RAJAR Q1/2018: Analogue Radio Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Switchover

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

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

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

London

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…

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

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

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

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

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

Alexa, are you radio’s saviour?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAJAR Q4/2018 – The Trend’s Your Friend

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

BBC

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

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

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

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

Global

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

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

Bauer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wireless Group

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

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

Platforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast

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

London

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

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

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

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

Global

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

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

Bauer

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

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

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

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

Wireless Group

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

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

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

Radio 1

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

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

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

Bauer, again.

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

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

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

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

Classic FM’s 25th Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTubers Doing Podcasts and the iTunes Chart

A slightly grumpy tweet prompted a mini-Twitter beef with YouTuber Marcus Butler.

Well, it’s 30ish days later, so let’s have a look.

Marcus who runs a couple of successful YouTube channels has recently started a podcast – Lower Your Expectations. My tweet was in response to his happiness at hitting number 1 in the iTunes Podcast charts before his show launched. My slightly mean spirited missive was less to do with the podcast and more about the nature of the podcast charts.

The iTunes podcast chart measures momentum, rather than success. It looks at a variety of indicators to show how a podcast is doing when compared to others. Over the years it’s seemed that new subscriptions, recent five-star reviews and new comments are key contributors.

iTunes doesn’t want a static chart, it wants movement to give an interesting, of the moment, list to iTunes users. Marcus who comes with a significant established young fan base was always going to be able to dominate the algorithm.

This, alongside some iTunes home page promotion in the key spot, gave the show a great start – with over two weeks at the top of the charts. His current position, 30ish days later, is 94 – still very respectable, though it bounces around a bit.

It’s a good reminder that when launching a podcast you, too, should marshal your fans to drive yourself up the chart. Doing this prompts new sampling from people you don’t know and if they then like what you’re doing, then these new subscribers will help you play the algorithm and keep you on top.

But also it’s a reminder about pacing. If you direct everyone to the podcast straight away you’ll be using up your ability to game the algorithm in a shorter period. If you can arrange a solid stream of subs, comments and reviews over a sustained period you’ll likely keep yourself at the top longer – and therefore give you the ability to be exposed to non-fans over a longer period of time.

YouTubers

As I understand it, there are more podcasts on the way for YouTubers. Particularly ones from Gleam, the talent agency that manages Marcus.

It’s a sensible idea. 2016 has seen YouTubers who’ve built significant audiences diversify into different media. The bedrock of their brands is, of course, YouTube, where they generally produce ‘Main Channel’ videos weekly and “Daily Vlogs” close to daily. For someone like Marcus his channels generate around 10million views a month.

YouTube revenues vary significantly person to person but tend to be a combination of AdSense revenue from Google (you get about £1,000 per million views) alongside specialist brand deals where YouTubers promote products/services in videos (around £5k to £30k for most of them).

On top of the videos most of the big name YouTubers have been creating bespoke online series (for YouTube Red or DVD sell-through), books, other products and doing live tours.

Clearly these things can be great for generating some dosh, but it’s also about trying to embed and grow personal brands.

Building a business on a single platform – in this case YouTube – can be dangerous. Just ask the Viners. A change to the algorithm or the discoverability can have a dramatic effect on your views and revenue. Recently there’s been a spate of YouTubers worrying that YouTube has done just that as they’ve seen big changes to the way that people can see their videos and they’ve seen a drop in views and subscriptions. This is the first public manifestation of the panic many YouTubers have been sharing with each other on their own private Facebook group.

Whilst I think there’s definitely something in this being an alogorithm issue, there’s also pressure on established folks from new entrants. Viewers only have a certain amount of time, so as they start to watch new channels, it’s likely older ones will see some form of a drop off.

Marcus, was one of the 2nd generation of Vloggers. The 1st generation were those who stumbled across the fact YouTube could be a place where native content could thrive. In the UK that’s probably people like Charlie McDonnell. The 2nd Gen, like Marcus, Zoella, Alfie were often inspired by some of these and then very much took it to the next level with higher production values and more regular uploading.

For many in this 2nd generation, five years on, and the platform is harder to work. For many in this group, Marcus included, their YouTube subscription growth has halted.

In many ways it’s the same as any product life cycle for a brand – Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline. In the maturity/decline stage, the product has to try and keep as much of the existing audience as possible whilst adapting and changing to refresh and bring new people in.

YouTubers on Podcasts

Creating a podcast for YouTubers is a good way to diversify. It’s another free-to-consume platform, its about content generation and iTunes is somewhere that has discovery mechanisms to get you noticed.

However, it is somewhere that has a distinctly different demographic to YouTube. This is potentially both a pro and con. Pro is that it’s a new audience that you can reach. The Con is the same – it’s a new audience who won’t necessarily be aware of you.

In demo terms YouTube for Creators is very 13 to 24, whilst Podcasting is probably more upmarket 25 to 44s.

Fundamentally it’s:

vs

There’s probably two ways to go with this. If the purpose of the podcast is to preach to the converted, the gamble is that you’ll have a new way to reach your existing audience. Even for those who haven’t heard of podcasts before, your pull is such that you can probably drag some of them over. This, combined with those who are already into podcasting, could give you some success.

The other option is to take as many people as you can with you, but use content designed particularly for the platform to reach out to new people and expand your reach.

Marcus isn’t the first YouTuber to try podcasting, many US creators have been making shows. There’s Rhett and Link from Good Mythical Morning who had Ear Biscuits (interviews). They managed 80 weekly episodes before ceasing in September 2015. Shane Dawson has Shane and Friends (interviews), Tyler Oakley has Psychobabble (gossip) and Grace Helbig has Not Too Deep (interviews).

In the UK, none of these, except for Shane, have managed sustained success in the iTunes charts.

The Podcast itself

My default view on all new things in audio form – is that it’s good that they’re there. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to do anything, if your material can establish and grow an audience then that’s a good thing. I don’t particularly like The Archers, but I have no issue with it existing, as plenty of people like it very much. I feel the same about Marcus’ podcast – if it gets new people into the audio habit, that can only be a good thing.

Also, it’s unfair to critically review things that are still new. At the time of writing it’s merely four episodes in.

Having listened to it though, there are some more general observations that I’d hope be useful for any new podcast or radio show.

Podcast Tips

1. Listen to some other podcasts

Like radio, or YouTube, podcasting has a certain grammar that people are used to. It’s fine to ignore it and go your own way – successful people often do – but it is important to at least understand it first. As Hamish Blake says in this podcast, you have to understand the rule book before you throw it out.

If you’re trying to make a splash in an existing industry, analyse the things that are successful and try to work out why. What techniques are they using? How do they format it? How long is it etc.

2. Respect your audience

I think the biggest fault of many podcasts as well as things like student radio shows is that they’re doing the show for themselves rather than the audience. Sitting in a room with your mates and having a laugh is fun. Of course it is. But you can do that in the pub. However, if you’re going to the trouble of recording it – then it needs to be more than that.

If people could always be naturally entertaining for an hour, comedy shows would never need scripts or any preparation.

I always think that someone is giving you a really precious thing – their time. How do you make sure that you respect each minute of that?

In radio we talk a lot about what the ‘out’ is. What’s the end of this bit of content and then how do you get there in the most entertaining or informative way, ideally in the least amount of time necessary. Now, that doesn’t mean it needs to be short. It just needs to be appropriate to the story.

3. What are you trying to achieve?

Why should someone listen to your podcast/radio show etc? If the answer to that is ‘me’ then it’s not enough. If you have a theme – do you then deliver on it in every episode?

If you say your podcast is about something in particular, how much of your podcast is dedicated to that. There’s nothing wrong with going off-topic, but if you sell it on a certain thing – do you deliver it on it?

4. Does your topic and focus have the ability to attract new listeners?

The podcast world is a competitive one. You have to have a clear proposition that can be explained to people (ideally in the artwork or title). The podcast needs to sell itself without you doing all the heavy lifting. If someone hits play on a podcast, they’ve also got to be able to understand it in the first 30seconds. Most people will try before they buy!

5. Role definition

If you’re podcast is a group show, then people need to understand who the participants are. Great radio shows have great character definition.

If you take the Scott Mills show – Scott and Chris have very defined characters. When they introduce a topic you already know how they’re each going to react – that’s part of the fun. But, guess what, how they act isn’t an exact facsimile of how they are in real life – their personalities are adapted to service the show and its listeners.

6. Leave out things that are unnecessary and unrelatable

It’s connected to respecting the listeners’ time, but it annoys me when shows leave in things like technical cock-ups or long meta discussions about what you’re doing. It’s never as interesting as hosts think it is and it gets in the way of delivering the content that listeners want to hear.

On commercial radio it’s an even bigger crime. As a listener I know a breakfast show has to fit in 10mins of ads, news, travel etc that’s never dropped, so if a presenter is wasting a link taking about the show, rather than delivering it, it’s incredibly frustrating.

Also – remember your listeners lives. Talking about how hard your life is etc, when a Nurse could be listening, I find quite offensive! Generally if you’re making media, you’re in a privileged position, remembering that can be a good thing that keeps your focused on delivering for a listener.

7. Get a mentor.

If you’re new to podcasting, or a show, find someone who’s done it, or something like it, to help you out and critique your material. Yes, you may figure it out on your own, but you’ll have wasted loads of time getting there.

If the world’s number one tennis player, Andy Murray, has a coach, then it wouldn’t go amiss for someone new to something – and in podcasting that’s the producer or presenter – having one too. Coaches and mentors are good for everyone.

Summary

Great radio/audio seems effortless. It rarely is.

It’s the same with many videos that successful YouTubers make. It looks like they’ve thrown something together, but they’re often well-thought out, tightly produced and edited.

If there is an influx of YouTubers into podcasting, I hope they learn about the medium, get help from those who are experienced with it, and produce great content that delivers for their existing audience as well as bring in loads of new listeners too.

The most successful radio stations on YouTube

I’ve been spending a lot of this year looking at YouTube, and with Fun Kids we’ve been putting a significant effort into growing views and revenue.

As part of this work, I’ve been looking at how UK radio has been doing and I thought it made sense to share some of the data. Here’s a link to a Google Sheet with the stats for all UK radio stations on YouTube (that I could find).

Firstly though, why should radio stations bother with YouTube?

I think it’s easy to forget that, for many, YouTube is itself a social network. Audiences, particularly younger audiences, subscribe to channels so they see new videos in their feed. For these groups delivering regular, consistent content is essential. And it can pay dividends too.

Growing a subscription base means that new videos grow views faster. Having a direct relationship with the people who like your content means that you’re more likely to get ‘thumbs up’ and comments. Creating engagement around your videos also means that YouTube’s algorithm is more likely to show your video to other users too.

Creating quality content is also an important measure. It will help your videos be promoted around the site if you have decent viewing times for your content. That’s people watch through your videos rather than abandoning them part way along. If you have high view times, then YouTube regards it as a ‘good’ video. The result? More viral distribution around the site.

The other way to make sure your videos are discoverable is to ensure that the metadata is good. Titles, descriptions and tags are the tools that YouTube uses to power its search engine (the second most popular search engine on the internet after Google). Are you maximising the chance of your content being found?

Building audience on YouTube is good for radio too. Great video can reinforce the connection with your existing audience, and it can show non-listeners the kind of station you are. But it can work against you too. Badly filmed content without purpose or respecting potential listeners time can damage your brand values as well.

It’s also something that can be profitable. 1 million views generates around £1,000 in Google Adsense money. Strong audiences to all videos (aided by a good subscription base) can also provide a revenue source from direct clients too.

In my stats below I’ve grouped together multiple channels from brands. For example Radio 1 has its regular channel and a Vevo channel, Capital has a profile for each station and at Fun Kids we have a number of channels doing different jobs. The data is also showing all consumption, including non UK. However, what I’ve tried to do to compare stations more honestly, is to look at data from the last 30 days. So all this is mainly what happened in November.

The chart is sorted on total views in the last 30 days.

Station

Last 30 Days: Views

Last 30 Days: Subs

Total Subs
(not deduped)

1 BBC BBC Radio 1 (All) 42,483,624 58,407 3,951,607
2 Global Capital FM (All) 13,604,269 19,909 1,301,502
3 Wireless talkSPORT 5,599,242 7,786 596,352
4 BBC BBC 1Xtra 4,062,933 7,640 374,773
5 Folder Fun Kids (All) 3,318,413 15,691 40,396
6 Bauer Magic 1,358,325 922 7,287
7 BBC Kermode & Mayo 895,949 1,159 109,805
8 BBC BBC Asian Network 759,866 2,342 33,360
9 Bauer Absolute Radio 692,216 582 38,945
10 BBC BBC Radio 2 625,311 998 39,571
11 Global Capital Xtra 604,447 1,907 31,895
12 UKRD Pirate FM 362,416 180 866
13 Premier Premier (All) 309,171 739 16,893
14 Bauer In Demand 299,234 187 63,321
15 Bauer Heat Radio 218,711 109 75,570
16 BBC BBC Radio 6Music 208,425 662 21,158
17 Global Classic FM 163,187 256 8,258
18 Global LBC 158,704 994 17,125
19 BBC BBC 5 Live 157,401 189 6,653
20 BBC BBC Radio 3 155,841 415 18,390

Radio 1 and 1xtra, Capital and talkSPORT are doing really well. If you have a look at their channels, the reason is obvious – high quality content, regularly updated and focused.

Whilst there’s now a load of Jingle Bell Ball videos on the Capital channel, if you scroll backwards a little bit you can see the regular content they put online. Yes, there’s good video of studio guests, like the Shawn Mendes video below, but it’s highlighting a specific part of the interview, with a good thumbnail image too (if you look in the grid view). It’s designed to be appealing for Shawn fans and be clickable, rather than just be ‘Shawn Mendes radio interview’ dumped onto YouTube.

Much of Capital’s other video content is bespoke material, again with a view to it being consumed by those who live on YouTube. But often these are off the back of people coming in for a radio interview. Here’s a piece about How To Be A YouTuber – taking guests and doing more with it.

Radio 1’s main channel takes a different approach. Looking across their grid it shows a whole variety of different material. It’s part of the problem they have because of the nature of their radio station which comprises specialist music, silly games, celebrity interviews, massive live lounge guests, stunts etc. Whilst an accurate reflection of the nature of what they do, it does not help them benefit from how YouTube is used.

This may sound a little harsh when their channels is by far the world’s most popular radio station channel, delivering 40m views a month! However, much of their video consumption is to the content with superstars. Whoever does a Taylor Swift cover is going to generate millions of views for that video. I think what tells more of a story is when you look at the smaller videos – things that are the more regular content.

Radio 1 talks a lot about their 3m YouTube subscribers – an amazing success. But their YouTube strategy isn’t turning those subscribers into regular viewers of the content. For non-superstar content the videos average 5k to 20k views. Usually on YouTube each video should be generating 10% of the subscriber base, they’re clearly not.

Generally having lots of subscribers is good, as more people then see each new piece of content in their feeds and so are more likely to watch it. But with such diverse content and lots of different reasons that people are subscribing, are they actually prompting feed blindness, with people automatically ignoring the material?

Of course, all of this is a lovely problem to have!

I think talkSPORT’s channel is a great example of not needing the budgets and access of Radio 1 and Capital to do well.

They upload a new video daily, but they’re usually based on graphics rather than bespoke filmed video. The content is focused, usually funny and with good clickable hooks. Sport is also a passion centre for many and can prompt lots of discussion (good for YouTube’s audience-driving algorithms).

This video is a great example of something most stations with a copy of Adobe Premier could, if they wanted, for their station.

At Fun Kids we’re operating six different channels that are all doing different jobs. Our aim is to build a variety of distinct platforms on YouTube that captures young audiences’ imaginations. We’re making a concerted effort at creating channel brands around topics driven by particular presenters. Our first major effort is around video games, with N60Sean.

The recent success that channel has had, has come from combining different elements that are popular with younger audiences alongside good production and personality. In these videos we’re less about promoting Fun Kids as a radio station and more about getting viewers to love Sean and the videos he make. As he’s the breakfast presenter of the radio station, we hope doing it this way round builds him up as a celebrity people also want to listen to as well as growing the channel for us in its own right.

The video below shows Sean using the WWE 2k17 game to create a narrative with other videogame YouTubers.

If you’re committed to growing a channel on YouTube for your radio station, the best thing I can recommend is reading YouTube’s Playbook for Brands. It’s a brilliant insight into growing a channel and will really help.

There’s a lot more to say on YouTube – both from good and bad radio practice, to what other people can teach us, so I’ll try and do some more posts.

 

 

RAJAR Q3/2016

I’ve spent most of today in Denmark, working with the programming team planning Radio Days Europe (early bird tickets available now!), so I haven’t been able to do a deep dive into RAJAR, so here’s a quick look at the toplines.

London

It remains a ridiculously close commercial market share battle in London. LBC leads healthily with 5.1%, then Heart and Kiss are tied at 4.4%, Capital at 4.3% and Magic at 4.1%. All so close.

Global

Capital continues to grow its network reach with the brand now reaching 8.7m people and generating 50m hours. The addition of the old Juice to the network doesn’t harm that headline figure, as the Liverpool station has delivered marginally higher numbers now it’s branded as Capital.

Over at the Heart network it’s pretty stable Y on Y and Q on Q, though this quarter they’re publishing data for Heart Xtra (the nationally delivered fill-in-the-gaps version) which has a reach of 663k

Radio X is still struggling to make a mark in London. The people who like it, love it! Its average hours in this incarnation are strong – around 6 – but its reach has dropped back again – to 378k – when it used to do c500k as XFM. Across the UK, however, it’s had its best network figure for a long time with 1.2m reach and delivering over 9m hours.

Capital Xtra has been consolidating in London with reach fairly stable at 599k and across the UK, again, delivering record figures with 1.3m tuning in and generating over 6m hours.

Digital

Digital figures on the whole are good. 45.5% of all radio hours are now digital (that’s DAB, internet or through the telly) with DAB continuing to make up the bulk – 71%. It’s also DAB’s biggest ever quarter with 24.23m people listening on the platform each week.

Bauer

Kiss has taken a bit of a hit with London and the Network down year on year and quarter on quarter. Its sister station, Kisstory, though continues to grow from strength to strength and is now the biggest commercial digital station, racking up 1.6m listeners and 8.9m hours.

Magic’s been recovering after a few poor books in both London and across the country, whilst its new stations are doing good business. Magic Chilled is generating 240k reach, up a touch on its first book whilst Mellow Magic is up from 380k to 423k.

The main Absolute Radio has been steadily building its reach and now hits 2.6m – the highest since the 2008 re-brand, aided by a good performance from 105.8 in London and 105.2 in the West Midlands (where reach is up from 199k to 241k). 80s continues to drop back, still probably feeling the pinch from it’s move from D1 to D2. Overall the Absolute Network is delivering record reach for Bauer.

A tough book for the Wireless Group which sees talkSPORT and talkSPORT2 drop around 12% in reach (whilst hours hold up). This pops talkSPORT under 3m reach the first time in a while. TS2 sees a small drop from 284k to 250k.

A shame for the new Virgin Radio which sees a reach drop from 409k to 344k for its second book, whilst its stable mate, talkRADIO grows reach from 224k to 303k. talkRADIO also grows its average hours too, resulting in a solid hours bump from 839k to 1.3m.

It’s probably not wise to read too much into the ups and downs of national stations with a sub 400k audience, especially those reporting quarterly, as the sampling is resulting in quite a bit of volatility at the moment.

Nation Broadcasting

But, it’s not just the big boys that are playing digitally. Nation Broadcasting has three new digital projects on the go – Thames Radio (which has yet to report), Chris Country which from a standing start hits 35k passionate listeners in London (who are listening for 8.5 hours each) and digital-only Dragon Radio in Wales (which this book doesn’t entirely cover) starting off with a small 11k reach. Early days for all of these stations, but it will be interesting to see if they can build consistent growth over the coming books. They’re the first smaller radio group to launch new digital-only’s, but right behind them are UKRD with stations like Encore and their Oldies spin-offs and Lincs FM with things like Suffolk First.

Nation’s original analogue stations have had their best book this year (with a 16% Q on Q reach bump) and their hours back over 2m.

Over at the Beeb, Radio 1 is up Q on Q, heading back towards 10m (this quarter – 9.87m) and is back over 60m hours (62m) for the first time this year. R2 continues to have ALL OF THE LISTENERS with a slight drop in reach and hours but still delivering a stonking 15.1m people every week. Radio 3 does what it always does – bobs over and under 2m reach (this one’s an under). Radio 4 consolidates a good Brexit quarter, with its reach remaining over 11m and sister station 4 Extra is back to a reach over 2million. 6Music has its highest ever reach at 2.3m

Fun Kids

It was the first RAJAR for our children’s radio station Fun Kids this quarter. We’ve always held off being part of RAJAR as it doesn’t measure our actual audience – kids under 10! But, as we’re now national it made sense to experiment a bit and see what data it can give us and whether we can use it to support the business. So, we decided to just measure the London bit and see what drops out.

So, today’s figure shows that 10+ in London we’re at 58,000 a week (with the 15+ bit at 24,000). It’s at the lower end of what we expected, but looking at the data a bit more closely I expect that 10+ figure to probably bounce around between 50k and 100k in the capital over the next few quarters.

As a business we also use TGI Youth to measure the important bit – the children tuning in. It has a nice, large, robust kids sample, that shows we reach 291k kids (aged 7 to 19) across the UK each week.

It’s been an interesting first book, we’ll see what the trend’s like, but in the meantime there’s still a little way to go before we’re challenging Capital for the top spot.

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

Radio Formats & Union Jack

I’ve just got back home after a lovely holiday in Bergerac, followed by a quick trip to Amsterdam for a RadioDays Europe production meeting. If you’re aren’t aware RDE is the biggest conference in European radio and is an amazing melting pot of different people and ideas.

I’ve been involved with the event for a number of years supporting what they do online, but this year I’ve been bumped up to the programme committee. Hark at me etc.

The committee is made up of a load of radio folks from all across the continent and we’re tasked with putting together around 50 sessions that reflect the diversity and vibrancy of the radio sector. We had a good kick off meeting and were joined by lots of other radio folk who were contributing ideas and thoughts. Oh – and if you have an idea for a session please email me – and I’ll suggest it too.

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Anyway, the thing I want to talk about is the dinner we had after the first meeting. At my end of the table it was me and new radio colleagues from Finland, Denmark and Switzerland. As I’m sure you’re aware, radio folk are never short of topics to talk about, so aided by some booze it was a good night.

What I was a surprised about were some of the UK radio things I got interrogated about and also how some general assumptions about radio formats and interest in show types was very different.

There was lots of interest in the new D2 stations and the performance of things like LBC. Many European public broadcasters are, often because of DAB, suddenly facing new formats competing with their heritage position, so they were keen to know what was coming next. They were also interested in finding out about Bauer – as the company has started to make a big splash acquiring stations in the Nordic countries and much of the reporting lines lead to the management in Golden Square.

The biggest surprise though were that none of my colleagues, later joined by a Swedish one too, could understand why you would want to talk about sport on the radio. Listening to sports – fine. But a discussion afterwards, they said there would be entirely no interest from their listeners.

Now, sport isn’t exactly my core interest, but I performed a spirited defence of 606 and talkSPORT. They knew it worked in the UK, but were adamant it wouldn’t work in their own countries – and a station like talkSPORT would have no chance whatsoever – their listeners cared about what the scores were not why they were.

Was it just received wisdom, assumptions or a deep understanding of their audience? Who knows. Though I did find myself volunteering to start a competitive sports radio station in Stockholm. Perhaps I’d had a little too much wine.

What is in no doubt is that in the UK, we forget how vibrant and developed our radio market is, something I think is a result of a very well funded BBC, a resilient commercial sector and the potential that DAB has brought to the country.

Indeed, another new station has just popped on the dial as of a few minutes ago – Union Jack – a new national radio station that’s taken the very last few kilobits on D2.

Union Jack is the brainchild of the guys behind Jack FM in Oxford and the original progenitors of Absolute Radio – Donnach O’Driscoll, Clive Dickens and Ian Walker.

The station’s based on the main Jack service – an irreverent classic hits format – but with a slight twist in that it’s only going to play British music. I think this is a neat concept and something that will lend itself to marketing and stunting pretty well. It’s also driven by Futuri’s Listener Driven Radio product. This allows listeners to vote up songs (from a wider database than would normally be on a similarly formatted service) to get them on the radio.

In reality it’s got some clever rules around it to stop it being, er, Boaty McBoatfaced all the time, whist still giving the perception of being listener-controlled. It’s also a good way to engage listeners and build a database.

No doubt it will be another format our friends in mainland Europe are interested in and I wish all the Jack guys success with their new radio station.

RAJAR Q2/2016

A plethora of DAB related news in this quarter’s RAJAR. This is the first survey that’s included stations from ‘D2’ the Sound Digital national multiplex that launched at the end of February.

This saw the addition of new stations including talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and Magic Chilled as well as “upgrades” of stations like Jazz FM and Heat going from a smaller number of areas to nationwide coverage. It also saw some “downgrades” too, with Absolute 80s and Planet Rock moving from D1 which covers over 90% of the UK population, to D2 which covers around 75%.

Plus some of these stations – Magic Chilled and Jazz FM – are broadcast in DAB+, so it’s the first time we’re seeing DAB+ listening behaviour.

The topline digital news, is that 65% of the UK listen to some form of digital radio (DAB, DTV or Online) each week. This digital consumption now accounts for 45.3% of all radio listening (up from 44.1% last quarter).

Half of the UK’s radio listeners (49.7%) now listen to radio on DAB each week.

As I mentioned on the Radio Today podcast, I really think we’re in a golden age of radio right now. The scale of the broadcast platforms means that these news stations can get decent-sized audiences and justify investment in a range of content with significant presentation and production.

Areas that had around 10 radio stations on analogue 10 years ago are now likely to have easy access to 50. Whether it’s new national stations like 6Music or Virgin Radio, upgrades of stations like Kiss and LBC to be nationwide or new local stations like Radio Yorkshire and Great Yorkshire Radio, listeners have never had it so good.

The idea of having to put up with a “least worst option” is long gone and listeners now get to self-schedule by picking and mixing a variety of stations to match their mood or need.

Wireless Group and Bauer

The second national multiplex was a big investment for the Wireless Group with the launch of talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and talkSPORT2.

Virgin Radio’s kicked off with 409k reach and 1.4m hours. talkSPORT2’s tempted 285k to tune in and added nearly a million hours for the sales team to sell and talkRADIO’s debuted with 224k and 840k hours.

Over at Bauer, the reduction in coverage for Planet Rock and Absolute 80s seems to have had an effect on the audience figures.

Planet Rock has declined from 1.2m to 986k and Absolute 80s has fallen back 1.720m to 1.581m. Kisstory, on the hand, which has seen its digital coverage grow, adds 100k reach going from 1.440m to 1.540m, putting it in spitting distance to capture AR80s ‘biggest commercial digital station’ crown.

Heat has seen no appreciable gains in their coverage upgrade with their figures dropping back from 878k to 872k, though seeing a small increase in hours. Heat hasn’t really seen any growth for a little while, so I’d assume it’s more likely to be a programme-related rather than platform-related issue.

Two of Bauer’s new stations are interesting to compare – Mellow Magic (think Ace, Percy Sledge and Sutherland Brothers) and Magic Chilled (Adele, TLC, Rhianna). Both are on D2, but Chilled is broadcast using the newer flavour of DAB, DAB+, whilst Mellow is in the regular version of DAB.

Mellow’s done 380k, whilst Chilled’s reached 233k. For both around 80% of their audience is through DAB. I think this bodes very well for DAB+ as a digital radio format. Obviously a like for like comparison is impossible – as they’re two differently formatted radio stations – but Chilled really is a great sounding station and it’s had an impressive debut.

For new stations, the first quarter isn’t always brilliantly indicative, and as the stations grow and develop their trajectory may change significantly. What is interesting though is how similar the Magic Chilled and talkRADIO audience figures are. 233k vs 224k. I imagine the cost base of the two are quite different even if the reach is very similar.

I think Chilled’s success is partly down to cross-promotion and the power of the umbrella brand. No above the line marketing, but it’s clearly a very understandable format. Two songs in, and you know what it’s there to do.

For talkRADIO, as an occasional listener, it clearly varies significantly across the day – it’s challenge is to communicate this breadth, or what the specific shows do. In a competitive media environment this is even harder, but the opinionated/funny nature would surely benefit from well and speedily executed social media – particularly more video – combined with some aggressive PR pushes of content.

I don’t think this is something particularly limited to talkRADIO – cutting through is very hard without big advertising budgets, I know it’s something that we often worry about with Fun Kids. But with the changing nature of listening and the breadth of stations available, marketing is something that all new stations are going to have to more heavily invest in to stand out and grow.

The acquisition by NewsCorp may be the saviour of these new Wireless Group stations, as access to both money and NewsCorp talent and titles will surely benefit the growth of their new stations.

Back to the DAB+, the other DAB+ addition is Jazz FM – who seemed to have added around 100k listeners outside of London (where they broadcast in regular DAB).

The worry for DAB+ use in the UK is that it would deliver Sunday League style audiences. But it looks like it’s making a solid Division 1 performance compared to the Premier League of DAB’s distribution, these all seem very respectable numbers to build on.

Global

More oddities from Radio X. After a poor London performance and strong national data last time round, this quarter London’s had a bit of a resurgence but national (and Manchester) have taken a hit. Another aberration? Or has Virgin Radio’s appearance stolen some of its thunder?

A stellar performance though from LBC – jumping to the number 1 spot in the capital’s share chart – surely driven by three months of pre-Brexit vote discussion? I know it’s a station that generated cume from me from the first time.

Radio 1

Radio 1 continues to face significant pressure. Lowest reach since 2003 at 9.4m and second lowest hours. The station, of course, is up against changing listener behaviour from younger audiences, but I don’t think it can hide entirely behind it.

Radio 1 remains, I imagine, the world’s best funded CHR radio station. £40m on content, significant cross-media marketing support and a digital team any other radio station for kill for. It’s “psychological” 10m reach point is now surely permanently broken and beyond defending. Arresting the decline of 15-24s and 15-34s – where this quarter they’re delivering lowest ever reach and hours for both, is surely what it should now be concentrating on.

Capital Xtra

Global’s Capital Xtra smashed to pieces Choice FM and started afresh, something that destroyed audiences in those early months, but is now paying dividends looking far more prosperous, up from 950k to 1.3m reach year on year.

Jack

Digital opportunities are not limited to the big boys. The guys behind Oxford’s Jack FM launched a digital only version in Surrey and South London, delivering nearly 60k reach, pretty close to the figures their Oxford analogue station gives them. Another demonstration that consistency,  branding and distribution can help build success for any new service.

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