS that can easily cope with new places that might appear. Have you got someone who can mangle the XML to get it to spit it out to these new places? BTW, good local news isn’t just pasting your radio bulletin cue into the CMS and attaching a 12-second bit of audio.

4. Devote less time to social. Is your social media activity resulting in listening, web traffic or money? I’ve worked with stations where the answer is an emphatic yes and others where it’s a no. Post like counts or number of shares are addictive to see. But are we feeding that monster with content for our own gratification or does it do anything for our core business? Are you building content that benefits you? Are you creating audiences on platforms that you can monetise directly? Audiences that you control the relationship with rather than an algorithm?

5. Use your skills away from the live stream. I think radio has some great special skills. Entertaining DJs, local knowledge, access to guests, strong relationships with listeners, a news team, a sales team well-connected in the community, studio gear, events expertise, and much more. Why do we apply almost all that effort into just the linear stream? What a waste!

6. The only constant is change. Doing what you’ve done in the past, when there was less competition for ears and cash and hoping that everything will sort itself out will not work now, let alone in the futre.

Radio will maintain its relevance and grow by being focused on consumers and delivering them the best product we can on as many devices as possible, but also providing great reasons to get them and keep them on the platforms where we have a better chance of winning.

Radio stations will only maintain their relevance and grow their businesses by using their amazing skills to build and deliver great audio and consumer products to their listeners.

The Hits-ification of Bauer’s Big City Network

Interesting news today from Bauer about Key 103 and the new Hits Radio.

One of the results of there being lots of multi-platform listening in the UK is that there’s been a large increase in national radio listening. Some of this is from new stations like 6Music and another chunk is from stations that used to be in one part of the country but are now national, for example LBC went from being a London station to a nationwide one. The other thing we’ve seen is the rise of the network – so stations previously called Galaxy (and other names) have taken on the moniker of another station – as is the case with Capital. For Heart, Capital and Smooth they try and balance the best of both worlds – a tight national format but localised FM and DAB distribution so they’re able to sell local as well as national ads. Kiss went the other way taking three regional FM stations and just running one service (including ads) everywhere.

Over the past few years Bauer and Global have been very busy re-arranging their portfolio and launching new stations. Indeed they’ve probably pushed each other on quite a bit.

Bauer’s had a lot of success with its national strategy with successful extensions for Kiss and Magic following the Absolute spin-off formula and good national DAB distribution.

The locals – your Key 103s and Hallam FMs have perhaps fared less well. A combination of an explosion in new national choice and then Capital and Heart either side of you on local FM puts you in a difficult spot. Do you go young, old, do you do the same thing etc. There’s probably no perfect answer. Defence is always difficult. The other difficulty is historically those FMs were very profitable too.  Any big changes might affect that income, but no change may mean your storing up even more problems for the future.

Bauer’s had two strategies for this locally. The first was the creation of 1, 2, 3 stations (I wrote about this when it was announced). The FM would be 1, the AM would be 2 and what was The Hits became 3. They’d all share the local branding so Hallam FM, Hallam 2 and Hallam 3. The benefits of this were that you’d double down on a local position and have three differentiated outlets for local advertising. Programming on all of them could be a mixture of local and national to taste. I didn’t think this was too bad an idea, but it hasn’t seemed to work. 2 has been kept whilst 3 has returned to being The Hits. As very much an outsider it didn’t seem that they really went for it. To make that sort of change you need a lot of marketing money to explain to non-listeners what you’re doing and what’s now available. All the stations should have heavily cross-promoted and web and social should have been aligned around the local name and always demonstrating the options listeners have. In the end it didn’t seem that there was loads of local buy in and ownership of all three stations and alongside little marketing, it all fell away.

Bauer’s other strategy has been around profit. They have successfully kept the contribution up by increasing the ad minutage, launching more premium rate contesting, promoting their own gigs and pushing their offers platform – often resulting in 16mins of ads per hour. At one station they were even putting up physical banners around their building. Gotta hit those targets!

Now the point of commercial radio is the first part of the phrase – commercial. If it’s generating the money you want, then good luck to you. Now clearly this has an affect on audiences – but local ad money is less reliant on the RAJAR figures – so if the audience drop doesn’t really affect your bottom line does the ad volume really matter?

I think the real question is whether there’s a point of no return? At some point do the figures drop to somewhere where they can’t be defended and your local commercial radio competitors can chip away at your high value commercial clients leaving you with lower value, and declining, national revenue matching your declining hours. Maybe. Perhaps in some places rather than others? I genuinely don’t have the answer.

Key 103, in particular, has had a bad time.

This will be a combination of new competition – national digital and more focussed FM, a squeezed programme proposition, a changing diverse area and that high ad load.

Their announcement today is that Key 103 is being replaced by Hits Radio a new hybrid radio station with two versions – one tailored specifically for Manchester and another for the whole of the UK. The stations will share the same talent including Gethin Jones, Gemma Atkinson and (Comedy) Dave Vitty on Breakfast and the services will come from the Manchester team.

This is a gamble for Bauer – Key 103 has a lot of heritage, but that heritage will be baggage for some and I’ll guarantee that their research will include statements like “it’s the station my Mum listens too”. Declaring brand bankruptcy is HARD but it’s probably the right thing to do.

Also a national mainstream 25-44 station with decent presenters and production support is also a good new national radio station to have. It also takes a bit of the fight to the competitors too.

Now the bits I find confusing:

There’s no announcement that it’ll be on national DAB. It’s instead on the same rag-bag bunch of local multiplexes, and no mention of it being even on London, so it’s difficult to do any clear marketing. This is especially weird as the press release talks about bringing the station “55% of the UK not currently targeted by Bauer City Network, with our clear ambition to become the largest radio network in the UK”. Yes, Freeview and Online make you ‘national’, but DAB is where all the listening is.

In the release Bauer make reference to it being the flagship of the new Hits Network (which is what was BC1) so I’m guessing that the network shows on Hits Radio will go on the local stations (like Hallam), it seems that some taglines have recently changed to be more Hits-y. I’d also imagine there’s the option of re-branding each/some locals as Hits [Area] at some point.

But it also seems that Hits Radio is to be replacing The Hits (a 15-24 youth service) on the local multiplexes, particularly the northern ones where there are other Bauer BC1 services like Hallam, Radio Aire etc. So now on DAB in Sheffield they’ll be Hallam FM, Hallam 2 and Hits Radio (playing similar music to Hallam (same log?) with some of the same shows and then some other different, more well known presenters). Oh and probably less commercial reads. Even more great news if your a local PC!

I’m excited for the new station, I’m interested in the re-brand of Manchester and how it’s supported (and whether that could be a good, positive, plan for some other under-performing Bauer areas). I’m also keen to see whether they tackle the ad load issue.

However, the distribution seems a bit, er, sub-optimal, it’s a confusing proposition for the London agencies who don’t pay that much attention at the best of times and perhaps wastes what seems like good effort put into a new station’s programming. I don’t see if they start down this path how the end-point can be anything other than a re-brand of at least the English stations and national DAB coverage.

I know it’s the first announcement and more details will follow but nearly 10 years on from the Heart re-brand, if Bauer’s aim really is to bring the Hits Radio brand to the 55% of the country that can’t get BC1, shouldn’t they just get on with it?

UPDATE: News from the boss…

RAJAR Q4/2018 – The Trend’s Your Friend

Looking through the final book of 2017 there’s few big changes, but perhaps more evidence of noticeable trends for radio as a medium and for some stations in particular.

BBC

At the BBC, Radio 1 has grown reach every quarter this year. A good sign for the team there, who have had a tough few years. Whilst not a trend, Breakfast had its best book in quite a while, with reach up to 5.7m (up from 4.9m quarter on quarter and up from 5.3m year on year). Live Lounge month and the 50th birthday being good tent pole moments for the station. 1Xtra’s following a similar pattern with growth over the year and a 25% increase in hours year on year.

BBC Radio 2 has generally been going in the right direction all through 2017, finishing on 15.4m – a year on year and quarter on quarter increase. Its hours have also grown year on year, now to a stonking (best ever!) 190m. Nearly one in five of every hour listened to on the radio, is to Radio 2.

When people talk about radio’s apparent decline, point to Radio 1 and Radio 2. They’re growing reach and hours, not shrinking.

6Music has pretty much plateaued with a reach of around the 2.3m mark all year. Is there more growth left in it? Does the very stable schedule need a little re-invention to take it higher?

Global

The main Capital, Heart and Smooth networks have not been so rosy. They peaked in Q2 where they were looking very strong, but they’ve fallen back over the past few quarters. On a brand level (taking into account spin offs like Heart 80s, Smooth Extra, Capital Xtra etc) the decline’s been blunted, but have these networks reached peak audience?

Definitely in growth has been Radio X which has had five straight books of reach and hours increases. Weekly reach of 1.58m and now 11m hours is good news for Global. Moyles too has done well. 7 straight quarters of growth, taking his national audience to 909k reach. Moyles’ breakfast reach is now bigger than the XFM network’s reach total in their final all-XFM book before the re-brand.

Bauer

Kiss has been going in the right direction for a little while, now with its best book in 18 months with 4.6m reach. Its sister brands Kiss Fresh (578k reach) and Kisstory (1.7m) have remained at similar levels for the past few books.

It’s the same story for the Magics (the main one, Soul, Chilled, Mellow) who have all been pretty stable. It’s early days for Ronan and Harriet on Breakfast, but they’re now at the slot’s 2nd highest ever figures at 1.4m, it’ll be interesting to see if their evolution and growth has a positive impact on Magic in 2018.

Absolute Radio had a good book, with 2.6m reach – the best in over a year. The spin-offs are all pretty stable with 80s at 1.4m, 90s at 744k. With 90s move to national last week (well cross-promoted by the main brand) I think it’s got a good chance to grow. Also with Absolute 80s now in a bit of a bun fight with Heart 80s and the arrival of the Wireless Group’s 80s stations, will 90s be the new 80s?

The Hits (562k), Kerrang! (607k) and Heat (598k) seem to have run out of steam a little, down almost a third from their heyday and pretty flat all through 2017. All three are good, well programmed stations, but now face much more radio competition, whilst TV listening, which drove a lot of their audience, has also fallen significantly.

All three lack any marketing spend or significant programming investment. Though I bet their cost per listener is still significantly less than a Key 103 or Metro, though the locals – right now – I’m sure do well from the local advertising. It would be interesting to see if these digital stations had the same investment in marketing and talent that some of the Bauer locals get, whether their audience acceleration would be significantly greater, and even with lower national yields, generated faster profit growth.

One Bauer local that has had a great few years is Gem 106. Now at its highest ever audience for the 106 licence – a reach of 561k. The next quarter will be their first without breakfast hosts Sam and Amy who’ve disappeared off to Virgin Radio.

Wireless Group

Speaking of which, Virgin Radio, though having a great book in Q3 – 555k reach – it did look a bit of an outlier. They’ve eased back this quarter to 483k, but that’s still their 2nd highest reach. They’ve got a long journey ahead of them, but at least it’s going in the right direction.

Stablemate at Wireless is talkRADIO. Its figures have been flat since launch and the latest quarter has its second lowest ever reach at 242k. The new talent they’ve brought in and the right sort of new afternoon show will give them a new platform on which to promote. It’ll be interesting to see where they are this time next year.

Platforms

As the blog post shows, the UK radio industry is now a real mix of analogue and digital radio stations. Indeed, the latest breakdown tells us that a record 49.9% of all radio listening is digital. This means the Government will soon be starting a review of plans for digital radio switchover. I wouldn’t expect FM to be going anywhere anytime soon, but I think it will bring to the horizon the dates when stations will start to leave the FM band.

The hours split today are: AM/FM (50.1%), DAB (36.3%), Internet (8.5%) and DTV (5.1%). Looking at reach, AM/FM now reaches just 79.1% of listeners, DAB reaches 54.9% of listeners, Internet reaches 21.1% of listeners and DTV’s reach is 15.7%.

Over at Fun Kids (where we just measure London and RAJAR just measures our non-core age group of 10 plusses), we went down a little from 92k to 84.5k. This quarter had 6 weeks of us being DAB+ only in London, so it’ll be interesting to see if that affects our numbers next quarter. Sadly my go to comparison to talkRADIO and Magic Chilled in London looks less good, as they’re both a little ahead on 87.6k and 86.7k respectively. We’ll have to just take being better than The Arrow (73.3k) and The Hits (83.6k). But who’s really counting!

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

RAJAR Q3/2017

When RAJAR drops into my inbox, the first thing I check is the audience data for Fun Kids. By the time I’ve had a good look through, Hallett Arendt’s excellent system Octagon will have all of UK radio’s data ready to analyse. It’s then I first search for the figures around digital listening.

The big obsession by many is reaching the 50% point. That’s the point where 50% of all listening (hours) are through digital platforms like DAB, the internet and on the good old digital telly. It’ll mean that analogue radio – AM and FM – will have a smaller share of all listening than digital. Some think that it’ll kick off the digital switchover process. It won’t. It merely means the Government will have to “consider a decision about the timing and approach to a future switchover”.

Personally I’m not arguing for an quick switchover as I don’t think it would be great for listeners or radio listening. What I am very pro is that there should be a date (or selection of dates). I would like listeners (and stations) to know that there is a countdown and that analogue radios (and most analogue radio stations) have an expiry date. Five years, ten years, I don’t mind. We’ll only properly have banished analogue only radios for sale and have a co-ordinated marketing plan (and fill those final few broadcast holes) when everyone understands that the countdown is on.

So, I’m always keen to see how close to the 50% we are! I was somewhat disappointed when this quarter’s figure was 48.8% (up from, er, 48.7% last time round). Sigh. Then I had more of a look at the data for internet, digital TV and DAB. It turns out that DAB was quite a bit up, but internet listening and Digital TV listening saw a bit of a drop. Had internet and DTV stayed the same as the last quarter then the digital number would have reached 49.9%!

Switchover or not, FM stations without cross-platform, multi-station strategies will find their available audience is dropping – as less and less people will be on the FM band to find you. That’ll also have a significant effect on the value of that FM licence.

Take Radio X, it’s had a good book. UK-wide it’s generated its highest ever reach – 1.523m listeners – and highest ever hours 10.524m. Which are some great numbers. But if we look at the hours of listening on 104.9FM in London its 1.503m (about 14% of their total). If Radio X came off FM in London I’m sure some people would switch, worse case they might lose 10% of their hours. Now, for Global whilst they’d be in no hurry to take it off FM in London (why should someone else have it?) the value of that FM licence has surely dropped significantly. What would someone pay for it now? Capital paid £16m for it in 1998 – would it be worth that now? For £16m you could buy national digital carriage and spend a lot of money on content and marketing. You would certainly make more from the latter than the former.

In fact Global have been doing just that, with the launch earlier this year of Heart 80s. It had another strong book with 1.086m listeners and nearly 5m hours. Sitting on national DAB through Digital One, Heart 80s has a bigger reach than Celador Radio, UKRD, Lincs FM, KMFM, Nation Broadcasting, Q Radio, Oxis or Quidem.

London though remains the big battleground for Global and Bauer. Looking at commercial share, the chart toppers are:

  1. LBC 97.3: 5.8%
  2. Kiss: 5.5%
  3. Capital London: 5.2%
  4. Classic FM 4.1%
  5. Magic: 3.6%
  6. Heart 3.5%
  7. Absolute: 3%
  8. talkSPORT: 2.3%
  9. Capital Xtra: 1.8%
  10. Smooth Radio: 1.8%
  11. LBC London News: 1.7%
  12. Radio X: 1.2%
  13. Gold: 1.1%

An hours drop from an unusually high book last quarter, still leaves LBC in pole position and Kiss continuing to fight with Capital, ascending back to the top spot. In reach though, Capital continues to edge it though – 2.1m vs 1.8.

Heart London has taken a bit of a hit over the past few quarters, perhaps seeing 106.2 be cannibalised a little by Heart Extra and Heart 80s. It also fights with the other local Hearts that spill into the Capital. If we look at the Heart Network in London (that’s 106.2 and the locals) it generates a 6.2% share – putting it a the top of the chart! If we add in the Extra/80s spin off then it would climb to a 6.8% share.

Over at Bauer, Magic faces a similar issue. Concentrating on just 105.4 tells you just one part of the story, roll in the spin-offs and the Magic Network share in London goes from 3.6% to 4.9%. However, I still imagine Tony and the team at Golden Square are hoping that Ronan and Harriet sprinkle some er, magic, on the station as year on year their reach is down from 1.8m to 1.5m and hours have dropped from 8.5m to 7.5m

Absolute in London continues to ping pong around, this books’s a good one with strong reach at 874k but even stronger hours with a very high 6.3m (that’s why its share is up to 3% from 1.9% last quarter). Its success has been replicated across the country with the main Absolute Radio hitting a brand high. Reach at 2.4m isn’t too shabby whilst Christian’s breakfast show on Absolute (and all the spinoffs) collectively gives him the 2nd highest rated commercial breakfast show.

The biggest commercial breakfast show stays with Rickie, Melvin and Charlie at Kiss.

Over at the Big British Castle, Radio 1 with 9.6m reach is up slightly on the quarter and down slightly on the year. It’s not brilliant news for Grimmy as he drops under 5m listeners for the lowest ever breakfast rating. Elsewhere quarter on quarter growth for Clara, Scott, Greg and Annie Mac.

Radio 2 is back over 15m. 15m! …with 15.3m listeners. Evans has bounced back to 9.3m listeners. 9.3m! Which is up quarter on quarter and year on year.

Hot on the heels of six ARIA awards, Five Live hasn’t fared so well in RAJAR with the top line figure dropping to just over 5m reach. It’s lowest figure since at least 2004.

It’s the highest ever reach for 6Music at 2.4m, 1Xtra stays above a million and 4 Extra up q on q and y on y at 2.1m.

BBC London’s last book now looks a bit of an outlier at 621k, dropping back to 454k reach / 2.6m hours, which puts it behind, as usual, LBC News (Global’s AM rolling news channel).

In other news, Jazz FM has had a good book, up year on year and quarter on quarter, to 570k reach and 2.2m hours. National station Union Jack is over 100k listeners for the first time, Kisstory is the commercial leader for digital with 1.8m listeners and Virgin Radio has seen a very solid increase to a reach of over 500k for the first time (556k). It was also Edith Bowman’s best result on breakfast!

Our station, Fun Kids, has had a solid book. It’s audience remains something of an iceberg with only a chunk of our listeners publicly visible. This is because RAJAR only measures 10+ which means it doesn’t include our main audience, the swines! We choose therefore to just get London numbers rather than the national ones. This gives us 92k listeners a week in the capital which is still bigger than talkRADIO, Magic Chilled, The Hits and The Arrow. Hurrah for us.

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

RAJAR Q2/2017 – Brand Power

Agree or disagree with the how RAJAR’s compiled, I think every three months is a good time to have a look at the radio market and think about changes and trends. Numbers are always a snapshot, but what lies behind them, and the direction of travel, can give a much clearer insight.

Stations figures rise and fall for a variety of reasons. Some are down to the station, some are because of what other stations are doing, sometimes its an external force – the weather, an election, and sometimes it’s bigger themes like platform shifts and new technology.

Nothing has ever existed in a vacuum, and today the word changes so fast that volatility is one of the only constants. Oh, and sometimes you just have a bad (or good) book.

Heart 80s

To me, the one thing that’s highlighted how the radio world has changed is the arrival on RAJAR of Heart 80s with a stonking 852k reach and 3.8m hours.

It’s a new radio station with no station-specific marketing and little unique programming, but it is based on a very successful understood brand and it plays a type of music that’s in-demand for a large audience.

It’s only been around four months but it’s already got a greater audience reach than all of Celador Radio or UKRD.

I think this throws into stark relief the opportunities/threats that changing radio consumption has on the market.

Anoraks talk about which small stations or groups the big operators will buy next, but with a success like Heart80s why would they bother? The cost and complexity of running a multi-site operation vs a well-programmed centrally managed spin off using existing brand and resources. There’s really no question.

Well, there is a question for smaller operators. It isn’t “why bother?” but instead “how do you use what’s unique about your operation to grow?” Local advertising relationships, community relationships, how do you leverage that to create an interesting business. Why are you only doing radio?

Jack

Heart80s isn’t the only new national station to appear recently on RAJAR. Union Jack made it’s debut last time around at 71k and is now a little up at 80k.

Now, both stations are similar in that they’re national, they’ve had little above the line marketing and their programming is mostly clever, well-done automation. The audience difference is large though – 10x! Why is that? Well, ironically after the trail blazed by Union Jack’s management when they ran Absolute and launched Absolute 80s, Heart have jumped in a very popular and relatively underserved format – 80s – and they’ve aligned that with a complimentary, well-understood brand in Heart.

Union Jack has the potential to be a great brand, it has great personality, but brand-building without a large cash investment is a long-term burn. It’s name is clever (when you realise it plays only British music) but it lacks the Ronseal delivery of Heart 80s, Planet Rock or Magic Soul that allows listeners to instantly understand it.

What is good for Union Jack’s parent company is that they’re building a suite of products around their Jack brand and not being hemmed in by just being a local radio station. As well as three Jack brands in their local Oxford base (89k reach), they’ve got a new digital-only local version in Surrey (36k) and the 80k the national station delivers. Whilst Oxford is probably going to stick around a similar audience level +/- 10%, Surrey and national gives them a chance of real growth. They’re now already larger than what was the old Anglian Radio.

The challenge new stations face, is that in the old days there was somewhat a “if we build it, they will come” mentality with new station launches. The world is very different now. Brand cut through is hard as new entrants in London like Thames Radio (16k reach) or Mi-Soul (47k) have discovered to their cost.

Mi-Soul, around for a few years, now faces an onslaught from Magic Soul. Similar to Heart 80s – they’ve aligned a popular format with a well-understood brand. In London, Magic Soul has generated 112k reach from a standing start. With sporadic DAB distribution, nationally it’s now generating 244k.

Good programming is irrelevant if you aren’t able to generate awareness or trial.

Digital

Clearly much of this change is driven by the volume of digital listening. This quarter the data shows that 68% of listeners listen to some form of digital radio (DAB, internet and DTV) each week and 53% of UK listeners listen specifically through DAB each week.

In share terms, 48.7% of all listening is to digital platforms (up from 47.2% last quarter). We are rapidly approaching the magic 50% number.

Digital-only stations like 6Music (at 2.2m), 1Xtra (up 100k to 1.03m), Kisstory (up 200k to 1.7m), Absolute 80s (up 150k to 1.5m) as well as Heart80s at 852k are making a significant impact in how all stations are being listened to.

London

London is probably one of the most competitive radio markets in the world. It’s big and national stations like Radio 4 often seem like local station to many of the inhabitants. The top stations in the commercial share chart switch places because they all compete hard. This quarter, though, Global is very much top of the tree – taking the top four commercial spots.

LBC 97.3 – 7.6%
Capital London – 5.1%
Classic FM – 4.4%
Heart – 4.3%
Kiss – 4.1%
Magic – 3.2%
Smooth Radio – 2%
Absolute Radio – 1.9%

Radio 1

I imagine a sigh of relief on the top floor of Broadcasting House as Radio 1 recovers from its dreadful Q1 book of 9.1m reach to a more respectable 9.5m.

15-24s still remain difficult for it to nail down with another drop this time, albeit a small one to 2,725 from 2,767. I think more dangerous for R1 is Capital’s growing 15-24 strength. More robust results for its stations and the network’s growth through acquisition means that it’s on the verge of claiming more 15-24s than Radio 1.

Fun Kids

A good book for our children’s radio station Fun Kids. We’re in an odd situation where whilst we’re national, we just measure London. RAJAR also only looks at 10+ whilst our core audience is under that! But it’s still nice to be able to benchmark ourselves against others.

So, 10+ in London we’re delivering 99k reach (up from 66k in Q1) and hours have increased to 292.6k (from 133k). When we measure 10+ reach against other digital stations in the London TSA it’s good to see we’re a bigger station than talkRADIO, talkSPORT2, Global’s The Arrow and Bauer’s Magic Chilled.

Though the success of Heart 80s, and the power of an aligned brand does make me think perhaps we should try a name change. I’m sure BBC Fun Kids would give us a nice sampling boost!

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

Launching Upload Radio

Radio and audio has never been more successful. More radio is listened to than ever before and podcasts and audio streaming services have meant there’s more sound than ever to stuff in your ears.

In the UK lots of this success has come from the growth of new stations available on DAB Digital Radio and the expansion of what used to be London only stations – 6Music, Absolute 80s, Fun Kids as well as LBC, Magic and Radio X. Great content combined with platforms – particularly DAB – has resulted in happier listeners consuming more radio. This new choice has meant that 44% of the country now listen to DAB radio each week and 18% listen to digital radio through the internet.

At the same time the podcast explosion has seen a wide variety of companies and individuals create brilliant content – but quite a bit of which is trapped in the bowels of iTunes, never being able to be found.

Our company, Folder Media, has always been a big believer in getting people onto the radio. With our multiplex network MuxCo, we’ve got the most diverse bunch of stations on-air, broadcasting on DAB to the ten local areas that we look after.

Nicky, Greg and I have been doing local DAB for a long time. From 2001 we ran GWR’s local digital multiplex network (it’s now owned by Arqiva). When we were there we came up with the idea of Access Channels – shared access services where smaller radio stations could dial in and out broadcast for a few hours a day. We started the project, but it was a little early in digital radio’s development for it to work. The concept though, that’s stayed with us.

We re-visited the idea when started bidding for our MuxCo local multiplexes in 2007, but wondered whether we could make those slots smaller? Could we create a radio station where every hour was up for sale? But then we weren’t sure how we’d be able to build it and how we’d cope with Ofcom’s then rules on advertising and sponsorship.

The idea kept rattling around in our heads though, so as technology advanced and Ofcom’s rules changed, we thought we’d have a go and in 2013 we started working on a system that would let people do just that and buy an hour at a time. I even announced we working on it an Next Radio! Our developer at the time Dean started working with me on the prototype. What we realised pretty quickly was that it was a bloody hard. We’d be building an eCommerce website, a radio station website and a play out system. As well as the code, we’d also really have to work out the logic of all of the different transactions.

Dean then left and Andy Buckingham joined to work on the project. We took what we’d learned from the prototype and then re-built a second version which went through a number of iterations. Andy left in the middle of 2016 and David Madelin joined to finish the work Andy started, taking the platform he had created and finishing many of the elements and finally getting it ready for launch. And today we did just that.

On our Surrey and South London, Wrexham/Chester/Liverpool and our Gloucestershire multiplexes we put Upload Radio live at just gone midnight this morning.

Upload Radio allows anyone to buy an hour of airtime, upload a show, and have it be broadcast on DAB, simulcast online and then be available for 30 days as catchup, it’ll also be on all of the Radioplayer platforms. It’s just £20 a slot. You can include music, advertising, promote other stations and platforms – we don’t mind. We want you to be successful, so as long as you follow Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, we’re fine with it.

Speaking of Ofcom, our team will be moderating all material submitted to confirm it follows the rules.

This project has been quite the slog. We probably would have done it slightly differently if we knew it would have taken this long! It’s also just the start of the project, and product, and we’re very open to suggestions.

Dean, Andy and particularly Dave have all done a great job building it and the wider Folder team, particularly Gregory have been very good at humouring me whilst we’ve been getting this to launch. We’ve also worked closely with RCS for the final playout and distribution, Sharpstream and Radioplayer for streaming and Arqiva and Radioscape for DAB distribution. The Fun Kids and Create teams have also helped seed some programming on the service.

Like all new projects part of this is a bit of a punt. But sometimes you just have to build it to see what happens. What’s your show going to be?

All the RAJAR Hits, All Day Long – Q4/2016

It’s the final RAJAR book of 2016 and time to have a quick whistle-stop tour and see what’s been happening. Stick around and I’ll tell you about a breakfast show ratings swap, a station that’s halved it’s hours since launch and we’ll see what’s happening share-wise in a certain city. [13sec]

Breakfast

In the week where Dave Berry’s announced he’s swapping Leicester Square for Golden Square, his Capital Breakfast Show has been knocked off the top spot by Rickie, Melvin and Charlie at Kiss. Capital Breakfast now has a weekly reach of 881 vs Kiss’s 983k.

London

A breakfast drop has not helped Capital in the battle for London’s market share either. The top commercial stations are now:

  1. LBC 97.3 – 5.5%
  2. Magic – 4.7%
  3. Kiss – 4.5%
  4. Heart 4.1%
  5. Classic FM – 3.7%
  6. Capital FM – 3.7%
  7. Absolute Radio – 2.0%
  8. Smooth Radio London – 1.7%
  9. talkSPORT – 1.7%
  10. Radio X – 1.4%
  11. Capital Xtra – 1%
  12. Gold – 0.8%

Well done to LBC on it’s third highest share ever and getting over the 1million mark for reach. Though very disappointing for Capital to now lag behind Classic FM in London share.

Kiss London had good increases across the board making it the number 1 commercial station in London for reach, pipping Capital to the number 2 spot.

Global

Radio X has seen the areas it’s on FM – London and Manchester – have ratings improvement, with the overall national figure stable year on year and quarter on quarter at 1.2m reach.

Heart Extra’s 2nd RAJAR book sees a slide from 664k to 437k, no doubt as a result of dumping its regular programmes for Heart Extra Christmas (and playing a weird mix of Christmas music at that). I’m still unsure why they don’t give it a more understandable brand. Club Classics, 70s, Musicals – I think all would do better.

Bauer

Well done to Free Radio which has had a tough few years. They seem to have stemmed any decline over the past few quarters and are starting to see some hours growth. With the Big City Network taking on their revised music policy, it will be interesting to see whether those stations’ figures go the same way.

Absolute Radio 90s has been gradually creeping up over the past few quarters. It’s now hit 727k reach without even being a true national DAB station (it mainly exists in the cities).

On the other hand Heat, which has been national on D2 for a year continues to fall back – now at 720k reach. Time to swap them over and see Absolute 90s grow further?

The main Absolute Radio has returned to its standard 2.1m reach stomping ground after an outlier book which gave them 2.6m last time round.

Wireless Group

Nothing to particularly shout about at Hatfields this quarter. TalkSPORT returns to above 3m reach, but back to 18m hours after two books of 21m.

TalkRADIO hasn’t managed to solidify it’s growth last time around falling back to 252k reach and some likely unlucky diary placement resulting in its hours being halved.

A similar fate has hit Virgin Radio, it’s seen its reach this quarter drop a little from 324k from 344k, but its hours are around half the launch quarter, now coming in at 757k.

Radio 1

Some mixed results for Radio 1. The headline figure is that it’s down three quarters of a million reach year on year (about half of which were 15 to 24s). Quarter on quarter its down 311k (again half from 15 to 24s). Total listening hours though, are relatively steady, and the hours coming from the remaining 15 to 24s are the best they’ve had all year.

The breakfast show has however been doing slightly better than the station. Whilst it’s seen a drop year on year, this quarter has rebounded slightly adding 100k listeners.

Listening to the show during January, creatively it’s seen quite a bit of renewal. It’s had a strong contesting month concentrating on an 8am appointment to listen, good daily guests, with the best bits repeated the following day and more benchmarking of features like the entertainment news. I think it’s sounding the best it has for a long time. I think the new imaging from Contraband is top notch too. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s reflected in its Q1 figures in three months time.

Bauer, again.

With all the furore about the style guide, I had a listen to a 3pm hour of Hallam this week to see how it all sounded on-air. To my ears it sounded very clean. The new playlist and the majority focus on music sells did seem to give it more consistency than it’s had for a long time.

It’s also obvious that a cleaning like this is the right thing you do when you start a re-build of a station. Strip out a lot of the features, have a consistent sound and then gradually add back on the other elements.

It’s no fun to be entirely positive though, so I’d say that a much bigger issue than clearing your teases with the Content Director is the positioner. Surely “All the Biggest Hits – All Day Long” has too many words? Isn’t “The Biggest Hits – All Day” tighter and brighter?

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

Classic FM’s 25th Birthday

I have huge affection for Classic FM. I spent four years working alongside them in Classic FM House and then three years in Leicester Square. I also used to produce and tech-op, often very badly, for the station and even helped to get their licence renewed. The latter was a very, er, interesting process and definitely one for the autobiography.

Anyway, I think much of the station’s success over the years has come from a happy desire to do what they think is right for their audience, rather than following what is expected of a station with a classical music format.

It’s also been a station that’s often underestimated. I remember flicking through the pre-launch coverage and no-one believed that it would be able to get more than 2m listeners (the audience for Radio 3 at the time). It launched with 4m and now has over 5m. Radio 3 remains at 2m.

This year it celebrates its 25th Birthday, which is as good a time as any to announce a raft of new initiatives. These include:

  • Classic FM and the Royal Philharmonic Society commission 6 brand new pieces of music by young composers
  • April is ‘Live Music Month’ with 18 exclusive concerts broadcast on air
  • Live stream of a celebration concert with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra
  • Classic FM’s Music Teacher of the Year Awards
  • Re-launch of a nice, mobile responsive ClassicFM.com

But the thing I think is the most interesting is the introduction of a new (6 part) radio show about videogame music presented by Jessica Curry.

If you’re not really exposed to video games then I imagine you could be saying “really?”. But video games are a bigger industry than movies, a medium that Classic FM created the first soundtrack show for in the late 90s.

It’s also an area that fans feel very strongly about legitimising. Tracks have started appearing in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame and the station’s run a number of well received specials over the past few years. Indeed, just look at the response to the new presenter’s tweet about it:

It’ll be interesting to see the response to the show and whether it becomes a more permanent feature.

Congratulations to Classic FM on hitting the 25 to 34 demo, and probably attracting a few more of them too.

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.