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'Audiences For UK Commercial Radio: Are They Up? Are They Down? Or Both?' by Grant Goddard

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Analysis of Q1 2009 RAJAR audience data for UK commercial radio stations and the resultant contradictory press coverage, written by Grant Goddard in May 2009 for Grant Goddard: Radio Blog.

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'Audiences For UK Commercial Radio: Are They Up? Are They Down? Or Both?' by Grant Goddard

  1. 1. AUDIENCES FOR UK COMMERCIAL RADIO: ARE THEY UP? ARE THEY DOWN? OR BOTH? by GRANT GODDARD www.grantgoddard.co.uk May 2009
  2. 2. Is it me, or is it becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the numbers in the latest RAJAR radio ratings data with the write-ups of those numbers in the trade and consumer press?  “Commercial radio regains share from BBC”, said the headline in 'Media Week'.  “Commercial radio share drops 40%”, said the headline in 'Broadcast'.  “Commercial radio’s share of listening still falling”, said the headline in 'Marketing Week'.  “Commercial radio’s audience …. grew from 31.2m to 31.5m listeners a week”, said 'The Telegraph' and, using precisely the same wording, said the BBC.  “Commercial radio’s market share dipped slightly to 41.6%,” said a different story in 'The Telegraph'.  “Commercial radio had an audience of 31.5m adults, increasing its reach and share of the audience compared to the previous year,” said 'The Independent'. These reports appear contradictory and inconsistent. This is partly due to poor reporting, but it also because there are a number of different metrics used to measure the audience for radio (and thus for commercial radio). These include: WEEKLY REACH Commercial radio’s weekly reach amongst adults (15+) is up quarter-on-quarter (from 61.5% to 62.1%) and up year-on-year (from 61.6% to 62.1%). In the long term, the trend still appears to be downward. 65.4 64.2 63.5 63.8 63.4 63.2 62.2 62.6 61.6 61.7 62.0 62.9 62.6 63.6 62.0 61.0 61.6 61.1 61.5 61.5 62.1 60 62 64 66 Q12004 Q22004 Q32004 Q42004 Q12005 Q22005 Q32005 Q42005 Q12006 Q22006 Q32006 Q42006 Q12007 Q22007 Q32007 Q42007 Q12008 Q22008 Q32008 Q42008 Q12009 AVERAGE HOURS PER LISTENER Average hours per adult (15+) listener to commercial radio are down quarter-on-quarter (from 13.7 to 13.5 hours per week) and also down year-on-year (from 13.7 to 13.5 hours per week). The long-term trend is downwards. Audiences For UK Commercial Radio: Are They Up? Are They Down? Or Both? page 2 ©2009 Grant Goddard
  3. 3. 15.6 15.4 15.0 14.9 15.0 15.1 15.2 14.7 14.8 14.6 15.0 14.6 14.1 14.4 14.1 14.0 13.7 13.9 13.9 13.7 13.5 13 14 15 16 Q12004 Q22004 Q32004 Q42004 Q12005 Q22005 Q32005 Q42005 Q12006 Q22006 Q32006 Q42006 Q12007 Q22007 Q32007 Q42007 Q12008 Q22008 Q32008 Q42008 Q12009 TOTAL HOURS LISTENED Total hours listened to commercial radio (adults 15+) are down quarter-on-quarter (from 427m to 426m hours per week) and are up year-on-year (from 424m to 426m hours per week). The long-term trend is downwards. 494,622 482,457 466,008 464,351 463,420 469,980 466,172 453,692 449,529 449,241 463,531 457,102 439,709 459,322 441,457 431,319 424,396 431,081 432,016 427,050 425,902 0 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000 300,000 350,000 400,000 450,000 500,000 Q12004 Q22004 Q32004 Q42004 Q12005 Q22005 Q32005 Q42005 Q12006 Q22006 Q32006 Q42006 Q12007 Q22007 Q32007 Q42007 Q12008 Q22008 Q32008 Q42008 Q12009 SHARE OF LISTENING Commercial radio’s share of total radio listening (15+ adults) is down quarter-on- quarter (from 42.2% to 41.6%) and up year-on-year (from 41.1% to 41.6%). The long-term trend is downwards. Audiences For UK Commercial Radio: Are They Up? Are They Down? Or Both? page 3 ©2009 Grant Goddard
  4. 4. 45.5 45.0 43.7 44.2 43.8 44.0 43.5 42.8 42.6 42.9 43.6 43.2 42.1 43.5 43.3 42.4 41.1 42.4 43.1 42.2 41.6 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 Q12004 Q22004 Q32004 Q42004 Q12005 Q22005 Q32005 Q42005 Q12006 Q22006 Q32006 Q42006 Q12007 Q22007 Q32007 Q42007 Q12008 Q22008 Q32008 Q42008 Q12009 As can be seen from the above graphs, the numbers naturally oscillate across time, regardless of their long-term trends. This makes it easy each quarter to pick out at least one measure that shows a gain, either quarter-on-quarter or year-on-year or both, and highlight that number alone in a press release. There is always some number, whatever it is, that is going to be ‘up’ rather than ‘down’. Without placing that solitary ‘up’ number in any context, many journalists simply jump upon the press release and proclaim that everything is ‘up’. And so it was this quarter. It would be great to be able to report that commercial radio in the UK had turned the corner and was bouncing back, attracting more listeners for longer periods of time, and trouncing the BBC. Unfortunately, the facts say otherwise. The only thing that some of these ‘up’ headlines in the press prove is the sector’s ability to spin a good yarn. However, an industry that believes its own PR is an industry in trouble. Complacency is a large part of the problem that has led the commercial radio industry to where it is today – not a particularly happy place. If all this fake positivity around the RAJAR results simply encourages further complacency in commercial radio, it could hasten the death of the industry. Everybody likes to hear good news. Nobody wants to be a bad news bear. But for an industry to be taken seriously, it needs to be imparting factual and accurate statements about the state of its health. To its credit, only 'The Independent' had the temerity to ask: “Why are radio audiences rising, and how come the industry is in crisis?” [First published by Grant Goddard: Radio Blog as 'Commercial Radio And RAJAR: The Truth Is Out There (Somewhere)', 11 May 2009.] Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk Audiences For UK Commercial Radio: Are They Up? Are They Down? Or Both? page 4 ©2009 Grant Goddard

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