British Podcast Awards Thoughts

It’s been a busy old time with one of my side projects, the British Podcast Awards. We had our big ceremony on Saturday – the culmination of around 9 months work. Of course, our plan – The Roundhouse had booked and paid for – wasn’t meant to be, so we did a very fun livestream instead.

In the middle of April we had a chat with our production company, Create, suggesting that we’d like to do a stream that includes all the nominees on-screen and handing out the awards live on winners’s doorsteps. It wasn’t bad for a less than three months turn-around in a pandemic!

So here are some things that popped into my head, which are hopefully interesting for anyone doing events or organising a big project.

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Black Information Network Launches

To us Europeans, the flexibility of broadcast radio formats in the US is quite different to our very regulated environment. Here, on FM it’s very difficult to change your station’s format between rock and urban, whilst in America the ‘format flip’ is something that’s always been an option.

Is your Country station under-performing? Don’t worry! Tomorrow it could be Smooth Jazz!

Of course in the digital world – both online, but also DAB (our broadcast digital radio) – it is a little easier to pivot and change direction. And in 2020 all media, regulated or not, needs to be more fleet of foot to better represent the changing world and new business opportunities.

In the US, last week, the largest radio operator – iHeartMedia (previously ClearChannel) blew up 15 broadcast radio station formats (in Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, GA, Detroit, Greenville, Macon, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Riverside, San Francisco and Seattle) to launch a new mostly-national speech service – BIN – the Black Information Network.

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How to Launch a Media Project: Watching Times Radio Take to the Air

30 years ago, a launch of a radio station was a big thing. Guaranteed coverage in the local newspaper (balloons, wide grinning faces) and the regional TV would turn up to film the board room champagne toast, a DJ doing the opening link, and then raising an eyebrow and light questioning of the economics.

Today, of course, a new media launch is a regular affair – hard to generate noise and awareness, let alone encourage sampling.

Monday’s Times Radio launch got a wrap-around newspaper front page, it did however need to own the newspaper to get it.

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RAJAR Q1/2020

This RAJAR period covers the first three months of the year, so as people started to change their routines for the last two weeks of March, it will include a little of this change – but with a RAJAR week averaged across 13 weeks of data, it’s unlikely to have much of an impact.

A common theme on these blog posts over the past few years has been about change. The radio, and broader media sector, have changed as consumer behaviours have altered. For me, radio’s luck was to develop a digital broadcast platform, doing the heavy lifting of launching a sector-specific device – a DAB radio! – and new stations before broad digital choice became an essential part of consumers’ media lives.

The result of this early work, was that in the digital future we all live in now, the sector has a broad range of channels from new and existing brands, that it can deliver on the modernised version of it’s heritage platform – a radio box – but also now has the material to distribute on any device that has an internet connection and speaker.

Indeed, radio (a curated linear feed with plenty of human involvement) has ended up dominating new devices like smart speakers – even if it shares them with new shouty upstarts like music streaming services. Oh, and asking what the temperature is, before your government mandated exercise.

Looking at the splits – are ‘owned’ platforms of AM/FM and DAB now account for 41% and 40% respectively of total radio listening. Our piggy-backed platforms of DTV and Internet account for 4% and 14% of radio listening.

Collectively the digital listening of DAB, DTV and Online now represent 58.6% of radio listening, up from 56.4% a year ago – with DAB providing the lion’s share – accounting for nearly 70% of the digital listening total.

A lot of this digital growth has come from the commercial radio sector’s aggressive expansion of stations. It’s working audience-wise, the sector’s average listening is up year-on-year, to 13 hours per week, and its share of listening is up too, from 45.7% in Q1 2019 to 47.8%. It’s also got its highest ever total reach – 36.3m (vs the BBC’s 33.5m).

Perhaps someone can tell the Radio Times of this commercial radio strength. In a feature this week they got ten celebs to pick their lockdown listening. They only managed to pick Radio 3, 4, 4 Extra and the World Service (plus an embarrassed mention of Classic FM). Looking at the contributors, perhaps a more representative bunch of people may have given them a more representative range of stations.


The battle for the London airwaves has always driven a lot of discussion, much to the chagrin of the successful local stations in the rest of the country. It’s also a good way to describe what changes and what stays the same in consumer behaviour.

If we look at the market share of the top 25 stations in the capital, it looks like the left column today, and the right column 10 years ago.

BBC Radio 414.6
BBC Radio 213.7
BBC Radio 210.6
BBC Radio 413.7
Capital London6
Magic (London)4.5
Magic (London)5.9
Classic FM4.4
LBC London5.1
Heart London4.4
BBC Radio 15
BBC Radio 5 live3.6
BBC Radio 5 live4.8
Capital London3.5
Classic FM4.7
BBC Radio 13.3
Heart London4.7
Absolute Radio2.8
Kiss (London)4.1
BBC 6 Music2.7
Absolute Radio2.6
Kiss (London)2.7
BBC Radio 32.6
BBC Radio 31.9
Smooth Radio London2.4
BBC Radio London1.5
Radio X London1.3
BBC Radio 4 Extra1.5
Smooth Radio London1.3
Radio X London1.5
BBC 6 Music1.1
Capital XTRA (London)1.4
Capital XTRA (London)1.1
LBC News (London)1.2
Gold London1
LBC News (London)0.7
BBC Radio London1.1
Planet Rock0.7
Gold London1
Premier Christian Radio0.7
Virgin Radio0.8
BBC Radio 4 Extra0.5
Absolute 80s0.7
Jazz FM0.5
Magic Soul0.7
1Xtra from the BBC0.3

On the right, the digital stations were just starting to appear – Planet Rock (already on air for 11 years by this point) hits a 0.7 share, and today has, checks notes, a 0.7% share. Jazz FM, a couple of years into a digital rebirth gets a 0.5% share, compared to a 0.4% share now. Easy to sniff at, of course, but these stations have kept steady whilst competition has tripled.

Other stations though have flourished. 6Music now number 11 in London, just above Kiss and their FM licence. Kisstory, Virgin Radio, Absolute 80s and Magic Soul now make their mark too.

As the number of stations has exploded, its music that’s been the differentiator. There haven’t been many new speech stations on the block, and for the one that has appeared, Talk Radio, it’s been a bumpy ride. R4 has managed to grow, whilst LBC has moved up the chart, steadily growing and maintaining its share. 5Live occupies the same chart position, but not the same market share.

Magic, Heart and Capital are still top 10 but are finding their audiences salami sliced, not just by competition, but by their own spin-offs too.

Year on Year Reach Changes

Looking nationally, stations that have done well over the last year, reach-wise, including Virgin Anthems (more than doubling) and talkRADIO up 25%. Virgin Radio’s seen a 15% increase year on year (to a smidge under 1.5m) – good, but I’m sure they’d hoped for something a little larger.

Free Radio in the Black Country has doubled and its sister station in Coventry is up over 40%, the Birmingham branch – down 30%. That’s RAJAR for you! Radio Essex, having pocketed the old Heart Essex breakfast team have been growing, up 50% year on year.

What was Touch and is now Capital is up 76%, albeit from a low base. Digital station Dragon Radio in Wales has seen steady growth now with 60k listeners and nearly doubling over the past year, whilst our own Fun Kids has seen a 50% reach bump.

XS Manchester which was going to be closed due to poor audience figures has seen its year on year figures now increase 40% to 131k. Now saved (by the regulator), lets see if they keep it! In fact it’s good rock news in Manchester generally, with Radio X Manchester up to 191k – a 20% year on year increase.

At the other end of the spectrum, Capital Brighton hasn’t really chimed with its audience, seeing a 70% drop from 52k to 15.7k. Town 102’s regulatory-imposed analogue switch-off has seen it now just at 10k reach. It’s replacement Ipswich 102 has had its worst book of its first three – at 30k – but doing better than Town had done for the past few years.

Not a great result for Hits Radio Manchester down 23.4% year on year from 301k to 230k.

I’ve touched on the problems of heritage ILRs many times over the years. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the programming on Hits Manchester – I think the new Breakfast show has been good, the music is fine and the line-up are solid. It’s problem, like many new launches in super-competitive markets, is market fit. Can a station find a gap in the market, can it push that gap and make it bigger?

When listeners are spoilt for choice, a traditional mainstream offer has a lot of work to do to establish itself. It’s hard to drive passion when you’re playing pop songs and you don’t have heritage on your side. The challenge is to build talkability – with talent, stunts and marketing – on top of solid, well-tuned and researched programming.

Hits Manchester currently has a 3% market share. As the Hits TSA market share table below shows, older stations dominate, whilst many local stations are in a knife-fight around the 3% share mark. It’s easy to give Hits a kick-in but look at BBC Radio Manchester, it’s doing all the things people say Hits should do – play the local card – but it doesn’t seem to be doing it much good.

Fundamentally Hits faces too much competition in its format from R1, R2, Capital and Heart with specialist sport, dance and indie stations also getting in the way of any other hours growth. To break out it’s going to need to do something special.

BBC Radio 215.1
Smooth Radio North West9.4
BBC Radio 49
Classic FM5.9
BBC Radio 15.3
Capital Manchester4.6
Heart North West3.5
BBC Radio 5 live3.5
Hits Radio (Manchester)3.1
BBC Radio Manchester2.9
Radio X Manchester2.9
XS Manchester2.9
BBC 6 Music1.9
Gold Manchester1.4
Absolute Radio0.7
Greatest Hits Radio (Manchester)0.6
Planet Rock0.2

A slightly different table below, this is 10+ Reach in London. Usually 15+ is what’s generally published, but it’s actually people over 10 that are measured by busy RAJAR diarists. It’s always the one that I look at, as it makes comparing my station, Fun Kids, with our peers easier to do. Of course our core audience is under 10, which RAJAR doesn’t measure, so just think where we’d be on the list if they were measured too!

Still though, it’s good to be above all the Virgin and Smooth spin-offs, Hits, Greatest Hits and Country Hits, Heart Dance and Heart 90s, Scala, talkRADIO, some of the Absolute stations and many more too. However, just like all the data up to here, nothing stays the same – new competition in your format, your demographic or a talent change can make all the difference – good and bad. So enjoy it whilst you’ve got it, whatever it is!

Q1 2020
BBC Radio 42921.1
BBC Radio 22278.6
Heart Network (UK)2077.6
Capital Network (UK)2051.9
BBC Radio 11483.6
LBC (UK)1403.7
Classic FM1362.3
BBC Radio 5 live1186.8
Smooth Radio Network (UK)886.6
BBC 6 Music859.6
Capital XTRA (UK)808.3
Absolute Radio807
BBC Radio 3649
LBC News (UK)505.6
BBC Radio 4 Extra487.2
Radio X Network (UK)419.9
BBC World Service398.2
Virgin Radio367.7
Gold Network (UK)306.5
Absolute 80s285.7
Jazz FM268.3
1Xtra from the BBC258.9
Heart 80s247.5
Mellow Magic221.1
Kiss Fresh205.8
Sunrise Radio National194.9
Planet Rock194.7
Magic Soul187.9
Absolute Radio 90s160.3
Absolute Classic Rock150.9
Premier Christian Radio122.8
BBC Radio 5 live sports extra113.4
Fun Kids (London)108.3
Smooth Radio Chill106.7
Hits Radio98.6
Smooth Extra98.6
BBC Asian Network UK97.4
1458 Lyca Radio93.4
Magic Chilled83.8
Heart 90s80.3
Greatest Hits Radio79.5
Capital XTRA Reloaded77.2
Panjab Radio75.1
Absolute Radio 70s68.8
Heart Extra64.1
Scala Radio56.9
Heart Dance53.1
Absolute Radio 00s42.2
1035 Dilse Radio42.1
Smooth Radio Country39.2
Chris Country Radio38.7
Asian FX36
JACK Radio33.4
Heart 70s30.8
Country Hits Radio23.4
Absolute Radio 60s21.8
Virgin Anthems21.4
Union JACK17.1
Virgin Chilled17.1
Virgin Radio Groove7.3
Nation Radio London3.4

Me and my RAJAR blogging colleague, Adam Bowie, are going to do a live stream later today, Thursday 14th March at 1pm. Keep an eye on Twitter for the link. If you have any questions, send them over and we’ll have a go at answering them!

edit: here it is

Want more? Radio Today generally has pretty comprehensive RAJAR coverage.

Positioning Times Radio

Times Radio made their first announcements this morning (27th April) outlining some of the key shows which will launch their new radio station (Guido Fawkes rumoured who’s next, last night).

There’s lots of talk about whether Times Radio will be a success, or a draining money pit.

Most of the analysis is about whether it will get ratings and how it will fare ‘up against’ Radio 4. Even in Matthew Moore’s Times article this morning there was reference to “taking on the BBC” and “seen as a direct rival to BBC Radio 4″.

If its core aim is to ‘take on the BBC’ then it will absolutely be an unqualified failure.

The aims for what I guess we’re still terming ‘commercial radio’ are more varied than they used to be. When the sector first started the planned business model was to get some listeners by doing the things that will get the largest audience and then to sell ads around them and try and make some money. This simple model wasn’t very easy to achieve for many of the first ILR stations for quite a while, additionally the incremental, Sallie, licences rarely achieved that objective in their lifetime. The old adage that to make a small fortune in commercial radio you just needed to start with a large fortune has been a truism.

Digital spectrum, and more space for new stations, has meant that commercial radio’s model, objectives and tactics have changed significantly.

Not every radio station needs to strive to be ‘number 1’ to be successful. Niche operators have created models that serve smaller audiences. Limited costs can reap solid (if not super) profits.

The religious broadcasters’ businesses are often fascinating. Some are really mail order firms using broadcast as a way to help position and sell product. Others use it as a loudspeaker to generate significant direct debit donations. Third party ads may be in there, but it’s not a big part of their business plan.

At Fun Kids we have a suite of products – radio, podcasts, web, email, video, social – that reach parents and children and we monetise, generally with ads, this attention. The broadcast station is important, particularly for marketing the brand, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of what we’re doing.

The Times have talked about the main objective of the radio station being to drive Times subscribers. Times digital subs are £15 to £26/month. If you generated 10,000 new subscribers you’d probably easily cover the costs of running the radio station.

The subscription business is also about reducing churn – the people who stop subscribing. With a content subscription like The Times, I imagine churn is all about perceived value. “Am I reading the written content?” is obviously a key thought, but if you’re consuming, albeit free, Times media like the radio station and podcasts, I’m sure that all goes into improving the perceived value too.

So, if you’re reducing churn and adding subs – that’s a great model to have. And a great reason to launch a radio station.

However, the danger, is mission creep and forgetting your objectives.


I think I must have had discussions with at least 50 people serious about launching radio stations over the past few years and probably another 100 time wasters. In addition I’ve got friends at all the radio groups and have talked briefly, or in detail, about most big group launches. This ranges from production staff on some to the bosses on others.

Thinking about it, it’s amazing how few of these people have had experience launching any product from scratch, and for many, even less experience running a business.

For people new to the industry, it’s the curse that a lifetime of radio listening makes them think they’re experts in producing. Similarly there’s a difference in running an established, formatted station and creating a new one.

Creating a successful radio station, and cutting through in a market where listeners can get over 60 on their digital radio requires art, science, marketing and luck.

Now Wireless, themselves, have probably had the most experience in launching new radio stations – two speech ones with talkRADIO and talkSPORT2, along with a launched and re-launched Virgin Radio, so you’d hope they’ve got the experience to make a decent fist of this or at least learned something about the process along the way.

With any project, but definitely with radio stations, the biggest problem is drifting away from core objectives to do what you want to do, rather than what you need to.

If ‘competing with the BBC’ or ‘taking on Radio 4’ ends up being the core aim. I would say the strategy is officially, batshit mental.

Radio 4 has an annual budget nearing £100m a year, perfect FM and digital distribution, free cross-promotion on some of the nation’s favourite TV stations and over 50 years of heritage. Its listeners are happy to drift through hard news, a soap opera, and a programme about poetry without causing much channel changing. Its scale is such that 200k leaving a show is basically a rounding error.

Radio 4 currently has 10.9m listeners. Other speech stations in the UK have significantly less, with 5 Live on 5.4m, LBC with 2.7m (even with a London FM licence) and talkRADIO on 433k. After four years.

As another example, the relaunched Virgin Radio with the nation’s most popular DJ, Chris Evans, who swapped from Radio 2 to Virgin Radio with, to all intents and purposes, the same show, could probably be held as the high water mark of what can be done quickly on digital radio – in a year he’s added 1million listeners to take that station to 1.5m.

To hit those numbers would be unexpected – and a triumph, but would still have you at 15% of Radio 4.


The biggest issue for the Times Radio team is being distracted from the very sensible endeavour of adding new subscribers to the business.

The problem is that it’s not sexy or fun. It’s, of course, much more interesting going on the attack. But being focused on a competitor, like Radio 4 or the BBC, means you end up playing to them, rather than concentrating on your own objectives.

The amazing opportunity of being all about converting 10,000 new Times fans is that you can embrace this fortunate position you’re in of not worrying about the ratings. How liberating that would be? Indeed, why do you even need to publish your RAJAR figures?

Converting people to subscribers means a two pronged strategy. The first phase is listener acquisition. I imagine there’s probably two groups to appeal to:

  1. (easier) Attracting listeners that are occasional or semi-regular readers
  2. (harder) Identifying the types of people who would like The Times brand if they experienced (more of) it, by including programming that appeals to that target’s interests.

The second phase is turning this group of people into proper fans – to make them feel like the Times environment is one that interests them, represents them, entertains them.

Working out subscription conversion is difficult, but 2% of a station with 500,000 listeners would hit that 10k.


For me the interesting thing to learn from NewsCorps’ existing research with Times subscribers is the interplay between news and non-news content. What’s the combination of content that makes people part with their money?

If I was mapping out the radio market, there’s a lot of delivery of news within speech content – big parts of Radio 4, most of 5 Live, LBC and talkRADIO. Of course I’d expect Times Radio to cover news, but it’s a brand with a strong features background, how do you weave that into the schedule? Podcasting has shown there’s a huge appetite for non-news speech, with the latest RAJAR MIDAS survey saying podcasting has now reached 10m people in the UK.

To create a tribe of listeners where you’re trying to build connection, Coronavirus or Brexit all of the time isn’t going to cut it. It also doesn’t differentiate in the market. Why fight for LBC or talkRADIO listeners by doing the same thing?

In a Buzzfeed News article last weekend, the reporting talked about the bringing together of The Times and Sunday Times (they’re currently run separately) and to “transform it into a premium, politically liberal brand like the New York Times”. Radio could definitely help with that.

Maybe it’ll be there when there’s more detail released, but if I was looking to create Times Radio I’d be drawing on far more built content – short and long form. I’d be drawing on the kinds of content in Red Box, Stories of our Times, The Game and The Ruck, Giles Coren and even Postcards from Midlife, Walking the Dog and Tales of Silicon Valley. These well made podcasts would reach newer audiences on a linear radio station and would provide texture that isn’t available on other speech competitors.

Indeed, if you are trying to re-think Radio 4, don’t get obsessed with the Today programme, remember that much of their schedule is actually built, well-thought out shows.

The word that keeps appearing in Times promo is ‘warm’. I think that’s a good word – and something that’s much more connected to the idea of building a group of listeners who you can activate to do something – subscribe.

Update: From the Launch Director, Stig Abell:

RAJAR Q4/2019

Sadly the day job, and a super early flight for Thursday has somewhat got in the way of writing a RAJAR blog post tonight. Apologies!

However, one quick thing, and then I’ll try and get into some more analysis when I have a little more time this week.

There were quite a few articles about children’s declining radio habit and many connecting it to the rise in smart speaker use. Here’s the normally excellent Matthew Moore’s piece in The Times. It’s based on Ofcom’s study: Children and parents: media use and attitudes.

The line in the report states:

“Of all the devices children aged 5-15 use, however, the smart speaker has seen the largest increase in use – from 15% in 2018 to 27% in 2019. As such, smart speakers have now overtaken use of radios, which declined from 26% to 22% over the same period.”

Of course, the interpretation is wrong, whilst the data is accurate. The use of a device may be dropping, but that doesn’t mean the consumption of the product is. Live radio remains the most used thing on a smart-speaker, so just because someone’s unplugged a radio set and replaced it with an illuminated blue puck, doesn’t mean that radio consumption has dropped. Indeed, it may mean that radio use has increased as children start to use a device better suited to them to listen to the radio.

In my day job of running a children’s radio station, I often speak at conferences and talk about the status of the radio in kids’ lives. In the car the radio is at the front, where parents sit, a child has to negotiate to get something played on it. In a kitchen, the radio is high up on a work-top, again it requires negotiation for a re-tune. In the lounge, it may be part of an expensive DO NOT TOUCH Sonos system.

The smart-speaker on the other hand, needs no hands. Any child can demand of it what they like, and, according to some research I watched, when I child leaned in to the researcher and whispered conspiratorially “it never says no”.

Growth in smart speaker use is something we’ve seen hugely at Fun Kids. On the 25th December in 2018 and 2019 our daily stream starts doubled and this then remained (and grew steadily) over the year. Smart speakers provide the bulk of hours to our internet listening now.

It’s also perhaps a contributing reason to why Fun Kids has had its best ever RAJAR results. Regular readers will know that RAJAR is an oddity for Fun Kids, you need to be a part of it to be seen as a ‘proper’ radio station, but it only measures 10 plusses – which is a bit annoying for us as our station is for under 10s! Therefore though we’re national we just measure our London audience.

So, according to the latest data, we now have 120,000 listeners in London and that’s outside our core demo! Just think what it would be if it actually measured all of our little listeners and we surveyed the whole of the UK.

I always like to do a sort of all the radio stations audible in London, by 10+ reach and see where we rank. This book’s been a good one to do that. In my list of 69 stations we’re the 39th. This means we’re bigger than (deep breath) the new Hearts (Heart 70s, Heart 90s and Heart Dance), Capital XTRA Reloaded, Magic Chilled, the Hits Radios (Hits Radio, Greatest Hits and Country Hits), in fact all the country stations (Smooth Radio Country and Chris Country Radio), Smooth’s other spin-offs Smooth Radio Chill and Extra, Heat, Kerrang!, talkRADIO and talkSPORT2, three of the Absolute digital stations (Absolute Radio 60s, Absolute Radio 70s and Absolute Radio 00s, Scala Radio, the Jacks (JACK Radio and Union JACK) and Virgin Radio’s current RAJAR’d spin-offs Virgin Anthems and Virgin Chilled.

So well done to our little team who works so hard.

It’s also perhaps an answer to the often mentioned, and frequently misinterepreted “but kids don’t listen to the radio”. Well, there might be fewer of them listening to a radio, but and more and more seem to be finding what we’re doing every day.

if you’re after a more comprehensive RAJAR round up, Radio Today has a great piece here and Adam Bowie some excellent analysis here.

RAJAR Q3/2019

Here we go again. Another quarter. More data.

There’s a deluge of information. The number of stations keeps increasing, consumer behaviour is changing and this produces more and more information.

The data used to be easy to analyse, who’s up and who’s down. Now? Not so much. As well as station changes, we’ve got wholesale network alterations and a changing mix of which platforms people listen to.

When I get the data, the first thing I tend to look at is London. It’s the most competitive market. It has the most stations. It’s just a good place to start.

Usually I put up the commercial London market share chart, but this time here’s all the stations audible in London, looking at the share today, last quarter and last year. You can see the immovables in Radio 4 and Radio 2. LBC seems to have graduated to that point too.

Market share comes from total hours consumed. The stations with high average hours do well – and these tend to be the older appealing ones – R4, R2, Classic and LBC. The younger stations with shorter consumption lengths start to drift. You can see Radio 1, Capital, Kiss drifting below Classic FM, Magic and Heart.

As well as the hours pressure, Capital and Kiss have had tough times with breakfast too.

Capital London breakfast has generally hovered around 1m, but has seen a bit of a drop to 700k. Blip or trend? It’s always hard to say with a single wave.

Over at Kiss, Rickie, Melvin and Charlie left at the beginning of the year, so they’re still in build mode. Not unnaturally the figures dropped to around 700k, and now this quarter have fallen to 526k.

So where have all these listeners gone? The obvious place would be Radio 1. Greg James is a year in, with a strong show. But whilst he’s up year on year, he’s slightly down on the quarter.

Can the listeners have just disappeared?

Having a look at London’s demographics, 15 to 24s are the group with most volatility – and are most likely to affect the younger stations.

The chart above shows percentage reach of 15 to 24s in the key day-parts. In Breakfast there’s been a softening from a fairly reliable low-50s to a drop last quarter and this.

The other day-parts have been affected, but not so recently. They had their changes around a year ago. Are we perhaps seeing the end of a re-alignment from youth audiences? Had breakfast merely held up until now?

Meanwhile looking at the 55-64s, if you’re programming for them, you’re luckier as they’re a more, er, resilient part of the radio audience.

At the older end of the breakfast market, nationally Zoe Ball at Radio 2 has seen a fall to 7.9m (from 8.2m q on q and 8.8m y on y). Meanwhile her old chum Chris Evans has held steady up q on q to 1,114m from 1,110m. I imagine Wireless would have liked to seen some further growth, but the status again reaffirms the complexity in the market.

Looking back to the London market share table, the other big shift is the arrival of more digital stations into the mix. 6Music and Kisstory is bigger than FM stations like Capital Xtra and BBC London.

Digital Radio (across DAB, DTV and online) now accounts for 56.8% of listening vs 43.2% for analogue (AM/FM). When you look at platform more specifically, DAB accounts for 39.7% of listening whilst my calculations now show FM accounts for just marginally more at 40.7%. We live in a truly multi-platform radio market.

For me, though, the most important figure is that Fun Kids has hit its highest ever RAJAR reach of 105k (10+) in London.

This is a bigger reach than Scala Radio, Hits Radio, Greatest Hits Radio, Virgin’s spin-offs and a load more services too.

I think the figures are even more impressive because RAJAR only measures over 10s, just think what our numbers would be if they actually measured our core audience!

Our addition in the market is that of a small minnow compared to the investment the radio groups are putting into families of brands.

Where some individual stations seem weaker in the chart at the top of the page, this chart shows the London share when stations are grouped together into their new networks. Heart (which takes into account Heart 80s and Extra) gives a combined share of 6.2% and LBC picking up the main service and the rolling news channel (soon to expand to the whole country) gives it an even more impressive 8% share.

With commercial radio now just three larger radio groups, the idea of a single station being the be all and end all, is long gone.

Adam Bowie has more detail about individual station breakdowns.

RAJAR Q2/2019 – Disappointment Haunted All My Dreams

RAJAR can be a cruel mistress. Whilst established stations can, some what, coast from past glories, new stations on the survey are thrust into the limelight whether they’re ready for it or not.

In the old days of course, a new station launch was a thing of excitement. The local newspaper would splash you on the front page and its photographer would have encouraged you to proffer some CDs, wearing headphones, with a selection of balloons framing you. The result – 20% reach for you banging out today’s best mix.

Today, your launch will not lead the local paper. Which has probably closed down. And your listeners already happily have the choice of around 80 stations on digital radio, which for many, is fixed to Kisstory, 6Music or still, amazingly, Radio 4.

Today’s RAJAR shows us data from two new launches – Scala Radio and Country Hits Radio, the beginnings of Global’s national breakfast strategy and the settling waves from the big changes in Q1 – Evans/Ball et al.

I imagine the folks at Scala are somewhat disappointed by a weekly reach of 258,000 listeners, and their big signing Simon Mayo pulling in 134,100. The good news is that he’s pretty essential – delivering 51% of the station’s cume, the bad being, well, less listeners than a jukebox like Magic Chilled (329k).

I enjoy listening to Scala. There’s obvious effort and forethought and an aim to do some different. Its challenge is explaining why someone should tune in. A station for people surprised to realise they quite like classical music seems a communication challenge.

Bauer’s Country Hits Radio on the other hand probably exceeded expectations. Its execution, and budget, was not in the Scala range and it’s distribution is patchy at the moment – but a similar audience delivery at 208,000 is pretty good. Its competition is from homegrown Chris Country, who are available in some regions in the UK, but only measure on RAJAR in London. If we look at that London fight, Chris Country delivers 23.4k reach vs Country Hits’ 25.9k – pretty close. However in hours, Chris Country delivers 223k vs Country Hits’ 67.8k. It’ll be interesting to see as Bauer’s station grows whether it can build the loyalty that Chris has conjured over the past few years.

With all new launches what I mainly look at, of course, is how it compares with my own station, Fun Kids. As I often mention, RAJAR doesn’t measure under 10s, which is frustrating for a station who’s core audience is below that! As such we just RAJAR our national station in the capital.

Therefore it’s pleasing to see Fun Kids (10+) in London is bigger than Scala Radio, Country Hits and Chris Country (as well as Virgin Anthems, Virgin Chilled, The Arrow, Kerrang, Greatest Hits, Jack Radio and Union Jack and more). Just think where we’d be if we measured the actual target audience too! Anyway, I digress.

It’s a bit early for RAJAR to fully reflect Capital’s removal of local breakfast shows and replacement with Roman, Vick and Sonny, particularly as many of the stations are RAJAR’d over half or a full year. For anoraks rubbing their hands with glee, I’m afraid both the regular numbers and the forced three monthlies that the industry can see, doesn’t show any major changes or audience exodus.

The big changes last quarter was Chris Evans’ jump to Virgin and Zoe Ball’s new appointment at Radio 2. It was pretty good news for everyone – Evans launched with a psychologically important 1m listeners, and Zoe maintaining Evans’ high water mark.

This time around, well, the dust has settled, and it’s not great news for Radio 2, who have seen their reach drop quarter on quarter from 15.3m to 14.5m, their lowest headline figure since at least 2013. On breakfast its hit 8.2m (down from 9.0m in the previous quarter), the lowest figure for at least ten years.

But Zoe’s listeners haven’t disappeared off to Chris Evans, who increased his numbers, but only from 1.04m to 1.10m across the Virgin Radio network. Indeed, the main Virgin Radio’s growth from 1.3m to 1.5m shows how outside of Breakfast, listeners are joining the station.

Virgin Radio’s owners, the Wireless Group – a part of News UK – has seen, this quarter a transition from a mixed local and national broadcaster to a predominantly national group in the mainland UK, following the sale of their local stations to Bauer (CMA willing). They had around a million local listeners contributing 10m hours to the group, but post-sale the growth of their national stations has meant the group is now delivering its biggest ever audiences.

Whilst they go national, some operators are doubling down on local. Nation Broadcasting have picked up some more local stations as Bauer have disposed of some assets to smooth their regulatory glide path. It’s probably too early to see what Nation will do with KCFM, Breeze and Sam South Coast, but the news from their core local Welsh stations is less than optimal. Radio Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Bridge and Swansea Bay have seen their reach and hours drop both quarter on quarter and year on year. Some precipitously.

As is often the case in Q2, digital radio listening has dropped back a little. It now deliver 56% of all radio listening, rather than 56.4% last quarter. Year on year though, it’s up from 50.2%.

It did make me look at the reach figures for digital radio though. 72% of radio listeners listen to analogue radio each week, but 74% of radio listeners choose digital. We are definitely in a post-analogue radio world now.

Post-Christmas we’ve also seen a change in digital radio consumption, with internet radio listening, something that’s always been a laggard, suddenly taking a up-swing. In Q4/2018 it accounted for a 9.4% share of listening, Q1/2019 saw it leap up to 11.0%, and now it’s up to 12.5%. It would be hard to disagree that this has been fuelled by the rise of smart speakers.

All this shows how the more competitive market is making all stations – big and small – think about how they communicate and compete.

Adam Bowie has more detail about individual station breakdowns.

RAJAR Q1/2019 – Evans, Consolidation and Digital Growth

In the radio industry at the moment there are two over riding themes:

  1. The BBC’s relationship with talent and the effect on the whole industry of those presenters swapping stations.
  2. The consolidation of commercial radio into, effectively, two radio groups – and their brand strategies to take on each other and the BBC.

Now, the results of this quarter can’t answer all those questions, but it can start to tell us a little about the future.

Chris Evans

This is the first book for Chris back at his “spiritual home” Virgin Radio. It’s not a full quarter as he started a couple of weeks into the survey, but it covered most of his opening tenure.

Whilst the re-booted Virgin Radio’s been around for three years, the arrival of Evans is close to a re-launch for the station. The station’s weekly reach has popped from 447k to 1,301k. A good number and way above the 850k most radio folk were predicting.

On Breakfast, Evans himself has done well – 993k listeners on the main station, and up to 1,048k when the spin-off’s Anthems and Chilled are added, where his show also broadcasts. This lets him hit the magic million!

What’s happened to Zoe on Radio 2? Well, er, not that much! She’s pretty much where Chris left – 9,047k (vs 9,065 q on q and 9,120k y on y). This is a great result for Radio 2. It’s also helped the network recover from last quarter’s 14.8m reach and now up to 15.3m. Year on year it’s stable too, with their reach figure 15.4m this time last year.

The last bit of premium talent to make the jump from the BBC to Commercial Radio was Chris Moyles. He joined Radio X from Radio 1 after a three year break at the end of 2015. Since taking on the slot he’s seen slow, but steady growth. Overall though, he’s doubled the figures and now he’s pretty close to Evans with a reach of 928k.

Next quarter we’ll find out how Simon Mayo’s fared with his move to Scala.

Chris Evans has clearly super-charged Virgin Radio, giving them a load more listeners to sell to advertisers. They do have a small issue with their ad-free breakfast show. Chris is clearly the main draw, but his show has an exclusive partner – Sky. If you’re an advertiser who wants to get onto the Breakfast show, that’s not something you can currently do. A tough sell for the sales team.

Pre-Evans, Virgin was delivering around 1.6m hours a week, they’re now generating a whopping 7.7m. BUT, only 3.4m are monetisable, as the rest sit in Evans’ Breakfast show.

1m listeners for Chris is a good figure, and one that will probably climb if they keep promoting it and if they can translate the content it produces into social media that really travels. Promoting Evans being there is one thing, but they still have their work cut out to communicate what the show’s doing on-air, to the non-listening public.

But one thing the show has done, is drastically change the profile of the station.

Previously it was 63% 15 to 44, now it’s 40%. The average age is up from 40 to 47.

Looking at the other breakfast shows, Kiss has a new line-up since the departure of Rickie, Melvin and Charlie with new duo Tom and Daisy. They took a not unexpected hit, across the UK reaching 1,787k (down q on q from 1,846k and y on y from 2,092k) but in London dropping faster to 671k (from 805k q on q and 968k y o y).

Over the road in Leicester Square, Capital London breakfast grew to 971k (up from 914k q on q) but down slightly (from 1,023k year on year). Roman and co now consolidate 3.7m listeners as their show goes national (the network up from 3.6m q on q, but down from a high of 3.9m y on y).

With many of the Capitals on a half-yearly measurement, it’ll take a little while to see the impact of the new national strategy.

This is Greg James’ 2nd book at Radio 1. It’s similar to last quarter – 5,044k (vs 5,110k q on q and up from 4,776k y on y). Delving slightly into the data, his share is up from 6.4% to 6.5%, whilst the station share sticks at 5.7%. If the breakfast show is leading the station, that’s good news for Greg, and a sign that daytime should probably pushing harder.

The way that Radio 1 splits the week, probably also doesn’t help. Greg runs Mon to Thurs, whilst Matt & Molly do Fri-Sun. Friday’s RAJAR have the lowest reach and share of the week (4.4% reach/5.8% share) when compared to Mon-Thurs. My worry would be that on Fridays people sample other stations’ breakfast shows, potentially giving them a reason not to tune back to Radio 1 on Monday.

Eddie Mair’s continued to grow audience for LBC, up to 756k for his drive show (up from 715k q on q and 663k y on y). Eddie displaced Iain Dale, who took the evening shift of 7pm to 10pm – somewhere he seems to be thriving too – with reach up again to 603k.

6Music’s got a new breakfast show in Lauren Laverne with the, er, slightly weird time of 7.30am to 10.30am. It works for 6, whose audience are probably slightly less commuter-y and it has the benefit of picking up a chunk of her old mid-morning audience too. Looking at the timeslot over time, she’s pretty stable, down marginally to 1,358k from 1,375k q on q and up from 1,326k year on year.


Since last we met, Bauer have been busy buying up radio groups, adding Celador, UKRD, Lincs FM and Wireless’ local station to their operation. Though at the moment they’re in regulatory limbo whilst the CMA decide if there are any issues.

Bauer’s rationale is all about building market share. Last quarter the group had a 15.4% share of the total market. If we add the audience of their acquisitions, last quarter they’d have been up to 17.9%. However a decline of half a percentage point at their own stations and drops at their new acquisitions take their total share this quarter down to 16.3%.

Global’s share meanwhile seems pretty static at 23.2%, the BBC is up half a point to 51.4% and Wireless, because of the Virgin radio, success is up nearly a point – 3.1% (from 2.3%).

It definitely highlights the need for Bauer to grapple with its stations, both new and old, to make the most of the opportunity.

It’ll be the next few quarters before we start to see how Global’s consolidated networks are performing, and it’ll probably take a similar amount of time to have an idea what Bauer are doing too.


Digital growth, partly driven by the Virgin Radio changes, has been very strong this quarter. Digital listening (that’s DAB, DTV and the Internet) now accounts for 56.4% of listening (with AM/FM at 43.6%).

Indeed, with AM/FM on 43.6%, DAB is now on 40.4% – so we’re approaching a point where DAB is the majority way of listening to the radio in the UK.