Rajar Q1 2017: Industry analysis

18 May 2017 
Rajar Q1 2017: Industry analysis

As Rajar releases its latest figures for the UK radio market, Carat, MC&C and Total Media reflect on the results

Mike Wood, AV director, Carat

As with every new set of Rajar results, the number of people listening to radio via digital continues to grow and now stands at 47.2% of all listening (up from 44.1% this time last year). Over recent years this has been accredited to a standard list of factors, such as the (slight) increase in in-home DAB set ownership and the number of new vehicles emerging fitted with the DAB set.

However, this rise is likely to be accelerated with the increased use of voice-controlled smart devices in the home, such as the Amazon Echo, a subject that the Radiocentre covered in its recent ‘‘Getting Vocal’’ research.

According to the research, around 9% of all UK homes currently have one or more of these devices, and the number is expected to rise to around 40% in 2018.

Considering that 71% of current owners state that they are listening to more radio, and that the majority of these devices are located in the living room (a room which the radio has not had significant presence in most households for quite some time), the 50% digital listening figure is closer than ever.

In terms of overall listening figures, commercial radio has once again overtaken the BBC in reach (34.5m v 34.2m), and has driven a significant year on year increase in overall radio listening. A 22m increase in year on year weekly listening hours on commercial radio compared to a 4.5m drop for the BBC highlights the strength of this medium in 2017.

Looking at station results, the major national success story is LBC, whose figures continue to show rapid growth. It's fair to say that there has been no shortage of interesting news stories over the last 12 months which will have assisted in a 15.5% year on year rise in reach for the station and a 27% rise in hours.

Don't be surprised to see a jump next quarter as well, given recent highly publicised interviews with Diane Abbott and Theresa May.

Mark Jackson, managing director, MC&C Media

The overall decline in listening figures are no cause for panic – and certainly not a reason for brands to turn away from using radio as part of their media strategy.

Of particular note is the success of digital only station BBC 6 Music as this is evidence of radio’s resilience and ability to adapt to consumer habits - in this case following ears, not eyeballs. This is further bolstered by the fact that almost 6 in 10 adults now listen to the radio via a digital platform.

As with most traditional media platforms users remain engaged with their passions, demonstrated by the continued strength of Classic FM and the astronomical growth of United Christian Broadcasting, and in turn in these stations brands find a receptive and loyal audience.

We can also see younger users in particular are happy to engage with their favourite radio stations online, with 43% of 15-24 year old social media users receiving updates about their favourite radio stations.

Levels of engagement can also be seen in the growth of people listening to the radio whilst driving, with Q1 recording the highest-ever proportion of in-car listening. As car manufacturers continue to make it easy for people to tune in on the move, radio truly has a captive audience.

Radio therefore continues to be a compelling proposition to brands and should be utilised as part of the cross channel media mix, to boost performance and increase long term brand recognition.”

Liz Duff, head of broadcast, Total Media

The latest Rajar results are more positive than the figures initially suggest, with many commercial, local and digital stations continuing to grow their listener bases year on year.

The challenge that all media channels face is the ever increasing demands on people’s attention and time, as audiences are exposed to more information and are more time-poor than ever before. With even more media choices for consumers, the fact that radio listening figures remain stable is a good result for the industry.

Radio's innate strength lies in the fact it is a complimentary media, especially when married with digital, which suggests why radio listening continues to remain strong.

This has been driven in part by the huge tech investment which is future proofing the channel and helping to attract new audiences. We’re seeing this reflected in the spike in demand for digital content such as podcasting and general increases in digital listening.

Radio’s increasingly tight focus on creating a more curated and meaningful experience for its listeners through the harnessing of personalisation will be another factor in helping to boost audiences.

Local and digital stations have done particularly well in this arena as they already come with expectation of a more tailor made, personal experience. We can see this reflected in local or interest-led broadcasters, such as LBC which reported a 10% increase in average listening time and United Christian Broadcasting which recorded a 100% surge in listening hours.

With all the recent advancements in personalisation and technology, we expect to see further growth in these areas as more broadcasters invest in the curation of their content.

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