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 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?


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.


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 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

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:


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.


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.


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.

Chris Moyles – RAJAR Q4/2015

I’m sure they’ll be a load of press coverage around the return of Moyles this quarter. The problem is that we haven’t really got all the data in yet to properly say how he’s doing.

Radio X’s London figures are measured over three months, but Radio X elsewhere – in Manchester and the ‘UK’ – is measured over a six month period. Therefore, this time round we only get half Radio X and half XFM.

So, what do we know?

Well, I think there will be some disappointment about how he, and the new Radio X, has done in London. They’ve gone from a station reach of 507k to 517k. Which is fairly flat. The show itself has had the best reach for about eight years (and hours for about ten), but it’s still perhaps not quite the scale everyone had hoped for. At a push I’d say that it’s likely that they’ve churned a lot of listening – ie they’ve brought in a similar amount to what they’ve lost. What tells me that? Well the proportion of Radio X listeners who listen to breakfast has gone up quite a bit – 42% to 58%. 104.9 is now a radio station with a base of Moyles fans.

I thought it would have been Moyles’ London figures that would have had the strength, with the rest of the country, because of the 3/6 month thing, gradually following further behind in the next few surveys. But, it hasn’t really worked like that. Even with a 6 month survey period, it’s the UK numbers – that look at the station as a whole – that have seen the growth. For the UK station, reach is up from 1.04m to 1.22m and the national breakfast numbers are up around 40%. Looking at the data it seems like he’s also sitting on a strong UK book for next time, when we’ll perhaps see him on the verge of doubling the old XFM UK breakfast audience.

Similar to London, 97.7 in Manchester has been pretty flat too, with the audience even dropping back a little this quarter.

I suppose what’s happened is that for Manchester and London, where X was on FM, this has all been a bit of a shock – these were stations with passionate audiences. Moyles has brought in new listeners and it’s about balanced out the ones who’ve fled. However, where the growth for Radio X is coming from, is outside its two FM cities. To these listeners this is very much a new radio station.

Global are seemingly on the road to a successful launch of their new station – driven by digital listening – outside of the analogue areas. As the national figures get a full book next quarter, I think we’ll start to see it look more like a success.

Listening to Moyles, the shows three months on are perhaps unsurprisingly much stronger than the early few. The team, who were all very uncertain of their roles and what the dynamic would be, have settled into a much more steady rhythm with individual personalities coming to the fore. Pippa’s dating storylines have really helped round her out and Dave, nervous of Moyles in the beginning, is being given much more meaty things to do and sound much more confident and happy taking part.

I think part of the thing they’re aiming for is a much more relaxed feel. Positioning themselves against formatted breakfast shows, using authenticity (of which Chris has buckets) to make the show seem different is not a bad tactic. Whilst I enjoy the show, as a listener the lack of benchmarks, the changing competition mechanics and thus the need to provide quite a bit of explanation and exposition can though make it hard to navigate.

Overall though, the show is clearly a good one and, with the right focus, will only get better. Global themselves have never been shy of spending money on marketing, but just reading the Facebook page and tweets to Moyles, there is still a big job to do to teach people that not only is Moyles on Radio X, but that’s it’s easy to tune into digitally. There is still more old listeners to deliver across.

Moyles: The show is clearly a good one and, with the right focus, will only get better: Click To Tweet

However for Global and Moyles to achieve the promise, they’re going to have to stay focused and keep delivering. They’ve made a more solid start to this battle than it perhaps seems on the surface, but there’s still a good way to go.

There’s normally more RAJAR fun from Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough.

RAJAR Q3/2015

Some things I’ve noticed from this quarter’s RAJAR…


Another good quarter for digital radio. 41.9% of all radio listening in the UK is on a digital platform (two-thirds of that is through DAB). 63% of the country listen to some form of digital radio each week – that’s 30m listeners. 20m listeners listen to DAB each week, 9m listen online and 7.7m tune in through their telly.

I really feel for you if you’re radio station isn’t on some broadcast digital platforms. The real world effect of that 41.8% means that your available audience is now only 60% of the market, a huge handicap before you’ve even started.

National digital stations are now huge parts of UK radio listening. Absolute 80s has 1.5m, Kisstory 1.3m, Kerrang’s on 820k, Heat’s on 912k, Planet Rock on 1.2m, 6Music on 2.1m, 1Xtra on 1.1m and Radio 4 Extra with a super strong 2.2m.

With hybrid analogue/digital networks – Magic doubles its London FM audience  – now reaching 3.4m and Smooth Extra (the Smooth that fills in the gaps of the FM Smooth’s) has a first book of 930k.

If you’re a stand-alone local station wondering where your audience is going – this is the answer!

Radio 1

  • Radio 1 has had its 2nd lowest 15-24 reach ever.
  • The Radio 1 Breakfast show has its lowest ever 15-24 reach
  • 15-24’s make up the (joint) lowest proportion of its total audience ever.
  • 15-24’s make up the third lowest proportion of the Breakfast Show’s total audience ever.
  • Radio 1’s average age is the second highest it’s been in the last ten years.

I don’t envy Radio 1’s challenge. Getting younger audiences to listen to the radio is hard and it maintains a huge heritage with older audiences. Nick’s breakfast show is sounding better than it has for a long time and it still generates a 22% share of 15-24s – which is impressive.

However, it is Radio 1’s job to fix the problems above. It gets £40m to ensure that it can do an exceptional job of catering for young audiences. Kiss and Capital have as much heritage but manage a younger average age. Capital, with much worse distribution manage nearly 80% of R1’s 15-24 reach and beats it for 10 to 14s. R1’s budget and marketing access give it massive advantages that it should be benefiting from.

In its RAJAR press release Radio 1’s Controller trumpets the YouTube reach (1m views a day and 85% of audience aged 13-34). I think this makes the on air figures all the more disappointing. R1 has built an amazing YouTube platform with loads of great content, however it does virtually nothing to get the people it reaches to listen to the radio. Of the last five videos I can see – Innuendo Bingo, Derulo Live Lounge, Bieber on Grimmy, Pia Surprise Karaoke/Edmondson, Pewdiepie – the only one that has any reference to on-air, sort of, is PewdiePie where the description mentions that you can watch the takeover show on the Radio 1 website on a certain day. Even then it fails to mention that it’s also on the radio.

With the rest there’s no reference to how you can listen to Scott/Clara/Nick/Matt or when you should tune in. Hiding behind ‘teens don’t listen to the radio’ is easier to do when you not using your relationships with them to encourage them to listen to the radio.

Radio 1 is full of great content, so why at the end of Nick’s Bieber vid didn’t they say who’s the next big guest, what day they’re on and how to listen? Same for the Live Lounge. Why isn’t Clara IDing it reminding us to listen in the morning?

If you haven’t watched it, there’s a great clip with Greg James and Vin Diesel (stay with me) where he gets quite emotional about the Live Lounge. These are the sort of connections with audiences we would sell our Mums to get hold of – it’s such a wasted opportunity not to take this passion and use it to generate more value for the station.

There of course is an argument that Radio 1 is not just a radio station, but the BBC’s vessel for reaching young audiences and therefore YouTube, the iPlayer channel, Twitter etc all work as their own unique platforms and they should be creating specific content for those channels. I just don’t buy it. Radio 1 has a service licence that almost entirely concentrates on being a radio station – digital platforms are there to support the radio. Not the other way around.


London remains such a competitive place commercially. Capital’s had a bit of a resurgence over the past few quarters, this time winning the city in share, but losing out by around 3,000 listeners to Kiss for the biggest reach.


It’s the last book for XFM before it becomes Radio X and we see how Moyles is getting on. As is often the case, it’s had a great book! Biggest network figures since 2007 and best London numbers for two years. There’s often a similar peak when presenters are working out their last quarter – does the lack of pressure allow everyone to be a purer version of themselves and become more successful? Discuss.


Key 103 still faces quite a bit of trouble. Its figures are similar to last quarter, though Heart North West now has more hours in its TSA – taking Key from commercial number 3 to commercial number 4.


Jack (and Jack 2) have been plugging away on their target to being bigger in reach terms than Heart (the old Fox FM) in their TSA. The combined Jack and Jack 2 are now just 4,000 listeners behind Heart – an impressive feat. Whilst being neck and neck isn’t going to worry Global that much, for a local operator it gives them a great angle when talking to local advertisers and pushing up their rates.


A good result for Orion, quarter on quarter increases for all of their stations and for most, year on year increases too. There’s also a great reach figure for Gem of 476k – up there with its best ever quarters.


  • Adam Bowie always gives a good run down of the figures
  • John Rosborough tends to give an update on Northern Ireland’s stations

The Mirror’s Ampp3d and UsvsTh3m

Today’s the second recent new media launch for The Mirror. Ampp3d is following hot on the heels of UsvsTh3m.

Ampp3d, according to their Facebook page is “a topical, data-driven site from the Daily Mirror, making journalism more accessible through data visualisations”. Whilst UsvsTh3m makes “toys, games and quizzes”.

UsvsTh3m has been a real success. I’m not going to explain how and why it works, as Martin (who created it) has written a great post all about it here. Short version – starting from scratch, using a very light team and little corporate interference, they’ve created a new site that’s generating 7m users a month. This is particularly driven by very topical, funny games. Also, unlike newspapers where all the traffic comes from SEO, their traffic comes from social sharing. Only downside, their focus has been on audience rather than revenue, which mean’s there’s no monetisation in it currently. In my mind totally the right thing to do – I’d rather have a site up and launched with 7m users than one stuck in corporate hell, with no visitors, but a revenue plan.

What I  find interesting is how Ampp3d’s an evolved version of their first launch. Whilst, I’m sure this is partly demographic, it’s notable that:

  • The site runs off WordPress rather than Tumblr (less native virality but much more control)
  • It carries Mirror branding (on site and in the URL)
  • It carries banner ads from the start

Whilst I’m sure that banners aren’t really its main plan for monetisation – I’m sure that’ll be good old native content – getting them in early at least means you can decide whether to keep them later. Banner positions are also handy if you want to skin in sponsors of sections and such later on. Introducing commercial units later on can disappoint users – it’s good to set some expectations early.

The Mirror branding is probably confidence more than anything else. The first project was launched in 6 weeks, with a “if it doesn’t work in three months we’ll close it” attitude. At that point it was probably wise to distant itself from The Mirror. Now there’s more confidence and potentially a slightly less edgy proposition, it makes sense to add the branding for Ampp3d.

Hindsight’s clearly a wonderful thing, but I wonder that if they knew how much of a success UsvsTh3m was going to be, whether they would have changed any of the branding/monetisation decisions?

The best part of this story though, is look what can be achieved when a corporate finds good people and lets them get on with it. Plus the support you give them is the stuff your company’s good at – in this case The Mirror’s picture desk and duty lawyer!

Austereo’s Roadtrip Forever

I think commercial radio’s biggest issue is that it forgets that its job is to provide compelling entertainment and experiences to its listeners and successful, innovative products to its advertisers.

Commercially, particularly, radio needs to raise its game above spots and a bit of S&P.

I really like what Austereo have done with the Transport Accident Commission. It’s not ‘radio’ but it’s helping meet the business needs of their customers.

Have a go with their Roadtrip Forever.

Afterwards, watch the ‘making of‘ video.

Jobs By Twitter

Alan Geere who heads up Editorial at Northcliffe South has just put out an interesting job ad.

Well, the job’s not particularly interesting, it’s a call for reporters on his titles. The way he’s asked for it though is. He only wants replies through Twitter as an @message.

He says:

I’m fed up wading through turgid ‘letters of application’ and monstrous CVs outlining an early career in retail handling and a flirtation with the upper slopes of the Andes.

I want reporters who can find stories that no-one else has got and write them quickly and accurately.

As someone who’s had to wade through a lot of applications recently I definitely agree that it’s a soul-destroying experience and you’re just crying out for someone to be different.

There are lots of people being sniffy about his idea, unfairly I believe. The purpose of a covering letter/CV is to get an interview. No one gets hired directly from their written application. So why not use a 140 characters method?

You can, of course, read the applications through Twitter Search.

p.s If you’re after radio jobs, I do a free email, details on the right.

State of Radio – Q2/11

I’m a big believer in RAJAR. It’s a big survey that talks to  lots of people. When i’ve commissioned my own research, using a very different methodology the numbers are comparable. Also, i’m a big believer in trend being the best way to look at numbers. Of course, there may be oddities in any survey, but your trend line is the best indicator for how you’re doing.

This is why i’m not that bothered about the ups and down of the majority of well-established radio stations. There needs to have been a major change at a station or in a market before that’s interesting.

On the big changes front, for many of the new Capital stations this is the first book that’s all Capital, having jetisoned any residual numbers from their previous incarnations. If you look at the network as a whole it’s only a marginal change of hours up 1% and reach down 1%. Other than some hours declines, for the majority of the new Capital’s its been just about business as usual. Two though, stand out – South Wales and Birmingham.

South Wales has seen its reach drop 15% and its hours 20%. That’s quite a drop for the old Red Dragon and looking at (perhaps an unrepresentative quarter) could suggest that losing its Welsh position maybe hurting it. At the other end of the spectrum, Capital Birmingham has added 20% to its hours. Is this the benefit of ditching the legacy of being an urban station and being reborn as a pop one? Only time will tell.

The other big change – BBC 7 to 4Extra – has generated another 400k listeners to that service. Why? Cross-promotion and being part of a wider brand family. It’s now the UK’s biggest digital station.

I also think Jack in Bristol deserves significant kudos for dumping an under-performing format and replacing it with one that’s cut through. It’s been another record RAJAR result and it looks like there’s still some room for even more growth.

Big changes (like the Original to Jack flip) produce behavioural shifts, but then gradual change can have the same effect too.

Gradual change isn’t as fun or exciting though. The transition from the analogue to digital world for the radio industry is something that’s certainly taking its time. Our listeners have had thirty years of analogue commercial and BBC radio available in every device under the sun – kitchen radios, hi-fi’s, portables, car sets – and in every place they go – home, car, work or on the move. The ubiquity of radio in form and location means that 90% of the population use it and  they consume an eye (ear?) watering 24 hours a week of it. It’s the kind of media consumption that any other product or platform would kill for.

At the same time we’re offering listeners digital radio options too. Though, to be honest we’re making it quite difficult for them. For content we’ve gone from ubiquity – every station (in my area) available on every type of analogue radio – to one where we  put different stations on different platforms (just compare the line-ups on DAB and DTV), for cost we’ve gone from ‘free at the point of use’ to charging people based on usage for some devices (mobile data), for devices we’ve gone from every form factor being available cheaply (or often free) to one where you pay a premium and sometimes it’s hard to install (like in-car DAB).

We’ve also done all of this whilst continuing to provide radio that they’re used to, is still free and works on every device.

Looking at it, it’s amazing that anyone’s decided to listen to radio on DAB, Digital Television or the Internet.

But they have. They’ve decided that they want something more than what’s provided on analogue – be it choice, coverage, quality, ease of use. Now they haven’t decided to opt-out of analogue (even the most ferverent digi-phile still uses analogue in someway) but they’ve added a chunk of digital ‘to fix’ their radio listening.

Sometimes people who work at (predominantly) analogue radio stations dismiss the need for digital – they talk about it not affecting them – that their digital listening is small and not growing. They often forget that analogue and digital needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Our listeners are more than comfortable being multi-platform – listening to some stations on analogue devices and some others on digital ones. In probably most households the analogue device consumes the majority of listening, the digital the secondary.

I think all of these things hide quite fundamental changes. Though, as I started to dig through some of the data, you start to see how our listeners are building a new parallel structure of listening.

The availability concept can be demonstrated by NME Radio. Its been on and off a number of platforms in its short life. However, the reach over this time stays pretty static. Why? Well, listeners need to be aware of the service and then if it’s something they would like to listen to, they then seek it out – however they can get it. The circled area is when NME was nationwide on DAB. A small reach increase, but a massive hours jump. Why? The awareness doesn’t change, but suddenly a lot of these listeners can get in on a device they have more access to – their DAB digital radio – a device that’s much easier to listen for a decent length of time on (no fighting those in the house who want to watch Eastenders on the digital TV).

The dominance of analogue radios for primary listening points can be seen in the chart below. This shows platform consumption over a weekday. Breakfast and daytime is dominated by analogue radio, which then, like all radio drops away as we get into the evening. DAB (the red) and DTV (the green) grows – I’d wager these are  people opting out of traditional listening to consume non-analogue stations.

Availability of listening on digital devices is strong – over 40% of people listen to some type of digital radio each week. It’s interesting to see how Absolute have used their new stations to repair and then grow their total hours. At a time when there have obviously been issues for their main service, they’ve weathered the storm by bringing new products that are bringing significant hours to their business.

In fact the impact is such that they are transitioning into a predominantly digital business:

The thing that Absolute are actually benefiting from is wide digital radio reach but a low number of new mainstream choices for listeners.

This latent demand can be seen by the next chart – this is the Eagle TSA and analogue/digital reach. It’s not stacked, so the blue is analogue at just under 500k listeners, with digital at around 250k. Now this is a TSA where the local multiplex hasn’t switched on yet – so the Eagle only exists in an analogue (and internet) environment. For an ILR The Eagle’s doing quite well at the moment, but what I’d be worried about is that, at speed, the TSA are listening on devices that I don’t broadcast on. As these radio listeners transition from the devices being for secondary consumption to primary consumption the competition in the marker (even if we assume they’ll be on digital) will be severe.

If ever there was a need for evidence that there’s the ability for swift change is to look at the success of the transition of Radio 4 Extra from BBC7. Adding 440,000 listeners in one quarter isn’t about gradual development of new platform listening – its 440,000 digital listeners ready to switch into content that’s been promoted to them.

Last chart for today is one showing analogue vs digital hours for the BBC’s national stations:

To me this is the bell weather. The BBC’s national stations are available everywhere and the services have high awareness. There’s a mix of analogue favourites and new digital stations too. Taken as a whole a third of their output is now consumed digitally.

If unlike the BBC and Absolute, your output isn’t being consumed digitally at a similar pace then I think you have a problem. The audience is tooling up to consume more radio digitally – both to new and existing stations. Well over 40% listen digitally, the barrier isn’t the idea, its just a physical issue –  analogue sets are currently occupying the places that generate the most consumption.

If I owned or worked at an existing analogue station it’s not whether my reach was up 2% or that Capital nudged ahead in the market – it’s whether i’d built a brand that was going to be consumed by digital listeners – because that’s who my listeners have become and there’s far more competition on that dial.