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

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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

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

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

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

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

RAJAR Q3 2012 – Headlines and Comment

A few headlines from this quarter’s RAJAR results…

  • Magic 105.4 take number one spot in London, recording both the highest reach and the best audience share
  • New digital only station Smooth 70s performs well in its first set of results
  • Capital is the number one breakfast show in London, delivering higher reach than Chris Moyles in his final figures

And here is some comment…

The headlines this RAJAR are no doubt going to  Bauer Radio and Magic 105.4 in particular – and rightly so. Magic 105.4 in London have regained the number one spot in terms of reach, going above 2 million weekly listeners, and a huge increase in listening hours has seen them deliver an impressive market share of 7.3%. Given that this RAJAR period covered the Queen’s Jubilee and Olympics Games, could it be that people were tuning in to the station with its “more music, less talk” policy, to escape the hype?

The National Commercial radio breakfast shows also deserve a mention, after posting some strong figures. Simon Bates’ move from Classic FM to Smooth Radio UK (including Smooth 70s) has helped them post a strong audience, whilst John Suchet who took over the Classic FM morning show has maintained their figures. As they would say, “a big shout out goes to Rickie, Melvin and Charlie on Kiss” as they also posted some strong figures, showing that their show is just as popular outside of London as in it. (Unfortunately the shows are all at different times so it’s unfair to make a direct comparison but if you’d like the figures please do get in touch).

In regards to digital radio, this quarter has seen positive figures for commercial radio, with a record share of 30.7% of listening being via a digital platform – but overall there has been little change. New station Smooth 70s had a great first RAJAR and Jazz FM helped commercial radio’s figures with their highest ever reach (624,000), while Planet Rock retained their high listening hours to be named the ‘most listened to digital commercial station’.

And here is a final thought for you. Global Radio’s purchase of Real and Smooth Ltd looks all set to go through. If / 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!

(Source: RAJAR Q3 2012)

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

RAJAR Q3 2012 Review

Hi All,

Here’s my full RAJAR update for Quarter 3 2012 – if this is a little too much, check out my comments which I will be posting shortly.

Enjoy…

Magic 105.4 becomes the most listened to commercial radio station in London, whilst digital listening figures remain static.

RAJAR, the radio audience survey, shows that 89% of people in the UK listen to the radio every week. Commercial radio reaches over 33 million listeners and achieves a listener share of 43.3% versus the BBC’s 54.2%. On a local level, commercial radio completely dominates the BBC, delivering 26.4 million listeners compared to the BBC’s 8.9 million for local and regional services.

LONDON LISTENING: In the London marketplace the big news is that Magic 105.4 has taken over the number one spot in terms of reach, delivering over 2.1 million weekly listeners. Magic have also delivered in terms of listening share, showing strong quarter on quarter growth to take the top position with a massive 7.3%.  Going back to the reach table, Capital London have dropped to second position after a poor set of results, delivering 1,999,000.  A 12.2% quarter on quarter growth to 1,952,000 from Kiss 100 has helped them jump above Heart London (1,826,000), with LBC (927,000) also up 14% quarter on quarter taking fifth place, whilst poor results for Absolute Radio in London (832,000) saw them drop to sixth. Note: It is possible to measure Classic FM by its London only transmitter, which delivers 1,287,000.

LONDON BREAKFAST: The much talked about ‘battle of the breakfast shows’ has again been won by Capital Radio London, with 1,165,000 listeners to their show from 6-10am. This is the third set of results for Capital Radio since a change to the line-up saw Dave Berry replace Johnny Vaughan as Lisa Snowdon’s co-host on the breakfast show – and they will no doubt be proud of their continued reign at the top. Neil Fox’s Magic Breakfast Show (5-9am) has retained second place with improved figures up to 822,000 listeners, whilst Kiss Breakfast with Rickie, Melvin & Charlie (6-9am) have achieved third position with 717,000 weekly listeners – again beating Jamie and Harriet on Heart London (6-9am) who delivered 611,000 listeners.

NEW STATIONS: This is the first RAJAR for one new station and also a number of rebranded stations. Following the lead of Absolute Radio, decade-based stations are in vogue at present, with all the new stations carrying this theme. Smooth 70s, the National digital radio station owned by Real and Smooth Ltd, has delivered 749,000 listeners in its first set of results. Whilst Orion Media has taken the step of rebranding their Midlands-based Gold stations to Free Radio 80s. Previously reporting as Gold Birmingham & Black Country; Coventry & Warwickshire; Shropshire and West Midlands, the stations are now part of the Free Radio 80s Network. Whilst some stations struggle when they go through a rebrand, the Free Radio 80s stations have all had positive results. Covering Swansea and Port Talbot, 102.1 Bay Radio has also become an 80s station – extending the brand of its sister station Nation Radio to become Nation 80s – delivering a reach of 39,000, only slightly down on their previous reach of 40,000.

REGIONAL REVIEW: Briefly looking around the regions; in Norfolk, Norwich 99.9 FM have posted weekly reach figures of 54,000 listeners – 16% of the available population (slightly down from 57,000). In Doncaster (South Yorkshire), Trax FM has seen positive quarter on quarter growth, delivering 98,000 listeners (27%), up from 96,000 listeners (26%) previously, and in South West Wales Radio Pembrokeshire have posted a massive weekly reach of 50% (48,000 weekly listeners).

NATIONAL STATIONS: Classic FM remains the most listened to (single) commercial radio station in the UK. The station has maintained its reach of 5.4 million adults with listeners tuning in for an average of 6.5 hours. Keeping a focus on the national analogue stations: talkSPORT held on to second place recording a reach of 3 million weekly listeners. While Absolute Radio (National + London) delivered results down 12.4% quarter on quarter to 1,544,000. Note: Kiss UK, who broadcast across the UK via online, digital TV and on a number of DAB transmitters – plus three regional FM licenses – have achieved 4.3 million listeners, while Smooth Radio, who also broadcast nationally on DAB and have several regional licences (with local content in Scotland), has delivered figures of 3.19 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 7.3 million listeners, closely followed by the Capital Network on 6.8 million listeners. Kiss UK has delivered 4.3 million, Magic UK 3.8 million, Smooth Radio UK 3.2 million, and Real Radio UK 2.3 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: Digital listening has remained static dropping down slightly to account for a 31.3% share of all radio listening, with 45.6% of people now listening to digital radio, either through DAB, DTV, the internet or ‘other’. The latest RAJAR figures recorded that 22 million adults (42%) claim to live in a household which has a DAB receiver. The number one commercial, digital only radio station in the UK remains Smash Hits Radio, with almost one million listeners (970,000). Absolute  80s have jumped up to second place with 895,000 weekly reach, going above The Hits which has dropped down to 893,000. Planet Rock also dropped off slightly reaching 864,000 listeners whilst in their first RAJAR Smooth 70s delivered impressive results of 749,000.

GROUP PERFORMANCE: The UK’s largest commercial radio group is Global Radio (delivering a total of 19.2 million listeners), thanks in part to the strength of its three core brands Classic FM, Heart and Capital. Bauer Radio with their Place and Passion Portfolios is the second largest commercial group, with a total reach of 13.3 million adults. Real and Smooth Ltd. (previously GMG Radio), who are now a part of Global Radio (subject to confirmation from the Competitions Commission) has delivered a 5.8 million weekly reach, whilst UTV Radio, owners of talkSPORT, reaches 4.2 million listeners.  Absolute Radio, and its network of decade-based stations, have dropped off slightly after their record listening figures of the previous quarter, and now deliver 2.9 million weekly reach figures. It is also worth noting that when Global’s purchase of Real and Smooth Ltd goes through, the group could be posting figures in the region of up to 25 million listeners.

TARGETED STATIONS: Premier Christian Radio, broadcasting in London on analogue and across the UK via digital (online and DAB) have dropped off slightly on last quarter’s reach, now delivering 164,000 listeners every week. There has also been a slight drop quarter on quarter for Sunrise Radio (London) who reach 282,000 weekly listeners.

MOBILE LISTENING: RAJAR shows that 18% of adults and 34% of 15-24’s now claim to listen to radio on their mobile phone, and nearly all the UK’s radio stations are providing smartphone apps to enhance the mobile listening experience. The UK’s online radio consolidation platform, RadioPlayer, has also released an iPhone app, with versions for other formats to follow. .

That’s it from me for now. If you have any questions on RAJAR or if you would like any further information please feel free to contact your RadioWorks representative or email me Simon@RadioWorks.co.uk

SOURCE: RAJAR Q3 2012

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