Digital platform figures from today's RAJAR
Posted on Thursday, May 12th, 2011 at 1:31 am. #
It’s RAJAR day – the day when the radio audience figures are released for the previous quarter. You’ll find all the normal figures at Media UK – search for a station, then hit “audience figures” to see all the information, and a pretty graph.
As any RAJAR day, I tend to leave the proper analysis to people like Adam Bowie – and normally Matt Deegan. This time, however, the Sony Award-winning Matt claims he is on holiday in Norfolk, creating a handy cover story for the true story that he’s singing the Finland Entry at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
I’ve written a piece for MediaTel this year (you’ll see it on their site) about radio coverage as a whole; but here, I’d like to concentrate on new platforms – because, for the first time, RAJAR have relaxed their rules on publishing information on platform consumption. They might not release the figures, but assuming I could get hold of them (I could), I can now tell you exactly how people tune in to the radio. Excellent. I’ve got sight of some figures only for national and London stations, so, with apologies to the regions, here are some, I hope, interesting figures…
The best-performing analogue radio station, in terms of digital switchover, is BBC London 94.9 with a staggering 51.6% of listening on DAB Digital Radio, and 54% digital listening overall. BBC London 94.9 is a radio station broadcast on FM in London – but FM only accounts for 41.7% of all listening to that station, with DAB being higher still. While I’m aware that BBC London does do splits between FM and DAB, I still find this an incredible figure for a station with a decent FM signal.
For Absolute Radio National (i.e. Virgin 1215 in old money), 52.8% of their listening is to a digital platform, with DAB attracting 39% of that (5.6% for DTV, 8.1% for internet). I’m proud of that figure, given my history – but 42.7% of listening is still to clunky old AM, to my surprise. Guitar-based rock sounds cruddy on AM, so why are people still listening to it? (Rather shoots the audio-quality-brigade argument down in smoke).
The third highest analogue+digital national combo is BBC Radio 5 Live, which posts 39.2% of total listening to digital (DAB: 30.8%, TV 4.8%, Internet 3.6%).
Leading up the rear of the stations in my list are all the commercial Asian stations (Kismat, Buzz and Sunrise); and then… 95.8 Capital FM, with a pretty appalling 13.5% of total listening to digital. An interesting comparison, then, between Capital and BBC London. (The Capital Network across the UK, despite being digital-only in some places, has an overall listening figure of 15.6% for digital platforms).
Real Radio is next in the “could do better” list, at 14.4% of total hours on digital; then it’s Heart London, at 15.7%. Then… XFM. Then… LBC News 1152. Global Radio appears to have a digital migration problem.
BBC Asian Network is generally held as being a digital-only station. It’s not, being carried on AM in many parts of the UK; indeed, only 20.6% of its total hours are apparently done on a digital platform. It’s the worst performing BBC national radio station in terms of digital switchover. BBC Radio 1 is next, at 21.3%, and BBC Radio 2 is 22.7%. Indeed, the best performing of the BBC’s FM stations is BBC Radio 3, at 29.4%: a group, we’re repeatedly told, who love great audio quality. The BBC are under-performing at digital switchover when compared to commercial.
And I know you’re wondering… talkSPORT has 28.3% of total listening done on digital; just beating Classic FM‘s 28.1%. They’ve a long way to go to catch up with Absolute; but then, talkSPORT sounds fine on AM, and Classic FM is on, erm, FM – and, as I repeatedly say, there’s nothing wrong with FM (particularly a hybrid radio version using RadioDNS too).
61.5% of all listening to BBC 6music is on DAB Digital Radio. This is possibly not too amazing – after all, it’s a digital radio station; internet accounts for 16.3% and digital television for 6.9%.
Yet interestingly, BBC Radio 7, now BBC Radio 4 Extra, is even higher for DAB at 65%. Television is significantly higher, at 9.4%, and internet radio significantly lower, at half BBC 6music’s figures: just 7.8%. Why does Radio 4 Extra do much worse for internet listening than 6music?
BBC World Service‘s carriage overnight on BBC Radio 4 appears to be the secret of their success; 56.3% of their listening is to FM/AM, and only 31.8% on a digital platform. (During this survey period, BBC World Service was also carried on AM in parts of the South East; this transmitter has now been turned off, so it’ll be interesting to spot any changes next time).
Most confused listeners
Don’t know what you’re listening to? Bauer stations Smash Hits and Heat have an interestingly high “it’s digital, but god knows what it is” figure, of 49.6% and 45.7% respectively.
We love the telly for radio
The Hits, Q, Smash Hits, Heat and Kerrang! – the top five stations on digital TV, (48.7%, 45.9%, 43.4%, 33.5% and 24.7% respectively), show the power of a decent Freeview slot. I’d wager that their audience is kitchen or bedroom-bound, rather than on the proper Sky box in the front room. (Kerrang! is also broadcast on FM in the West Midlands).
The most popular radio station from the BBC on the telly is BBC 1Xtra, with 24.6% of listening on the telly (23.2% on DAB, 19.1% on the internet). Once more, you’re invited to compare this figure with that of BBC 6Music’s 6.7%, and then think how many of 6Music’s audience are also doing homework with the Freeview box switched on in the bedroom. What’s that? They’re all too old? Aha, well, there’s your answer.
Five Live Sports Extra does second-best for BBC national radio on the telly, with 19.2% of total listening happening that way (35.3% on DAB, 7.5% on the internet). Why people are apparently not watching sport on the telly but listening to it instead, heaven only knows, but that’s what these figures say.
Yay, the internet!
The internet is tiny for radio listening – even smaller than TV – so these figures are probably more noise than anything else. 1Xtra is top, at 19.1%; then 6Music at 16.3%, with Bauer’s Q at 14.9% (it should be mentioned that Bauer’s digital stations do very well online).
That said, the most popular radio station for the internet is “Other listening”. This is where RAJAR puts internet-only radio stations, community radio and overseas internet radio; it’s interesting that 33.4% of all listening to “other” is via a digital platform, and that 24.6% of listening is via the internet. The amount of listening to “Other” is low, but not insignificant. Is Spotify included in this? Is it radio? That’s a debate for another time. (But the answer to the latter is, of course, “no”).
This all might be bollocks
I’ve had sight of these figures for some time, though unable to write about them. I have seen some of these platform figures saying completely ludicrous things – memorably, one radio station had 20% of their hours on the internet when they didn’t actually broadcast there – and long-term, these figures appear very bouncy, with large variations between surveys. They ought to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
That said, Global’s London services consistently significantly under-achieve for digital listening; 1Xtra consistently has done well for TV listening, too; and Absolute’s figures do have enough of a sense check for me to believe them. So, take them as an indicator, not as a massive check, and you’re probably on the right track.
Important notes, caveats, etc
There are a few stations which have incorrect figures according to RAJAR, and I can’t mention their figures above – they’re Absolute 80s, 90s and CRock; Colourful, NME, Chill, Yorkshire Radio and Planet Rock. Figures are within each station’s total survey area only, and probably shouldn’t be compared local to national. Some figures are from different time periods (6 months vs 3 months). Figures above don’t add up to 100%, because people don’t always know what platform they’re listening to. I am rubbish at maths. And this all might be bollocks. But at the very least, it’s very interesting. It seems the future is a hybrid radio future after all.