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.

What are you listening to?

No, not a RAJAR post. Maybe one of those later.

This has been around a while – a guy, Ty Cullen, in New York stopped people in the street and asked what they were listening to on their iPods.

Here’s the video:

There’s also another one that’s been done, this time in London…

I think what’s lovely about these is that people are, generally, happy to tell the questioner what they’re listening to. It’s also really great to catch people in the moment of consumption and how they’re pretty much all smiling when they share their secret passion.

An Award for Shows or Podcasts

An email from Suzie at the BT Digital Music Awards, reminding me about the Best Radio Show or Podcast category and that it’s nearly the closing date (15th July, now 19th July). It’s open to any music-related podcasts or radio shows created by a company with a UK presence and available via digital platforms to listeners in the UK in the past year.

One of the nice things about this award is that ranks radio shows and podcasts alongside each other, looking at content, expertise, creativity and effectiveness.

The details….

Entry requirements

The podcast or radio show must have been available to listeners at some point between 1st August 2010 and the present day. Entrants will be asked to supply a url where the show or podcast can be accessed or a digital recording of one or more of the shows or podcasts for the judges to sample along with the completed submission form. On receipt of an entry, the entrant will be emailed a submission form to complete in no more than 1000 words covering the points mentioned in the judging criteria below.

Judging criteria

What is your podcast or radio show about? How do you select your content?

Who is your podcast or radio show aimed at and how is it marketed to them? How do listeners access your podcast or show?

What makes your podcast or show unique and interesting? How do you use your content to attract listeners?

Evaluate how successful your show or podcast has been in achieving its original objectives. Give evidence such as size of or increase in listenership, listener interaction or good PR (please note that your submission will be judged for its relative success. Judges will be instructed to pay attention to percentage growth, rather than simple volume of listeners).

All the details are here on the BT Digital Music Awards website.


Radio’s Twitter Obsession

Dick Stone wrote a blog post about Twitter last month, touching on the fact that stations looking at Twitter buzz has replaced “all the lines lit up” as justification for  a particular feature etc. I’d go a bit further than what he said and say that radio has an unhealthy and incorrect obsession with Twitter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. I was an early user and still a regular one – Tweetdeck tells me I tweet on average four times a day. It entertains me, I get to hear from people much brighter than I am and it’s helped in work – it’s connected me to people that now use our services and it’s helped us get press coverage too.

I am, however, like many of us, a media wanker. I like showing off and I like hearing from other show offs. I’m so entrenched in using it that I think it’s the cleverest most important and relevant thing in the world. I can talk about those super-injunctions, I can get i-rate about the latest Daily Mail poll and revel in Charlie Brooker’s put downs. The problem is real people, they really couldn’t care less.

They’re not stupid, they know what it is. Well, how could they not, it infects radio and television like a media-spawned virus. It’s just not that interesting for them. The vast majority of every Twitter mention on the radio is clutter that gets in the way of stations communicating with audiences.

Here’s a list of things that radio gets wrong.


Stations have created the most confusing way to tell people how to get involved via Twitter. Often different presenters each have different accounts with different descriptive styles. To take Radio 1 as an example (but similar problems affect everyone) – they go from @chrisdjmoyles (a dj in the middle?) to @fearnecotton to @gregjames to @scott_mills – an underscore ffs! They also mention @bbcr1  (an abbreviation they use nowhere else) sometimes on-air, but not all the time. Often they mention that station account and a DJ account together. There’s also now the introduction hashtags on air – be it for a breakfast feature or for something like #r1bw.

Giving out confusing Twitter usernames is the equivalent of giving all of your presenters different phone numbers or email addresses with different domains. It’s hard for listeners to understand and for people not on Twitter it’s irrelevant clutter that gets in the way of content that’s relevant for them.

Follower Counts

One of the biggest issues is an obsession with follower counts. If you’re a webmaster who gets annoyed at the amount of social network mentions compared to website mentions, i’ll tell you the answer – it’s all because with Facebook/Twitter presenters get to see a number increasing in the corner of their screen. They equate more ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ with success. Presenters crave feedback and this gives them it. It is, of course, irrelevant.

There is little accuracy to Facebook’s ‘like’ numbers and follower numbers are inflated too. Why not go through your Twitter account removing anyone that’s not a ‘real’ person – corporate accounts, spam etc. You’re hesitating aren’t you? Why, because you’re obsessed with having a high follower number! How many times have you seen “just ten more followers and I break 500, or 1,000” etc. Totally pointless metric.

The right things to measure are how many @replies have we had, how many retweets, how many click through – measure the engagement – that’s the true measure of your success.

Follow Me Pleading

“Hi, you can follow me on Twitter, i’m @somethingquitecomplicatedtodowithmyname”. Why? It’s the modern equivalent of hearing “give me a call” without giving a reason why. “Hi, you can follow me on Twitter, i’m @somethingquitecomplicatedtodowithmyname (not that it helps as you probably don’t know my name),  i’m quite needy and I can use my follower numbers to show people like me and replace the fact the PD hasn’t snooped me for a week and I had a slightly poor RAJAR”.

The vast majority of your listeners are not on Twitter. They don’t want to follow you. They can’t follow you. It slightly annoys them because you’re going on about something that they don’t use and can’t be involved in. Every time you mention it you exclude people. In fact, it annoys the people who already follow you, as you’re wasting their time with a link that’s irrelevant to them.

Your aim should be to signify to people on twitter that you’re on it and if they follow you they get a benefit – without annoying everyone else.

“Paul just tweeted @localdj asking for the new Take That song, it’s on next” is a great way to do it. You’ve told people your username, you’ve shown there’s value in getting in touch that way and it hasn’t cluttered the radio station.

Reaching Twitter Users on Twitter

The trap radio people fall into is that they think “Hey, we’ve got 200k listeners – if I talk about Twitter on there that’s the easiest way to get more followers!” whilst ignoring the massive number of people who aren’t interested. This slips into “oh, just one more mention” and on it goes. More clutter on the radio.

A much more efficient way of growing followers is to use the places that they’re more likely to be – Twitter.  Use other presenter of station accounts to retweet your messages and just write interesting messages that will be organically retweetable too! Also remember to follow people who @message you and the station during your show

Depending on how you’ve written your data protection rules, you can also use Twitter’s email checker to see if people who email you have a Twitter account that you can then follow. Just export all the email addresses of people who’ve been in touch to a fresh Gmail account – then just connect your Twitter account to it. It will tell you out of those people who’s got an account and away you go adding them.

Also make sure that the places people go to find you have links to your Twitter account – station websites and email newsletters as well as your Facebook page.

Twitter is about relationships not replicating broadcasting.

A few people just use Twitter to send messages out, never engaging with anyone. This is clearly a bad thing. But you probably don’t do that, do you? You send @replies and reply to listeners that message you, you’re all interactive, right?

How many of you follow back listeners? How many of you actually read the stream of tweets from your listeners that aren’t to do with your radio station? Do you independently get excited about what you’re listeners are up to? They follow you, but you don’t follow them – well, unless you follow them because you feel you have to.

If you can’t bear muggles infecting your feed create a list for ‘listeners’ – you can then read their tweets independently of your ‘real’ friends. But do it and engage with them. Congratulate them on births, commiserate on staying in and doing exams. They will be so impressed that you, that famous person, is interested in them, that you’ll have a listener for life.

Is it really you?

Punters want to follow presenters because they buy into them on-air and want that on-line and in their feed. If you are a personality presenter at the top of your game this is probably fine. You are probably mainly like your on-air persona, even if the volume is turned down a little bit in real life.

If your on-air persona is just that, and Twitter is the ‘real’ you then you have a problem. The reason the listener followed you is because of who you are on-air. If that’s smiley and breezy they’ll be surprised when they find out you mainly tweet about the government’s failings, back and forward in-jokes with the presenter on the station across town and plugs for your club nights. You need to deliver on your on-air promise – whether that’s a lie or not.

Station Accounts

One for the bosses – does your on-air team have a strong enough personality to justify a Twitter account each? You can almost justify the Radio 1 example at the beginning by saying that all their daytime jocks are big personalities and can sustain separate identities. Is it the same for, say, a small ILR? Do your listeners really know the name of the afternoon presenter? Is getting them to engage with a Twitter account for that person adding too many barriers to get a connection with a listener?

I believe that for the vast majority of people, they follow presenters as an extension of the radio show and station. If they disappeared off the radio, following them on Twitter wouldn’t be as interesting any more. For this reason, I think the majority of stations would do better with Twitter if they replaced their individual presenter accounts with that of a station one.

Also from a cynical business perspective, presenters are plugging their own accounts on your time, to your audience. Their growth in followers comes directly from them being on your  radio station. The numbers they amass and the relationship built can then be transferred to your competitor radio station.

When Chris Moyles finally disappears off Radio 1 to a new station, he’ll be giving 1 million Radio 1 fans reasons to switch radio stations.

The way around this is to let each presenter ‘host’ the station Twitter account during their show – but also at other times where it’s relevant. There’s no reason why the breakfast show team shouldn’t be tweeting about Eurovision at 8pm on a Saturday night.

The sell to presenters is that by using the main account they’ll be reaching more people and better improving their chances of growing audience -ie a follower who wants to hear about Breakfast will also find out about reasons to tune into the evening show.

Some people say that this isn’t the essence of Twitter – that brand accounts don’t match the authenticity of individuals. I disagree. Especially in radio, by combining the station’s brand values alongside individuals that live that brand, actually makes station accounts more compelling – and help to drive audience.

Return on Investment

As mentioned before, Twitter and Facebook are often enthusiastically used by presenters because it gives them instant feedback – but sometimes at the detriment of station’s own objectives.

Have a plan for how media is used. Don’t use Twitpics – work out a way to have those snaps go to a station website and link to that. Track all of your links so you can see what’s driving click thrus, measure which presenters are sending the most traffic and share the good practice amongst everyone.

Make sure that station key messages are used on Twitter too. If there’s a big breakfast promotion, tweet at different times in different ways talking about it. Radio followers are probably all P1s – there’s a great chance to increase hours by using Twitter properly.


Overall, Twitter is a great resource and platform to help grow audience and engagement. Remember though that the vast majority of your listeners probably don’t care. It’s not your job to evangelise Twitter to rejectors, it’s about finding ways to reach existing Twitter users with the right kind of content that helps grow your station and improve connection with your audience.

Have the BBC just given up on local radio websites?

Recently someone was talking to me about trying to get a job at a local BBC radio station and he mentioned that he felt their online offer was a bit poor. I’d agreed and said, as far as I understood, it wasn’t an area that’s particularly well resourced locally and he should probably steer clear of lots of web suggestions as programming’s appetite for good online is probably outweighed by what they can deliver. As I was typing that out in the message I thought how rubbish is it that that’s best advice I can give to someone really keen and enthusiastic.

Anyway, it made me have another look at the local sites and it seems some of them are mid-way through a refresh. BBC Bristol seems to be taking the new template. Chatting to someone in the TSA, the URL they apparently give out on air is This brings you to a Barley-esque page, which above the fold has nothing to do with the radio station. Below the fold there are two radio-ish options. You can click ‘TV and Radio’ (bottom left) where you can apparently “Find out more about BBC Bristol programmes” or there’s a ‘BBC Bristol’ link, which might be radio related as there are some radio frequencies underneath it, but it seems more a heading than a link. Oh, and the box is headed TV and Radio, but the content underneath it is radio followed by TV.  There’s also a ‘listen live’ and ‘listen again’ that go to iPlayer and a link to a BBC Programmes-powered schedule.

Oh, the links to iPlayer (live or on-demand) and the BBC Programmes schedule both give a different look and feel to each other as well as that of BBC Bristol. Just to keep it confusing.

So, if I click the TV & Radio link, illustrated by a pic of the Breakfast jock, I don’t got the TV & Radio section – I go to a page about presenters on BBC Bristol. If I click on the BBC Bristol headline I get a TV and Radio mini portal where the top three options, I kid you not, are:

1. BBC Radio Bristol presenters (i’ll skip over the confused sudden emergence of ‘Radio’ that useful word that seems to have been scrubbed everywhere else)

2. Thought for the Day (a daily feature at 7.40 – okay, it’s a breakfast benchmark of sorts, but is that the best thing on the show, or indeed the station?) because point number three is…

3. TV Switchover guidance (which links to an article from 8th December 2008)

On the right hand side there’s a nice graphic for ‘BBC Bristol’ (the radio station – I know this because there’s frequencies). If I click this I go to an alphabetical listing of the programmes on the iPlayer. Handy.

Underneath there’s that BBC Bristol link again, that takes you to, er, this page. Great.

If I go to the BBC Radio Bristol presenters page I get a biog that I guarantee will not be updated until they sack the presenter or refresh the site and then, I think for the first time, something useful. A list, for some, of what’s on the show and how to get in touch. All of this good stuff is below the fold and most users will ignore it when they see the biog that they’ve seen before.

I couldn’t find any other content connected to the radio station on their website. At all. And I looked.

With the danger of going all Daily Mail, am I the only one who finds it amazing that BBC Bristol, a radio station with 162,000 people listening for nearly 2million hours a week, doesn’t warrant a better radio station website than this?

I’m sure there’s loads of great things in BBC Bristol’s programmes and that they and the listeners experiences of them would be enhanced by some online content. Shoving it all on iPlayer does not, in any way, make up for there not being any web editorial. The station website, at the very least, should be curating this content and explaining how great it is and how people can then listen to it.

Either this site isn’t finished yet, in which case, it shouldn’t be online. Or, more likely, no one who’s ever worked at a radio station has had anything to do with it, whatsoever. If I was running BBC Bristol I think i’d refuse to give the website address on-air as I can’t imagine it meeting any listener’s expectations.

The True Cost of Twitter’s Deal with Vodafone UK

When Twitter first started you could get your updates for free on your mobile phone through SMS. This is great, until you get more than ten friends and it starts to get annoying. What was good was that you could get DMs (direct messages) texted or just choose which followers you wanted to get SMSs from.

In the US the SMS model works a little better for Twitter as some users have to pay for the texts they receive – therefore Twitter SMS is good news for telcos! In the UK its free to receive SMS so Twitter was finding itself coughing up a load of dough for sending SMS’s to users, therefore it promptly turned them off.

Until this week. It’s announced a deal with mobile operator Vodafone to re-start it, with free texts to and from Twitter. It’s likely that Twitter will gradually roll this out to other UK mobile operators over the coming months. A deal with a telco doesn’t change the poor economics for Twitter, so there’s got to be something in it for Vodafone if Twitter aren’t paying for the texts, and there certainly is if you look at the T&Cs on Voda’s website:

By linking your twitter account & number, you’re agreeing to receive adverts related to Vodafone services in Twitter updates. If you want to stop receiving adverts, you will need to switch off the Twitter updates by sending STOP to 86444.

It makes sense for Vodafone – it’s a good way for them to speak to their customers.  However, this is the first time ads have appeared appended to messages – is it a sign of Twitter’s future business model?

Strength Through Collaboration

Great news from the Absolute Radio guys this morning, with the announcement that Absolute is going to sell Planet Rock’s airtime. This is definitely going to be the first of many similar deals.

It’s a great combination. Absolute have a sales team that understands ‘digital’ in its widest form and Planet Rock is a solid radio station, with a good and growing audience.

The biggest waste of money for digital-only stations are any costs that arise from them being a stand alone operation. For these stations to grow the only sensible thing to spend money on is distribution, programming and marketing. Anything else just gets in the way.

For Planet Rock to have a big brother to do the airtime sales and to look after S&P themselves is eminently sensible. Airtime is hard for little guys to sell, but easy for big guys to manage. The station itself knows the brand best so having them looking after sponsorship, promotions and branded-content is a nice combination – and one that’s been done successfully by many other stations in the past.

In the coming weeks it would be great to hear the deal go further and have Planet Rock to move into Golden Square too.

Controlling Content

There was a good report on More4 news about Lee Hurst smashing someone’s mobile because the guy was filming his show and he wasn’t too keen on it appearing on YouTube. It also picks up on the opposing views from Andrew Collings and Richard Herring. But one of the things I like most about it was the useful way in which More4 used Twitter to get some other additional views (which it enhanced on its website). Video below.