RAJAR Q3/2011

Another RAJAR and more numbers to analyse.

It’s been quite a good quarter for digital, with listening on digital platforms now accounting for 300m hours a week (that’s more than Radio 1 and Radio 2′s total hours combined). There’s also some quite good news for the digital stations too – Planet Rock has its highest total hours ever – making it bigger than (all of) XFM. Two new digital stations also reach the 1m listeners club – Absolute 80s and Five Live Sports Extra – joining Smash Hits, The Hits, 6Music, 4Extra and Kerrang with Planet Rock and 1Xtra not far behind.

Also, just under 300,000 listeners stopped listening to any form of analogue radio wiping 2.2m hours off analogue’s totaliser.

But really, I’m less concerned about who’s slightly up and down and instead keen to see whether there’s any new trends popping up.

I’ve spent most of this quarter speaking at conferences and leading in-station seminars outside of the UK. The key thing they’re all interested in is trying to track how diverse platforms are going to affect their core analogue businesses. Many are in markets that don’t have any traction with broadcast digital radio, but they still see the internet, mobile and de-regulation as threats to their business.

When I present, I often talk about how amazing analogue radio is. It’s a platform where all consumers have multiple radios that pick it up, receivers are super-cheap, they are available in-home, on the move and at work. Plus limited spectrum means there are few competitors. Woo! I then talk about other industries who felt their barriers to entry were great too, until someone lobbed a hand grenade and blew them apart.

The story I often talk about is Craigslist. In America Craigslist has pretty much destroyed classified advertising for newspapers (and with it much of their business model). Now, it wasn’t Craig’s intention to destroy newspapers, he was trying to solve a different problem. Namely to provide a cheap/free way to get rid of your old stuff. It worked and the knock on was massive to a different industry.

I don’t know what the problem will be that someone will solve that harpoon’s our business, but I do know that if we stick to our one boat – analogue radio – then when it starts sinking it’ll be too late to do anything about it.

I thought it might be interesting to use RAJAR to look at how radio businesses are changing.

The data in the two charts below are the same, but are ordered differently. The data shows hours listened for the larger radio groups, broken down by All hours, Analogue hours, Digital hours (that’s DAB, DTV, Online and Unknown digital combined) as well as DAB, DTV and Net separately. At the end there’s two columns that show the ranking of the groups based on two things – All hours and Digital hours.

This chart below is ranked on All hours – in effect the top, er 14, radio groups as we measure them today.

[includeme src=”http://www.mattdeegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/form1.html” frameborder=”0″ width=”550″ height=”370″]

The second chart shows it sorted on digital hours. If the industry was roughly doing the same thing, you’d expect the charts to be roughly similar. There are some strong similarities but there are some differences too. The groups that stand out are Absolute, Town and Country and Lincs. Absolute moves from being the 6th biggest group to the 4th biggest and Town and Country moves from 13th to 9th. Lincs FM group drop from 8th to 12th.

[includeme src=”http://www.mattdeegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/form2.html” frameborder=”0″ width=”550″ height=”370″]

What does this show? I think for Absolute and T&C it shows they’re building new digital businesses. Both have launched new digital radio stations and extended coverage of analogue ones – Absolute upgrading AM to digital and T&C growing the coverage of some of its analogue stations.

I’m not surprised that some stations moan about digital. They look at it as a large cost to simulcast their service to their analogue audience. Well – it is! Clever groups are using digital to expand their existing stations or they’re creating new ones. For them it’s not about maintaining market share by being on a different platform to the same audience – it’s taking the fight elsewhere and battling for new hours.

And it’s hours that turn into cash – and digital, especially DAB, is a brilliant way to do just that. Global generate nearly 10million additional hours to listeners tuning into their brands on digital, outside of the analogue areas. Absolute now, in total, generate 6m hours more than they did in 2007 when Virgin Radio.

If you hear a radio group moaning that they want to protect analogue (at the same time as doing nothing digitally) surely there’s only one direction for their audience and their business?

The Wanted & Global

A funny article just popped up on The Guardian’s website talking about playlisting in general and specifically that Global (owner of pop radio stations) play The Wanted (an artist managed by another company in their group).

The article touches on payola (paying cash/providing services to get songs on the playlist). In my experience most stations wouldn’t consider playing songs that they think would turn people off their radio station – even for cash. Where the line does get blurry is when events are involved. Whether it’s BBC or Commercial, when a radio station organises a big pop event, they’re guaranteed to up the plays of the artists being featured. Radio 1 often ups the plays before they announce the artists for the Big Weekend, so you can always tell who’s going to be playing.

Probably the closest stations get, is from ‘must carry’ acts for events, ie if you want a Rihanna you have to take a lesser artist on the rosta. That also might result in a few extra plays on the station for that artist.

In the article there’s a mention of the Broadcasting Code in relation to Global’s playing of The Wanted:

No commercial arrangement that involves payment, or the provision of some other valuable consideration, to the broadcaster may influence the selection or rotation of music for broadcast.

UPDATED: Jimmy Buckland writes to tell me ‘undue prominence’ has been removed from the Code. Serves me right for some late Sunday googling. You can tell I don’t really do regulation any more…. 

I’m not sure if this is relevant to Global. I think the question is probably less about the above but perhaps about ‘undue prominence’.

No undue prominence may be given in any programme to a product or service.
The Code goes on to say:
Undue prominence may result from:
the presence of, or reference to, a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) in a programme where there is no editorial justification; or
the manner in which a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) appears or is referred to in a programme.
They’re probably fine on 1, though the fine line is going to be 2. When does a DJ talk up for a song become undue prominence?

Undue prominence is a difficult thing though.

Stations could face the same charge about promoting a station website. Or even someone else’s website. Twitter perhaps, or maybe Facebook?

Selling your own products is nothing new though. We’ve already seen radio stations (and TV channels) named after brands –  Saga FM or the Audi Channel, anyone? Should Audi have had to report on Ford’s cars for balance? What about Sky’s cross-promotion of premium channels on its free to air or basic services?

At the end of the day, Global used their own platform to promote their own band, a band that if famous and successful would be completely on brand for their radio stations. Catch-22. Their first ‘hit’ was generated by significant airplay on Capital/Galaxy and Heart (with some late spot-plays from Bauer) alongside significant online support from the Global websites. The buzz generated by the ‘unexpected’ hit then guaranteed further airplay on other commercial stations and for the first time plays on Radio 1. They’ve gone on to be a successful, albeit odd-looking, boyband.

Surely it would be crazy if radio stations couldn’t use their own channels to promote their own activities? After all, if BMG were to a run a radio station, no one would be surprised if they played their own artists would they?

Perhaps if there has to be some transparency all a station should have to do is mention these activities in their Public File?

I leave the final comment to Popjustice

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Popjustice/status/125650882154086400″]