An Earl, an Interior Designer, and a Radio Specialist

On the 8th October 1973, LBC became the country’s very first (legal) commercial radio station. Now, 40 years later, the industry has grown to 300 stations providing; news, weather, traffic, sport and of course entertainment, to 34 million people every week.

Amongst the many events celebrating the 40th anniversary of Commercial Radio the one which is likely to stay with me the longest was last week’s event on the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons. From the very first moment I arrived at the back of the queue to pass through security I had a feeling I was in distinguished company. In front of me I could see the RadioCentre’s chairperson, Linda Smith, and as the line grew behind me I was able to spot another of the 40 list, Ralph Bernard. The list of 40 individuals was compiled to highlight the contribution of those that helped shape the success of the industry since its inception and as such includes the great and the good of 40 years of commercial radio.Tower of Westminster

Once through security I took time to take in the truly majestic surroundings of Westminster Palace, from the great hall (St Stephen’s Hall) through to the central lobby the entrance to both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. As I walked through the corridors of power towards the Terrace Pavilion I couldn’t help but notice the many committees and events that were taking place. And they all had one thing in common… afternoon tea, well it was 4pm. On arrival at the Pavilion I was glad to notice we also had been treated to tea along with the added bonus of wine and a majestic view across the Thames.

As the room slowly began to fill it became a who’s who of commercial radio; former Chrysalis boss Phil Riley was talking with Programmer David Lloyd, Digital Radio’s Jane Ostler speaking with Radio Futurologist James Cridland, Mindshare’s Howard Bareham with John Quinn of GTN and a vast number of radio presenters including Tim Westwood (now on Capital Xtra), Neil Fox (Magic), Russ Williams (Absolute), Toby Anstis (Heart) and Pat Sharp (Smooth). There was a real buzz of optimism and positivity as people celebrated a successful 40 years of commercial radio. The station groups that I spoke with were optimistic about the future as new technologies, be it Digital Radio or streaming audio, provide more opportunities to take their brands further. And likewise, the advertisers present were all keen to see how radio can continue to help them connect with their audiences.

As an aside, one conversation I had will live long in the memory banks tucked away in the ‘did that really happen?’ section. As is the case with events at Parliament (especially ones with tea provided) interested dignitaries like to attend – I think I spotted a Dame, an Earl and two Lords before most of the guests had come through security – and I was lucky enough to get talking with the Earl of Glasgow. As we spoke about commercial radio and the Earl’s background in media (tv production) we were joined by Classic FM presenter Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen. The Earl then shared with us how he had employed a couple of Brazilian ‘street-artists’ to paint directly on to the wall of his 16th century castle in Ayrshire. The conversation that followed was truly fascinating – I even had to ‘Google’ Kilburn Castle when I left just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.

The 40th celebrations continued with host, Neil Fox, talking about his experiences of commercial radio and introducing Andrew Harrison (outgoing chairman) and Matt Payton of the RadioCentre. One of commercial radios longest serving presenters, Russ Williams, then took to the stage to introduce new band Lissie to help us continue the celebrations. As the event came to a close it was good to reflect with RadioWorks Chairman, and member of the 40 list, Stan Park on how well placed the industry was to tackle the next 40 years.

Simon Pearce – Director, Client Insight & Auction Media (Bid4Spots) at RadioWorks


RAJAR figures for Q2 2013 are released next week (but does anyone really care?)

Now, I really wanted to start this blog with the headline… Radio goes Gaga for the Royal Baby but in all truth I couldn’t bring myself to write about the constant coverage of the birth (even if I am particularly proud of the headline). Instead I thought I’d take a look forward to next week’s RAJAR figures and also try to answer the question I sometimes get asked… RAJAR, does anyone really care?

To start, a quick bit of background… RAJAR, RAdio Joint Audience Research, has been measuring radio listening in the UK since 1992 and currently records data for around 310 individual Commercial and BBC radio stations. The research is carried out through the use of a weekly diary system, available in both physical and digital versions, with an annual sample of around 110,000 respondents aged 15+. This research provides us with all the listening figures, including the data which allows stations to measure their performance and commercial stations to sell their advertising space.

I don’t think there are many people in the radio industry, maybe the micro stations aside, who would say RAJAR is not needed. For the commercial stations it is the currency that they trade off and for the BBC stations it is the way they show their worth to the license-fee payers and government. But, whilst there is little doubt we need RAJAR the fanfare that used to greet its quarterly release seems to have died off somewhat in the last few years. It’s with fear of sounding like an old git when I say… “I remember when people used to gather around the bosses desk to hear how the radio station had performed” and “when Andy Carter, formerly of GCAP (now Global Radio), used to visit agencies to provide everyone with an industry overview RAJAR presentation”. These were times when people used to get excited about results day and even throw parties to celebrate. Where as for the last couple of years the figures seem to be welcomed with a celebratory coffee rather than a bottle of champagne – especially within the commercial radio sector anyway.

So, to answer the question – RAJAR, does anyone really care? Well; the presenters and DJ’s still care, the BBC cares and ultimately the commercial stations still care, because it defines how much money they will be receiving from their on-air advertising space and allows them to shout about how brilliant they are. But when you speak to the advertisers and agencies, it’s the people there that quite frankly don’t give a damn. Yes, an advertiser wants to know that there is a robust survey behind the station’s figures and they want to buy a campaign against those strong figures. But no, they’re not going to be so excited they can’t sleep next Wednesday evening as they wait for the latest data release. This could be because most figures remain relatively static quarter on quarter, or because other media metrics have less of a fanfare, or maybe because it feels like every single station is telling you they’re number one.

So, do I care about RAJAR? Yes I do, perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of a radio geek but I still look forward to the figures coming out; to seeing who’s up and who’s down, to seeing who’s number one overall and who’s found a random niche that they rule. So here’s a look forward to what could happen next week…
– Dave & Lisa on Capital London to retain their number one commercial radio breakfast show spot in London
– Digital Radio to increase in reach and share
– Absolute Radio Network to show improved results
– Magic and Capital to battle it out for the number one spot in London
– And, Planet Rock to break the 900,000 listener mark for the first time in 12 months.

So, are you looking forward to RAJAR?

Simon Pearce is the Client Insight Director at audio and radio advertising specialist RadioWorks

How the UK is consuming Audio Content

One of the things I’m currently involved in is the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) recently formed Audio Council. The council’s aim is to educate the market about the possibilities offered by advertising in an online audio environment through education, developing business models, and increasing value. The council consists of key players throughout the audio and radio sector including research company Audiencenet, who have just published the results of a survey which looks at audio consumption.

With a 3000-strong sample size, the research – called Audiometrics – has delivered some interesting results, the highlights of which I have compiled below, comparing them to the RAJAR stats where possible:

The Results: See the infographic for more


In an average week the Audiometrics research shows that 90% of people listen to audio content. Interestingly this figure matches the figure for weekly radio listening, which RAJAR Q1 13 (a survey of more than 100,000) delivers. Additionally the research shows 48% listen to audio or radio online and although this figure is very close to RAJAR’s 49.6% for All Digital listening (including DAB, DTV and online), it is significantly larger than the split of just 13% for people who say they listen online/via apps.

The significant difference between these two stats is likely to be down to the nature of the question – Audiometrics are measuring all audio, whereas RAJAR only measures radio listening. This suggests that the additional online listening could be to non-radio related audio such as streaming music.

Interestingly this section of the Audiometrics study also showed that 6% of people are listening to podcasts on a weekly basis and a further 4% listen to audiobooks. These figures are higher than I would have expected to see and it will be interesting to see how these figures perform in subsequent studies.

Audiometrics also looked in to the devices that people use to listen to audio in an average week. Against All adults the results showed that a radio receiver was the most popular, with 56% of people listening to audio this way, followed by a computer/laptop on 34%, via DTV on 31% and smartphones on 25%.

Hi-fi stereos appear to be becoming a thing of the past, as they dropped right down the scale with only 23% of people listening to audio this way. Probably not that surprisingly, the figures are very different against 15-24’s with 53% saying they listen via a computer/laptop every week and 51% through a mobile/smartphone.

The study has also shown that the majority of audio listening in an average week takes place in the home (77%) followed by on public transport/in a vehicle (51%). Again, when we compare these figures to RAJAR there are some similarities. RAJAR shows 76% of people listen to radio in the home and 59% of people listen to radio in the car every week.

And finally, when Audiometrics asked what people’s single preferred device for listening to audio was, the results were again split between ages. Across All Adults radio at 35%, was favoured but against teenagers it is the smartphone at 36%, or MP3 player 35% (with radio only delivering 3% to this group).

As part of the IAB’s Audio Council project, Audiencenet are extending their Audiometrics study to include attitudes towards online audio advertising.

Watch this space for an update on those results and if you have any questions in the meantime in regards to online audio, then please feel free to get in touch.

*Based on research from Audiencenet on the UK’s weekly Audio Consumption in Q2, 2013 (sample: 3,112) & RAJAR Q1 2013

Simon Pearce is the Client Insight Director at audio and radio advertising specialist RadioWorks

A Question of Commercial Radio

I was talking to a colleague of mine the other day who asked: Are there any commercial radio stations that we cannot advertise on?

That seemingly random question led me down the path of contemplation…

My first thought was, I guess it depends what you mean by commercial?

If you mean commercial as in mass market, (i.e. commercial music), then yes, Radio 1 plays commercial music and could therefore be described as a commercial station, but you can’t advertise on it… Or can you? The last time I listened to Radio 1 there were loads of adverts. OK those adverts were for other BBC programmes, but they were still messages trying to get me to do something.

If you mean commercial in reference to advertising, then you’d expect that to be more of a straight forward question to answer. After all, a commercial station you can’t advertise on would almost be a contradiction. But that got me thinking about some examples, because there are some commercial radio stations – such as the soon to be launched Team Rock – which don’t carry standard spot advertising at all. Instead they provide the advertiser with opportunities to speak to their audience through sponsorships and promotions.

Different still is Amazing Radio. They’re a good example of a commercial station that takes things one step further, as they rarely carry any form of advertising at all. The station has been set up to champion emerging and independent artists; although there are no ads as such, the songs that are played are themselves like commercials, and listeners are encouraged to go to sister company Amazing Tunes to purchase the tracks they like.

Perhaps the purest example of a commercial radio station that doesn’t carry advertising is The Arrow, a DAB radio station owned by Global Radio. I for one love the constant, uninterrupted, stream of classic rock. (Don’t tell everyone about it though because if the listener numbers start to go up, I’m sure they’ll start trying to make money out of it!) 

A final example is UCB, a Christian radio station set up as a charity which rarely takes money for the commercials they play – and they usually only play charity ads. Any messages are normally designated as ‘consumer interest’ rather than commercials.

That more or less covers off the different types of commercial radio stations that don’t carry any advertising, though I’d just like to finish with a thought about the non-commercial BBC radio stations: Although these stations don’t carry any paid for messages, you don’t need to listen too long before you hear a minor celebrity talking about the latest research from client X. This is considered as Broadcast PR and is one potential way of getting commercial messaging on to a non-commercial station. (You can speak to us about this sort of thing too!).

So, to answer the original question – are there any commercial stations we cannot advertise on? Yes there are, but there’s plenty that you can advertise on as well!

(Suffice to say – I don’t think that particular work colleague will be asking me a quick question again for a while!).


Simon Pearce is the Client Insight Director at audio and radio advertising specialist RadioWorks

RAJAR Q1 13 – Opinion Piece

Hi All

This quarter I gave my opinion on the latest radio listening figures through a number of ways, including; a live twitter Q&A (#SimonSays), an opinion piece in MediaWeek, and, by answering the questions below…

1. What will RAJAR Q1 2013 be remembered for?
A poor set of results for Nick Grimshaw on BBC Radio 1 whose results were down 1.3 million listeners compared to Chris Moyles’ results for the corresponding quarter last year.

2. Which radio station is your RAJAR hero?
XFM London! The station is up a massive 40% Year on Year and 29% Quarter on Quarter in a very competitive marketplace to now deliver 574,000 weekly listeners. The new breakfast show host Jon Holmes has also performed well in his first set of figures for the stations with features such as ‘Miles Away’ obviously going down well with listeners.

3. What station really surprised you this quarter?
Well, if I’m allowed to have more than one I’d go for Capital Yorkshire who recorded their highest ever reach of 1.13 million, and, 106 Jack FM in Bristol who recorded their strongest hours (724,000) and reach (125,000).

4. How would you describe digital radios results?
It’s been another good RAJAR for digital listening with increases in both reach and share. Half of the country’s population (49.6%) are now tuning in to radio via digital means every week, and with 23 million adults having access to a DAB receiver it’s no surprise that this is the most popular way of listening to digital. In terms of share of listening hours, digital has reached an all-time high and now accounts for 34.3% of all listening. And, it’s also good to see listening via online/apps grow to a 5% share. This growth is no doubt as a result of initiatives like UK RadioPlayer, Absolute’s Instream and the many radio station apps which can all provide advertisers with additional opportunities to reach listeners.

5. How did the London breakfast shows compare?
When considering the London marketplace for commercial radio it is Dave Berry and Lisa Snowdon on Capital that take the crown as King and Queen, delivering over 1 million listeners to their show which airs between 6-10am – even beating Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw in London (but he didn’t have the best of times). Another Global owned radio station, Heart London, stormed in to second place with their first set of figures since introducing Emma Bunton as co-host for Jamie Theakstone adding a whopping 120,000 listeners to their previous quarter’s results now delivering 768,000 (6-9am). Close behind is Neil Fox’s Magic 105.4 breakfast show on 765,000 (5-9am). Poor results for the Kiss breakfast show team of Rickie, Melvin and Charlie have seen them drop down to fourth position on 651,000 listeners (6-9am), whilst the Christian O’Connell breakfast show on Absolute Radio performed well increasing to 636,000 listeners (6-10am)

6. What’s your favourite fact this quarter?
From a national point of view my favourite fact is… Commercial radio’s chart show, the Vodafone Big Top 40, is now listened to by over 2.2 million people each week – more than 1 million listeners than Radio 1’s chart show. And on a local level I’ve got to go for this fact… Sun FM have beaten all competition in Sunderland (including BBC) and are now the undisputed number one station delivering higher reach and share than all their competitors in the area.

7. Describe Q1 2013 in one word…
Stats! How about one sentence instead? Nick Grimshaw and Radio 1’s loss is commercial radio’s gain.

Simon Pearce is the Client Insight Director at audio and radio advertising specialist RadioWorks

RAJAR Q1 13 – Full Report

Hi all

Here’s my full RAJAR summary report, originally prepared for RadioWorks as an independent and unbiased analysis of this quarter’s radio listening figures.

In a quarter which saw Radio 1 and Nick Grimshaw lose listeners, commercial radio had a great set of results, increasing weekly reach quarter on quarter and year on year.

RAJAR, the radio audience survey, shows that over 90% of people in the UK listen to the radio every week. Commercial radio reaches 33.5 million listeners and achieves a listener share of 41.9% versus the BBC’s 55.7%. On a local level, commercial radio completely dominates the BBC, delivering 26.5 million listeners compared to the BBC’s 9.5 million for local and regional services. Digital listening now equates to a 34.3% share of all listening hours.

LONDON LISTENING: In the London marketplace the big news is that Capital London has become the largest reaching commercial radio station with 1.95 million weekly listeners.  Although they’ve seen a drop in reach to 1.86 million, Magic 105.4 has retained its number one position in terms of share of listening with 5.6% thanks to strong listening hours compared to their London rivals. Heart London has delivered improved reach on last quarter to reach 1.75 million weekly listeners meaning they’re ahead of Kiss 100, who slipped down to fourth position after delivering 1.6 million listeners – almost 200,000 less than the previous quarter. LBC 97.3 saw an increase in their figures to deliver 931,000 weekly listeners and there were also positive results across other London stations including Sunrise Radio, up a massive 53% to reach 348,000, Gold London (363,000) and XFM (574,000). Note: It is possible to measure Classic FM by its London only transmitter, which delivers 1,362,000.

LONDON BREAKFAST: The much talked about ‘battle of the breakfast shows’ has again been won by Capital London, with 1,067,000 listeners tuning in to their show from 6-10am. Dave Berry and Lisa Snowdon will no doubt be very happy that they continue as ‘King and Queen’ of the breakfast airwaves, even beating Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw, whose figures were down considerably. The news that Global Radio will be celebrating most is likely to be the strong performance of Heart London’s breakfast show (6-9am) which saw a jump of 125,000 listeners to 768,000 since Emma Bunton joined Jamie Theakston. Rickie, Melvin & Charlie on Kiss 100 (6-9am) saw their audience significantly drop off this quarter to deliver 651,000, meaning they were beaten into third place by Neil Fox on Magic 105.4 (5-9am) who reaches 765,000 listeners every week. Meanwhile, the multi-Sony Award winning Christian O’Connell has again shown audience growth on his breakfast show across the Absolute Radio Network, and in London, the show delivered a reach of 636,000 listeners.

NORTH WEST REGION: In the North West the largest reaching station by far is Smooth Radio, delivering 783,000 listeners. When looking at the reach percentage figures, it is the Isle of Man’s Manx Radio (53%), Carlisle’s C.F.M (37%) and The Bay in Morecombe which all stand out as performing well, whilst the best quarter on quarter improvement in the region is seen at Cheshire’s Silk 106.9, who posted a 16.7% increase to reach 21,000 weekly listeners. 

NATIONAL STATIONS: Classic FM remains the most-listened-to (single) commercial radio station in the UK. The station has gone above the 5.5 million listener mark for the first time since Q2 2011 and delivers average hours of 7.1, the highest since 2010. Keeping a focus on the national analogue stations: talkSPORT held on to second place, reaching 2.9 million weekly listeners. While Absolute Radio (National + London) delivered 1,687,000. Note: Kiss UK, who broadcast across the UK via online, digital TV, DAB,  plus three regional FM licenses, have achieved 4.1 million listeners; Smooth Radio, who also broadcast nationally on DAB and have several regional licences, (with local content in Scotland), have delivered figures of 3.1 million weekly adult listeners.

NETWORK STATIONS: The network radio stations, which have become a feature of the UK radio industry over the past couple of years, have again delivered some big numbers this quarter. The largest commercial radio network in the country is Global’s Heart Network, which delivers 7.2 million listeners, closely followed by the Capital Network on 6.9 million listeners. Kiss UK has delivered 4.1 million, Magic UK 3.4 million, Smooth Radio UK 3.1 million, and Real Radio UK 2.1 million.

Note: As the UK radio marketplace changes there is some convergence between national and network stations. Whilst the lines are becoming blurred, RadioWorks define network stations as those which have locally produced content, whilst national stations have the same output right across the country and are also available on a mainstream national transmitter (Analogue Radio or Digital Radio).

DIGITAL RADIO (including mobile): Digital radio listening has benefited from a 14% year on year increase and now accounts for a 34.3% share of all radio listening, with 49.6% of people listening to digital radio either through DAB, DTV, the internet or ‘other’. The latest RAJAR figures recorded that 23 million adults (44%) claim to live in a household which has a DAB receiver. The number one commercial, digital only radio station in the UK is now Absolute 80s, with almost one million listeners (984,000). Smash Hits have been pushed in to second place with a weekly reach of 942,000, sitting above Bauer’s recent acquisition, Planet Rock, which added listeners to deliver 896,000. Bauer radio has also taken the fourth spot in terms of digital commercial radio as The Hits reached 877,000 listeners. Smooth 70s increased their listening hours this quarter to deliver an average of 7.4 hours per listener, however, their reach figures dropped off to 681,000, whilst Jazz FM maintained their strong figures from last quarter to deliver 604,000 weekly listeners.

GROUP PERFORMANCE: The UK’s largest commercial radio group is Global Radio (delivering a total of 19.33 million listeners), thanks in part to the strength of its three core brands: Classic FM, Heart and Capital. Bauer Radio recently added to their Passion Portfolio with the purchase of Planet Rock, which helped them record strong performance figures and as a group (including the Place Portfolio) they recorded a total reach of 13.7 million adults. There appears to be continuing uncertainty at Real and Smooth Ltd. (formerly GMG Radio) since their purchase by Global Radio and that has been reflected in the figures, with the group reach down to 5.57 million from 5.85 million weekly reach; whilst UTV Radio, owners of talkSPORT, reaches 4.2 million listeners.  Absolute Radio and its network of decade-based stations have maintained their strong overall figures from last quarter, delivering 3.3 million weekly adult listeners. It is also worth noting that when Global’s acquisition of Real and Smooth Ltd is finalised, the group could be posting figures in the region of 25 million listeners.


Simon Pearce is the Client Insight Director at audio and radio advertising specialist RadioWorks


Everything Changes But You (Radio)

I’ve been off for a while but it’s given me some time to muse on Radio and how it’s stood the test of time. Hope you find this useful or interesting or… an appropriate way to get you away from the day to day grind!

Everything Changes But You (Radio)

As a radio specialist (OK then, geek) one of the things I do is listen to a load of different radio stations.

Earlier this week I tuned into the digital radio station (and brand extension of their magazine) Heat Radio. Heat is a national station, available across DAB radio, online, apps and on digital TV. While I was listening, they were playing a lot of old school pop. One of the songs to hit my ears and filter into my subconscious was Take That’s “Everything Changes But You”. That ‘90s hit has been going round and round in my head ever since! Embarrassing? Yes. Even more so was when I got caught singing it to myself whilst at football training!

While that damn song is still stuck in my head, it has got me thinking… radio is a bit like those lyrics,

“Everything changes but you…”  Commercial radio has been around for 40 years this year and it’s amazing to think about how much has changed since then: phones, TVs, computers and house values have undergone dramatic changes – but the essence of radio has largely stayed the same. Yes, technology has meant you can now listen in via a mobile phone rather than a gramophone, but radio’s strengths remain; listening figures are high, people continue to interact with it and radio is still a friend.

“We’re a thousand miles apart / But you know I love you…”  Love is a strong word, but the truth is, people feel strongly about their radio stations. On average, UK listeners tune in to only three different stations and some even put station stickers in the back of their cars! Recent research by the RAB (Radio: The Emotional Multiplier)  to this showed how radio can improve our mood, so perhaps it’s little wonder people like to listen.

The internet has helped radio in a number of ways and apps like RadioPlayer and TuneIn Radio, which aggregates radio stations from across the globe, can bring listeners closer to the stations they love. I work with a Kiwi and even though she’s more than a thousand miles apart from her favourite radio station, she’s constantly sitting there with her headphones on chuckling along to New Zealand radio station, George FM, I hope George knows she loves them.

“You know every single day / I’ll be thinking about you…” The average time spent listening to radio in the UK is a whopping 22 hours per week! It does in fact seem that every single day 9 in 10 of us are thinking about radio. And it’s not just those who remember Take That who are listening in, 86% of 18-34s also listen to the radio each week (figures from RAJAR Q4 12).

So perhaps Robbie, Gary and the boys were singing about radio after all? Unlike Take That, radio is a medium that has stood the test of time, despite what people may have predicted in the past. Radio is still a companion which has the power to uplift and entertain – much like your favourite 90s hits can. Now to get that damn song out of my head. I know, The Proclaimers…

Simon Pearce is the Client Insight Director at audio and radio advertising specialist RadioWorks