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

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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