RAJAR Q1/2022

For UK readers, the quarterly RAJAR listening data is essential to see how radio stations are doing. Most RAJAR quarters though include some changes to the survey too. This is usually new stations being added, but can also be additional questions as well. In this survey there’s quite a big change – they’re publishing a new platform.

Historically the platforms have been AM/FM, DAB, Digital TV and the Internet. The Internet has got more complicated as it has journeyed from desktop, to mobile and tablet through to smart speakers. So from this survey you can now look at Smart Speakers as a platform alongside AM/FM, DAB, DTV and Internet (Desktop and Mobile).

Wherever you are in the world, it’s a fascinating snapshot of media consumption on a relatively new device.

The results for ‘All Radio’ shows that the platforms each reach the following (this doesn’t add up to 100 as people can use multiple platforms)

AM/FM – 62.6% of listeners

DAB – 66.7% of listeners

DTV – 13.3% of listeners

Desktop and mobile – 30.4% of listeners

Smart speakers – 17.5% of listeners

When you look at the time they give to each platform – the share of listening, it’s this:

AM/FM – 32.1%

DAB – 41.1%

DTV – 4.5%

Desktop and mobile – 12.4%

Smart speakers – 9.9%

It means smart speakers deliver around 100m hours of listening a week.

What’s interesting is looking at the average hours per platforms. DAB’s top of the shop at 12.5 hours a week of consumption, with AM/FM not far behind on 10.4. This all makes sense – they are core radio listening devices, so people give them a lot of time. Listening through your telly on the other hand gives an average hours of 6.8 – again, seemingly making sense as you use that device for lots of other things.

With smart speakers the question is always how much of a radio device is it? You do after all share it with music streaming services and other skills. Well, it turns out it’s pretty powerful with an average hours of 11.5 per listener. It goes to show that the 8 million smart speaker radio users give it a lot of radio attention.

Of course smart speaker share varies station to station. It accounts for 12% of Radio 1’s listening, just 4.5% of Heart’s and a whopping 26.6% of Boom Radio’s. If you work for a radio station you should look at the average hours for each of your platforms – it might make you think about the value of promoting one platform over another. In theory if you drive more reach to the platforms with higher average hours, you may help drive your total hours faster.

The Young and the Restless

There will be some sad faces at Radio 1 as their 15+ reach slips from 8.1m to 7.6m, its lowest ever figures. However the slight silver-lining is which ages are disappearing. Of course firstly this is a quarter on quarter change, so you need to take it all with a slight pinch of salt, but…

15-19s – down 2.9%

20-24s – down 0.3%

25-34s – down 8.2%

35-44s – down 7.6%

45-54s – down 4.5%

55s-64s – down 19.7%

65+ – down 0.8% (the oldies left are clinging on!)

Does this actually show that it’s doing its job of catering for the young with programming particularly for them, and thus causing the older ones to become a little disgruntled and disappear off? If this does point to the programming be more right for the 15-24s – the next challenge becomes dragging more of them in.

I broke out the 15-19s, as the availability of this group is a core issue facing the industry. Since the pandemic, and RAJAR’s methodology change, 15-19s have seen a sharp drop. Before there were around 3million of them listening and now there’s 2million. A behaviour change or a quirk in the new way the numbers are collected? It is having a real world impact though, particularly for youth stations, who’ve lost a quarter or more of the broader 15-24 demo reach.

For stations like Capital it seems to have resulted in a programming switch with the addition of more older songs. Just having a scan through Radiomonitor – 24k Magic from Bruno Mars is their 46th most popular tune with 9 plays, and old tunes like Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us and DNCE’s Cake by the Ocean are getting daily spins. A combination of a poor pop flow at the moment and, I would imagine, a desire to make up for the loss of 15-19s necessitates the station going older (as those 15-19s can’t seem to be dragged in).

The 15-19 problem isn’t just in the UK. I spoke to bosses from overseas youth stations who are finding it too difficult to program the music for this audience as the groups that like hip hop vs pop vs rock all heavily dislike the others, making it hard to create an appealing mix for this audience as there aren’t enough people to coalesce around any mic of music. For some they’re creating separate streams online and altering, like Capital, their main youth stations to be more older-focused.

Also, talking to an international radio researcher at Radiodays Europe, he agreed with me that the TikTokification of songs is also causing problems. Many tunes are churning in and out of TikTok faster than they can be researched and added for a radio station – making CHR sometimes seem out of line with the current zeitgeist. In addition, the trending TikTok tunes for 15-19s lack the familiarity for 20 to 24s and older.

The result is that its easier to abandon programming for the 15-19s and just concentrate on the easier to handle 20 pluses. I’m not sure though this is a great look for radio and its future.

Other things happening

Probably a sigh of relief at Times Radio towers as their reach rebounds to 703k (Q3: 637k, Q4: 502k). Sister station Talk Radio (now part of the hybrid Talk TV) jumps to 650k from 542k – its best ever figure. The question for them is whether the TV-powered changes help it build or actually interfere with the steady growth it has been making.

Capital Dance has been building a success story of its own with reach in Q3: 287k, Q4: 592k and now growing to 800k. Meanwhile sister station Capital Xtra Reloaded, a Kisstory spoiler, has had a troubled time. Its last reach figure was 277k. This has no doubt contributed to rumours its losing its national DAB slot. Typical as always then, that this quarter its jumped to 400k! What will replace it? Smooth Country is a station that’s not on national DAB yet, but then maybe another Heart spin-off could make an appearance too?

Something else that’s made an appearance is GB News Radio. A simulcast of the TV channel. It’s picked up a respectable first book of 239k, bearing in mind talkRADIO first started with 224k.

6Music however added a whole GB News to its figures, well, 244k, taking the station to its highest ever reach of 2.8m listeners.

With my Fun Kids hat on, we had a good book in London where we participate in RAJAR and are bigger, 10+, than the aforementioned GB News and Capital Dance, as well as the BBC Asian Network, talkSPORT2, Scala, Boom Radio and about 20 other stations. Well done team!

Other RAJAR reading: Do check out Adam Bowie’s blog who’ll have a comprehensive round-up, as will Radio Today.


Speaking of Radiodays Europe earlier in the post, that reminds me you can listen to a special episode of The Media Podcast we recorded at RDE. I catch-up with the Head of Radio 2, Helen Thomas, presenter Stephanie Hirst, Radiotopia’s Julie Shapiro plus Paul Robinson and James Cridland. Lots of good radio chat. Listen and subscribe.

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Smart speakers recorded, plus the troublesome 15 to 19s