Total radio listening was up 1% year on year – with over a billion hours crammed into our good nation’s very British eardrums. But how it found its way into our eardrums is an arena where we are seeing massive change. Across the board, we are seeing a plethora of devices and ways to listen that break the traditional FM/AM dial mould – but we’re also seeing a fragmentation of the listener hours across an ever stronger fold of the more niche stations.

The Results in Summary

The big middle of the road stations, Heart, Capital, Magic and Kiss in London – all maintained a dominance but absorbed some quite significant drops. But it was the smaller niche stations that pushed upwards and onwards.

And that’s good for Choice…..

So let’s start with Choice FM. London’s now major alternative urban station posted a very aggressive and pleasing 568,000 weekly listeners. Then there was XFM who came back with a vengeance and had a positive RAJAR for the first time in many moons. Smooth in London went large and also did well nationally with its older calmer more eclectic mix of music and style. A result that will please Global Radio as they eye up their slinky new outfit.

A big star this RAJAR was Absolute Radio, posting rises across the portfolio of stations and streams, Absolute London fared well and the headline was Absolute’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show now being London’s second biggest behind Dave Berry and Lisa Snowden on Capital. It’s old style thinking but if you start the day with a station, it does tend to stick around a little longer in your listening habits.

It’s also looking more and more like Bauer are in the lead to buy Absolute Radio. Meaning the battle of the top 2 (Global v Bauer)  is started to look less like David and Goliath and more like Tiger Woods v Rory McIlroy.

As well as Absolute, nationally, Talksport fell back a little bit – but its figures always swirl around like an Andy Murray lob shot in the wind, as its listenership fluctuates with the live sporting events it carries. Classic FM posted rises and its mega audience still pushes way beyond 5 million. That’s a lot of listeners…….

The Heart and Capital networks both posted fair results throughout the regions but the Global policy of talent investment centrally, delivered locally (!) is paying more dividends to the balance sheet than the RAJAR highlights reel. On the other hand, Bauer’s portfolio of stations generally did well. Magic topped London but Key 103 also took the Manchester crown. Metro had a big one in Newcastle, Clyde 1 piled on the Glaswegian listeners and overall there was a sense that passionate local big city radio has once again proved that it has a very solid contemporary relevance.

Big shout out to Real Radio Wales too – topping half a million listeners making it a real heavyweight station now and a fabulous way to deliver an important geographic audience to advertisers.

Radio Devices – How we listen

Digital listening was up 14% year on year to a 33% share of all radio listening to any digital platform. This largely thanks to the UK Radioplayer and innovative stations such as Absolute Radio leading the way with their Apps and streaming services. Thanks to increased and better access to many different platforms and the release of faster internet on mobile devices (4G), online listening reaches 51 million hours per week – up 43% Y on Y. To add to this 19% of adults have listened to radio via their mobile phone – up 28% year on year.

All in all – the big headlines

  • Listening: We’re listening more and more – radio is match fit and surging across new platforms like an enthusiastically overfilled bath.
  • London: Magic tops London, Capital and Absolute go 1st and 2nd  in London’s Breakfast Show wars. Smooth and Choice FM deliver big rises and more relevance in a more fragmented market (sharing is caring)
  • National: Classic up, Absolute up, Talksport down a little but its gender skew now 81% male, so when it’s right…’s oh so right.
  • Regions: Clear trend towards rewarding Bauer’s strategy of local passionate big city content. National talent based Global content does well but pumping passionate local content seems to do even better. There’s room for both.
  • How we listen:  Everybody Appy? We are listening online and via mobile more than ever, with online listening up 43% year on year. Radio and click thru move ever closer and become more symbiotic.

For more info on what this quarters RAJAR means for radio advertising in your area or for your brand drop us a line or give us a call now.

Tim Cowland is a Founder Partner at Radio Experts, a London based specialist radio advertising agency. @timcradioexpert

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