Whilst Radio 2’s loss of almost a million listeners in the last year has garnered the most attention, with the publication of RAJAR’s latest audience numbers, from a broadcast PR perspective, it’s reassuring to see that talk based stations have fared so well.
RAJAR research, which measures the number of people listening to radio, is always widely anticipated by the industry, but arguably never so much as now, as the latest figures, covering January to March 2020 obviously cover the first part of the lockdown.
LBC, which started as a London based broadcaster but can now be heard nationally, has seen an increase in reach of 23.6% – a rise of half a million, to a record 2.78 million. For PR’s LBC is a difficult nut to crack, with it’s dedication to a hard news agenda they often give short shrift to PR generated stories. But pitch the mood and the topic right and the fruits of your labour can be more than worthwhile.
A recent successful placing on LBC for us was a law firm client, specialising in reputational risk, talking about the army helping with testing and using military tactics to get the country back to a sense of normal.
Nick Ferrari’s show was amongst the breakfast shows on the up, suggesting that his confrontational style continues to engage and entertain audiences. Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 show still has the biggest breakfast audience, despite losing nearly a million listeners a week from a year ago. And there’ll be further concern from the producers at Radio 1, Radio 4 and 5Live who all lost breakfast audiences too.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had 191-thousand fewer listeners in the first three months of the year, compared with the final quarter of 2019. This probably reflects new listeners who tuned in during the run up to December’s General Election but the BBC has recognised for sometime that audiences for traditional media are in decline as younger ones move to streaming services and get their news from social media.
That said, nothing can detract from the glory of a mention on Radio 4’s Today programme. Since I can remember the flagship programme has set the news agenda for the day – whatever stories are on the programme the chances are they will filter through to online, TV and tomorrow, newspapers. Lockdown has made such slots more valued than ever. Stories that complement the ongoing COVID-19 agenda work best, but a brand we helped support recently, the Asphalt Industry Alliance, got two mentions on the Today programme, for their State of the Nation’s Roads annual report.
In London, LBC continues to be the top commercial station, with 8.4% of market share, followed by Magic (4.5%) and Heart (4.4%). Capital follows next with 3.5%.
Regional radio, so often the first port of call for so many people when they want information, is seeing the strongest survive and thrive. Bauer local stations are mostly on the up including the ones that take PR content. For example, Downtown Radio in Northern Ireland has enjoyed a boost in numbers, as has Free Coventry and Warwickshire. Also within the Bauer stable, Spirit FM now has a weekly reach of 58-thousand and Dream 100 is up its highest weekly reach in four years at 40-thousand.
Global is faring less well. Out of the 18 Smooth services, only four have increased local audiences year on year. Of the nine Capital regions meanwhile, all were down year on year. Within the regions there was a little movement: Capital Coventry and Capital Lancashire were both up but Capital Brighton has plummeted from a weekly reach of 52-thousand a year ago, to just 16-thousand now. And at Heart all 14 of the regional services are down year on year.
The research also reflects an increase in online listening, thanks to smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Online listening accounted for 14% of all listening in this first quarter, up more than a fifth from the previous year.
So why does this matter for broadcast PR? Well, we want our radio day schedules filled with the best audiences. For some clients that means as big a reach as possible – in which case we will be going for mainly urban based stations, spread across the country – but if what is most important to you is the communication of key messages, we’ll aim for the sorts of stations that will offer a live interview, giving you more air-time and opportunity to brand.
Broadcast is so often the first-place audiences go to find out important, new information and with the bulk of the working population beavering away at home rather than in the office it will be fascinating to hear what sort of impact this has made. We expect figures to have jumped up dramatically, but sadly it’s been reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected RAJAR’s ability to gather survey data, so I’m not sure we’re ever going to know for definite!
What you can be sure of though is the reliability and wide reach of radio PR, one of the most cost effective ways of reaching a broad or targeted audience. If you’ve got an upcoming campaign and you’d like to find out what’s possible on radio, please give us a call: 020 7240 7373. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We continue to offer all our services during the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out how a radio day works remotely see our blog on the subject here.