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

Go Compare My Radio

So, this week I’ve had the joy of renewing my car insurance for the year. I received my renewal documents in the post and found that they wanted to put my insurance up even though I’ve had no crashes or claims. Of course I went along to the many comparison websites to see if I could get a better deal and sure enough I managed to save myself quite a few quid. Being on these sites reminded me of a website that the techy team over at The OGS Labs (Absolute Radio) developed a while back called Compare My Radio.

Compare My Radio, compares radio stations’ music output and allows users to find out where they are most likely to hear their favourite artists, or how to avoid those really annoying songs. By clicking on my local station, Eagle FM, I can see that over the last 30 days the most played artists are Olly Murs and Bruno Mars, with ‘Stay’ by Rihanna being the most played song. I can also search by artist, so if I really wanted to listen to some Ben Howard I can see that XFM Manchester and XFM London play his tracks the most. The same can also be done for specific tracks. For me, things get really interesting when you start comparing radio stations. Recently Bauer radio bought digital only station Planet Rock and at the time there were a few discussions about its cross-over with their current station Kerrang!. The below chart, taken from Compare My Radio, shows that actually there is very little cross-over between the stations…

Planet Rock v Kerrang

In fact, in the last 30 days, the top ten songs that each station played have been completely different…

Planet Rock v Kerrang 2

There was also talk of potential cross-over between Planet Rock and Q, but a quick search shows that there are only 209 shared tracks between the stations – less than there currently are between Q and Kerrang (348 shared tracks). With this in mind it stands to reason that Planet Rock will sit alongside Q and Kerrang in Bauer’s stable of rock-focused digital stations.

So, the moral to this story is two-fold: Never just renew your car insurance without searching around first and if you want to find out about a radio station’s current playlist before you buy it (or listen to it) you can by going to

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

My comment on the latest radio listening figures – RAJAR Q4 2012

This quarter’s RAJAR results have been a mixed bag as we see losses on some stations, but big gains on others. In London the top five stations all dropped down quarter on quarter, whilst Choice FM, Smooth and XFM all showed really positive increases. In particular, XFM increased their reach almost 20% to deliver 445,000 weekly adults – and with a whole host of new names, including Jon Holmes taking over the Breakfast Show, there is a real positive buzz around the station.

After flat figures last time around, digital radio listening has fared better this quarter, with 33% of all radio listening now via a digital platform. These figures have been helped by strong performances from a number of stations on digital radio including Jazz FM, who delivered their highest ever hours of 3 million. The BBC’s digital only station, 6 Music, added 1.9 million to the digital listening figures. Bauer’s Heat Radio also helped, by increasing their reach 18% year on year to 767,000, whilst the Absolute Radio and Smooth Radio networks delivered 76% and 45% (respectively) of all their listening via digital platforms.

And I have to say a big well done to Absolute Radio who have improved results across both their main station and the network as a whole, helping them achieve an impressive 11-year high of 3.3 million listeners. It’s not easy to pin down the exact reason for the improvement from a programming point of view but listening figures for the Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show have massively improved, whilst their decade stations Absolute Radio 80s, 90s and 00s have also shown year on year improvements. With a potential sale on the horizon, these figures could well increase Absolute’s value.

Here’s a final thought for you: Global Radio’s purchase of Real and Smooth Ltd looks all set to go through later on in the year. When it does, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Real Radio stations rebranded into the Heart network. If that were to happen we could be looking at a reach of almost 10 million weekly listeners!

If you’d like to read my full report on this quarter’s RAJAR it’s available here on the RadioWorks website. And I even got a little bit in MediaWeek / Brand Republic.

Thanks for reading


Simon Pearce is Head of Insight at radio advertising specialists RadioWorks and Maple Street Studios

New Year, New Voices on my Radio

It’s the start of a new year and while listening to the radio in London I’ve heard a whole raft of new voices, so I thought I’d give you a quick run-down of a few of them…

Emma Bunton is ‘spicing up’ (please forgive me for that) the Heart London breakfast show alongside Jamie Theakston and after listening in on a few occasions I can report that she is fitting in really well. It’s clear that Emma and Jamie have known each other for a while and there’s good chemistry there. Importantly, Emma doesn’t sound like a pop star who is giving radio a go – unsurprising really as she already has a couple of years of experience from her weekend show. Personally I think getting Emma on board is a great thing for Commercial Radio; she’s a massive name in the world of entertainment and I’m sure advertisers will be clambering to get involved.

XFM have parted company with Danny Wallace and handed the reins of their breakfast show over to Jon Holmes. His name may not be that familiar to some of you, but when I mention he has eight Sony-Awards, two BAFTA’s and three British Comedy awards to his name – as well as co-writing credits on Horrible Histories and Dead Ringers – you’ll probably agree he’s worth trying out. Add in to the mix that he’s also been sacked a couple of times in his career for taking things too far, and it could make for an interesting listening experience!

Also over at XFM, comedian Josh Widdicombe (off TV shows like Mock the Week and 8 out of 10 Cats) started this Saturday 19th January and is on air from 10am-1pm.

If you’ve not heard already, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is bravely/stupidly (delete as appropriate) facing questions from the public on LBC every Thursday morning from 9-9.30am. In The Guardian last week (Thursday 17th January) Steve Bell summed it up like this…

Steve Bell's If ... 17.01.2013

(If you’d like to read more about Clegg on LBC see the RadioWorks news stories)

And finally, a reminder that the next radio listening data results (RAJAR) are being released on Thursday 31st January. RadioWorks will be giving you a full update on the radio marketplace along with any trends or changes that you need to be aware of.


Simon Pearce is Head of Insight at radio advertising specialists RadioWorks and Maple Street Studios