RAJAR Q3/2023

Last night I had a lovely evening at City University hearing about the British Podcast Awards winners, followed by a glass of wine and chatting to the journalism students (including those doing a Masters in Podcasting) who had come along to hear about what it takes to make an award-winning show. Remember that as you read this blog I wrote on the train home!

I’ve been writing these things for a long time- over 15 years. I’ve found I’ve become less concerned about the horse-race and the swaps between number one and number two, and instead I’m much more fascinated about the broader changes in listening behaviour and the results of bold decisions – good or bad.

There is no doubt that the Ken Bruce-enhanced Greatest Hits Radio, built on the basis of a strong music format that found a gap in the market plus an aggressive FM acquisition/conversion roll-out (alongside some other great talent) has hit the mark.

In the latest figures it shows a reach of 6,583k listeners, 55.9m hours and a 5.5% share of the market. This is up the best part of 800k reach from 5,787k last quarter and a then 4.7% share. Its average hours of 8.5 (up from 8.2) shows its listeners really love it too.

This surge puts it ahead of the Heart network, which whilst stronger on reach (8.5m), its weaker average hours of 6.3, means GHR takes the true top spot.

Since the Ken departure, all eyes have been on Radio 2. It took a bit of a beating last quarter, but even though Mr Bruce has had another ratings bump, there hasn’t been that much change at his old home.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the nature of GHR’s network – a mix of small, medium and large stations – has meant there’s a delay for all the figures to flow through. We won’t get the full picture for a whole year. Radio 2, though, reports every quarter, so they took the hit straight away.

This time around it stayed pretty static across the daytime schedule:


A message from my colleague Lloydie James Lloyd, made me ponder the challenges for breakfast shows. Generally a strong breakfast offer finds its share of audience above the station average. For most stations, Breakfast should be the engine that drives the rest of a station forward. Capital Breakfast, across the country has seen its share below the station average for the past year, with this quarter no different. Afternoons and Drive meanwhile, are ahead.

It’s a similar story for Heart, and even though Jamie and Amanda are the biggest commercial radio breakfast show with 3.8 million weekly listeners, its share tracks lower than the station (whilst other dayparts remain ahead).

It’s a similar story with Kiss and Magic, with breakfast under-delivering (though Kiss had a good overall book in London, with a return to over 1m reach – up from 900k last quarter).

Radio 1 and Radio 4 manage it. Radio 2 nearly does. A good commercial example is Mylo and Rosie at Pulse 1 in Bradford/Leeds – a 3.2% share at Breakfast vs the 2.1% average, something they’ve consistently done over the past year.

Back in London, Smooth doesn’t manage it, Nick Ferrari at LBC matches it and my quick look shows only Moyles ahead with his breakfast share at 2.2% vs the station’s 1.6% (it’s similar for his national figures too).

The radio head in me just thinks there’s room in London for a big hitting mainstream show. All the big pop stations have seemingly abandoned stunting, big ideas and any breakfast-related marketing. Are they missing a trick? Both Greg James and Moyles, whilst lacking in much above-the-line attention either, are still putting out big ideas – is this why they’re leading their stations share? Perhaps with Roman Kemp apparently off, there’s an opportunity for a selection of breakfast re-shuffles.

Platform changes…

Bauer’s strategy for GHR to occupy as much FM spectrum as possible has meant the conversion of some of their FM stations, booting their old services to be DAB only. GEM in the East Midlands has just had that treatment, but at the beginning of the year they moved Lincs FM off of FM. This is the first complete survey since the move.

Overall its reach is down to 163k (from 246k pre the change) and hours down from 2,654k to 1,586. But overall I think that’s a good performance given the situation. Looking at the platform breakdowns, DAB is in the lead. But there’s significant use of smart speakers too (54k reach).

Smart speakers are a great boon for stations if listeners can remember the name of what they want to listen to (it’s not great for new launches). But in this Lincs FM scenario, a high recall of a heritage brand, a large number of devices in home, and a real reason to use them (the loss of FM) has shown how well they can do.

In other news…

It’s still early days for Global’s re-localisation of Heart and Capital in Central Scotland – but the figures are going in the right direction. Capital’s up from 377k to 384k and Heart from 346k to 380k

Goodbye to Jack FM in Oxford. Its three radio stations go out on a high, with a combined reach of 62k and 380k hours, up on the last quarter. It’s always tough when the end is nigh, but listening to the stations as they merge into GHR, it seems they’ve managed to maintain their personality and focus though what must be a tough situation to work in.

Well done to my team at Fun Kids. We’re in RAJAR, but it doesn’t measure our core audience, only the ones over 10. So we choose to just measure it in London. There, our 10+ listeners – 111k – make us bigger than Scala, Kerang, Kiss Fresh and Heat from Bauer; Smooth Country and Capital Chill from Global, all of Virgin’s spin-offs, talkSPORT2 and GB News as well. A nice result.

Thanks to Hallett Arendt, who produce Octagon, brilliant software that let’s me interrogate the RAJAR figures.