Digital Listening Statistics

Trusting statistics is a hard thing to do. When they’re good, they’re the truth. When they’re bad, the sample is obviously too small.

My area is radio and new media and I spend a decent proportion of my time with radio clients who I help think about things that affect their businesses. It’s genuinely fascinating work and the insight you get into individual issues really helps you when thinking through other problems too. It also means that we often look at measurements to judge people’s success.

The radio industry’s having a tough old time at the moment it’s been constantly told that it’s about to expire since it began! In reality over 90% of the country listen to the radio for around 24 hours a week, which generates a billion hours of consumption. Really, these are the kind of figures that other media would die to have.

Radio as a medium is fairly well counted. It gets its audience figures quarterly from a body owned by the BBC and Commercial Radio – RAJAR. I believe it is Europe’s biggest consumer survey, interviewing over 130,000 of them every year. For radio stations there are two key figures – Reach (how many people tune into your station in total over a week) and Share (if you take all of the listening in hours in an area, share is what percentage of them are for an individual station). For commercial broadcasters share (and the ‘hours’ that it comes from) is important as that’s the figure that the station uses to sell advertising.

In the recent RAJAR results there was some discussion about Capital drifting below Kiss in terms of share. In fact the top stations (by share) in London were:

1. BBC Radio 4
2. Any Other Station
3. BBC Radio 2
4. Heart
5. Magic
6. BBC Radio 1
7. BBC Radio FIVE LIVE
8. Kiss Network
9. Classic FM
10. Capital 95.8
11. Virgin Radio
12. LBC 97.3
13. talkSPORT
14. XFM
15. Gold
16. Choice
17. BBC Radio 3
18. Sunrise Radio
19. BBC London 94.9
20. Smooth Radio
21. BBC World Service
22. Club Asia 963+972AM
23. LBC News 1152
24. Premier Christian Radio
35. BBC7
26. theJazz
27. BBC 6 Music
28. FIVE LIVE SPORTS EXTRA
29. 1Xtra from the BBC
30. Planet Rock

Normally ‘Any Other Station’ gets removed from charts, but I think it’s useful to have to indicate there’s a lot of listening to non-traditional stations – things like pirates, internet, community radio etc that have chosen not to pay to have their audience measured.

Part of the reason that Capital is seemingly always up for a bit of a kick-in, is that it’s the heritage station in the market and used to be number one. Something that was pretty easy to be when there wasn’t that much competition! Over the years Capital’s audience shrinkage has been large – look at this chart at Media UK. In fact you can look at pretty much any ‘heritage ILR’ station and it follows the same curve. Why? Well, there’s much more competition from other stations on FM as well as other platforms like online, digital television and DAB Digital Radio.

The prevalence of these platforms has in itself become a bit of challenge for radio broadcasters. They want to be available to as many people as possible so they now get their signal to as many different platforms as possible, be that FM, DAB, Sky, Cable, Freeview, IPTV, Internet etc. The cost of this, of course, adds up. Stations have to pay all of the different operators to broadcast or for the internet bandwidth to broadcast. Whilst operators know that they’ve got listeners on all of these different platforms, it’s been hard to judge how many are where and for how long.

RAJAR has been doing a large amount of work on this over the past few years and there’s been some figures confidentially given to stations with regards to platform breakdowns. This quarter, however, the questions have been asked on a much wider level and for the first time stations have been able to get breakdowns for DAB, Digital Television, Internet and AM/FM as well as the more regular ‘all’ figure. There’s also a large ‘don’t know’ figure of around 20% – these are listeners who aren’t sure how they’re listening to something.

The figures are important as it will guide operators about which platforms they should be on as well as which ones they should promote. Remember the important figures are Reach and Share. Reach is good as it shows the percentage of people who tune into the station and Share’s good as it shows consumption of what you do.

Many stations work hard to generate trial of their service by consumers, this then becomes Reach and they work harder to get these new listeners to stay tuned longer which helps hours consumed and thus total Share. It’s always been thought that being on digital platforms helps Reach because appearing in an EPG or on an internet portal will make a station more front of mind and encourage people to tune in.

Looking at London, 92.3% of Londoners tune into the radio each week, 14.9% of people listen to the radio through a DAB Digital Radio set, 9.3% listen on digital television and 6.5% listen to stations on the internet. I think these are interesting figures, I think it’s quite strong for DAB and surprisingly low for the internet. I also expected DTV to do slightly better on Reach. Where I did expect DTV to be low was in hours consumed. My thinking was that there’s lots of competition for use of the television so whilst people might tune in they wouldn’t necessary for very long.

To think about digital consumption I looked at the hours listened ascribed to the different platforms. In London it turns out that 61.5% is analogue share, DAB has 8.3%, DTV 2.2% and Internet 1.9%, the remainder is ‘unknown’ – meaning listeners weren’t sure how they were listening to something.

When comparing these Share figures with the Reach ones it shows that the digital platforms are starting to be used in people’s homes, but it’s not being consumed on these platforms for all of their listening. For example I might listen to DAB in my bedroom, a bit of DTV in the lounge but then a large chunk of listening at work on an FM radio. Saying that though, I still think 8.3% is a great result for DAB (and there’s probably a chunk of unknown that should be attributed to it too).

I thought it might be interesting to look at that Share chart above, but only from the consumption on the digital platforms to see what might pop up. The top 11 for DAB listening share (in London) looks like this:

1. BBC Radio 4
2. BBC Radio 2
3. BBC Radio FIVE LIVE
4. Heart
5. Classic FM
6. Any Other Station
7. Choice
8. Capital 95.8
9. BBC7
10. BBC Radio 1
11. theJazz

What does this show? Well, I think it tallies with our understanding that DAB is ABC1 and a bit older than standard listening. But I think it also shows what happens when your remove broadcast inequalities from stations.

Choice in London has always suffered from a poor FM signal, and I remember in my old GCap days looking at how it did against Kiss in postcode sectors where you could actually hear it – and it tended to be neck and neck with the station, something that was rarely reflected in their official London-wide RAJAR. These DAB figures I think indicates a massive latent demand for the station and as DAB take-up increases we’ll see Choice climbing up in the ratings. If I was Choice I would be promoting DAB like crazy, but off-air, as they’re likely to disproportionately benefit from these new listeners.

The chart also shows how hampered Five Live is on AM and also the possible future success of some digital-only formats. BBC7 is doing exceptionally well but also theJazz, for a new station, has done a great job too. One caution with theJazz is, I imagine, some London listeners who are tuned to Smooth FM (the old Jazz FM) ticking theJazz’s box.

The figures for DTV tell a different story, the top 11 (for Share in London) are as follows, perhaps showing that DTV is somewhat younger and more down-market:

1. Kiss Network
2. Magic
3. BBC Radio 1
4. The Hits
5. BBC Radio 4
6. Heart
7. 1Xtra from the BBC
8. Virgin Radio
9. BBC Radio 2
10. Kerrang!
11. BBC Radio FIVE LIVE

I think it’s interesting to see well-known brands appearing in this chart – much more well known than the equivalent DAB one above. Kiss, Magic, Hits, Kerrang are of course all music TV stations on the DTV platform, the others in the chart are BBC’s or a strong brand like Virgin Radio.

The other thing this new data shows is which platforms are providing the most hours to an individual station. For the stations that have good DAB and DTV coverage, it is generally the DAB that’s providing the bulk of the hours. The Internet is the lowest provider of hours for most stations, but the chart below shows which stations have the internet as a higher part of the listening mix. The top ten (in London by Share) are:

1. Chill
2. BBC 6 Music
3. The Arrow (UK)
4. Total Kerrang!
5. Smash Hits Radio
6. Q
7. Mojo Radio
8. The Hits
9. BBC7
10. Virgin Radio Groove

Perhaps unsurprising it is the non-analogue younger and more male skewed stations that have strong internet consumption.

In summary, what does this all tell us? Well, I think it’s still early days and the figures aren’t yet representative of the population as a whole as they include the biases that the platforms themselves have demographically. What I think it does show is that DAB is shaping up to be the ‘replacement’ for the majority of radio consumption and digital TV is great for a brand extension, but I’m not sure about how successful it will be delivering audiences alone. It also shows that internet broadcasting isn’t the place to be if you want strong hours. If you ignore the fact there’s a massive amount of choice for listeners and just concentrate on total listening to everything online by listeners in London, its reach is only at 6.5%. It would be interesting to have a look at other UK locations, where there isn’t the choice on DAB and other platforms to see if online is stronger there, but at the moment it’s not the place to build a business.

This is also the first time that the results have been released and experience has shown that the best ways to look at RAJAR is to see the trends over a number of quarters rather than look a fixed numbers. That’s the real way we’ll be able to see how digital listening is changing media consumption.

The audience data used here is within the Capital 95.8 TSA in London, 3 months ending June 2007 and is Copyright 2007 RAJAR

2 thoughts on “Digital Listening Statistics”

  1. “It also shows that internet broadcasting isn’t the place to be if you want strong hours.” Perhaps that won’t always be the case though…

    Have you seen some of these Wi-Fi radios that are on sale at the moment? For some time there was only one, quite ugly model, but they’ve suddenly got popular. Most of them work on a database (and possibly also use other technology) supplied by reciva.com.

    Whilst DAB + FM will always provide higher quality for music, internet radio is fantastic for speech, and the idea of being able to listen to stations from anywhere in the world without being tied to a computer is really appealing IMHO.

    From a ratings point of view, the radios also log what you’re listening to, and reciva publish a list of the most popular stations hourly on the website, which is fascinating in itself (even if the figures are skewed in the same way that last.fm has a particular demographic.) Currently UK and Chinese stations are the most popular.

    I’m holding out until the prices drop a bit – although they’ve already hit £50. Perhaps soon they’ll also be a model that provides AM, FM and DAB too.

    Rather puts the Sky Gnome in perspective.

Comments are closed.