RAJAR round-up

By | Published on Thursday 27 October 2011


So, the latest RAJAR radio listening figures are out everybody, and top level stats – assuming you buy RAJAR’s not entirely fool proof measurement systems – include the fact that 90.7% of people now tune into radio at least once a week, total listening hours are up 2% year on year, digital listening hours have passed 300 million a week for the first time, and the accessing of radio via mobile phones is up 24.2%. On the digital front, the DAB network still accounts for most digital listening, though use of radio-via-TV platforms and internet listening were both up this time.

But what about the relative success of different stations in the latest ratings report? Well, Radio 1 saw its audience grow again over the summer so it is reaching more listeners each week than at anytime in the last decade, though in the big race – breakfast – its sister station Radio 2 still performs better, with Chris Evans growing his audience to 8.86 million while Chris Moyles’ audience figures fell to 7.16 million.

Elsewhere at the Beeb, classical station Radio 3 saw its overall audience fall quarter on quarter and year on year to 2.05 million listeners a week. There was a quite radical schedule overhaul there in the latter part of the most recent RAJAR quarter, which may or may not have played its part in the audience slip. Ironically the aim of the revamp was to appeal to a bigger audience, though in doing so station bosses have alienated some of their more faithful listeners. That said, it would be unfair to expect any positive impacts of the revamp to be apparent in the listening figures quite this soon.

On to the commercial stations, and London first, where Global Radio is making much of the fact its main two stations, Capital and Heart, are now the two biggest in terms of audience size. Capital, of course, floundered for several years once Heart and other rival Magic started gaining momentum ten years ago, but can now claim to be number one again. It’s quite an achievement for Team Capital, and possibly proves that adopting a music and programming policy that makes my ears physically bleed (I mean, really bleed, one hour listening and I have no blood left) is the way to appeal to the masses. In the latest RAJAR quarter, Bauer Media’s Magic came in third.

Global is also making much about the fact its wider Capital and Heart networks, which are now quasi-national stations, both saw audiences grow, suggesting the company’s policy of rolling out brands, programming and playlists nationally works. That said, local radio in general had a good quarter, with many of those stations owned by UTV, UKRD and smaller operators, most of which adopt a more local approach in both brand and programming, also seeing impressive audience increases. That’s not to say there were increases 100% across the board – I don’t want this RAJAR round-up to be wholly positive – but the gains seem more bountiful than the losses.

Some digital-only stations also had a good quarter, with Absolute’s decade stations, 80s and 90s, both doing well, the former now the biggest digital-only station, ahead of Bauer’s The Hits Radio. Seven digital-only channels now reach over a million listeners a month, including Absolute 80s, Five Live Sports Extra, Smash Hits, The Hits, 6Music, 4Extra and Kerrang, with 1Xtra and Planet Rock getting near that landmark too – the latter seeing its audience grow again, so it’s now bigger in audience than the whole of Xfm, which isn’t a direct competitor, but it is an indication of the potential for genre-focused services in the digital-only space.