The latest results from the radio industry in the Q4 Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) numbers, show listening to be in rude health. The headline numbers say it all really: 87.5% of the population listen to the radio every week, commercial radio reaching over 1.5m more listeners than the BBC, choice of stations has never been broader and digital listening is leading the way!
But it’s these last two points that are perhaps the most important, as digital is the key. 36 million adults, or two-thirds of the population, are now tuning in to radio digitally, and this number is split into three channels: digital audio broadcasting (DAB), digital TV and online. This distinction is important to highlight as DAB is bought alongside the rest of traditional radio airtime, while the other two come together as ‘digital audio’ and are traded very differently.
It’s the digital sector that has seen the proliferation of choice mentioned earlier. Due to the relative ease in launching a digital radio station compared to a traditional station, we’ve seen both Global and Bauer launch multiple ones last year. Global Radio had Heart 70s, Heart 90s, Heart Dance, Capital XTRA Reloaded, Smooth Chill, Smooth Country. While Bauer launched seven new stations, including Kiss Dance, Kiss Garage, Kiss Ibiza, Klassic Kerrang, Kerrang Radio Unleashed, Heat Radio School Disco and Heat Radio Soundtracks. Wireless has also launched several Virgin spin-off stations, and announced their soon-to-start Times Radio.
This growth in choice allows advertisers even more scope to target specific audiences but is by no means unprecedented. Back in March 2016, Sound Digital’s D2, the second national digital radio multiplex, launched with an array of new stations. What has changed though, is the reach these stations can deliver is a very short time, due to the proliferation of smart speakers and the rapid adoption of listening online.
Unlike print, where digital has pulled customers away from the traditional product, radio has welcomed the new technology, as it simply adds more ears. Also, the growth of voice within this area is providing an appeal for consumers to adopt, as well as a way for advertisers to engage with the listener. This combined with the fact that almost 60% of listening is done at home, means the ability to react to messaging is easier as there are fewer physical distractions.
However, radio must not fall into complacency, as podcasts and on-demand music are fighting for that share of listening too. Live radio’s share, while still the biggest slice of the pie, has been steadily declining over the last 2 years. From spring 2018, to the latest MIDAS survey, the share has gone from 75% to 72%, while on-demand music and podcasts have grown from 13% to 16%.
It is this growth in reach that makes digital radio so valuable to advertisers. However, as mentioned earlier, we need to be careful that we don’t conflate DAB with digital audio from a buying side, as they are very different. Unlike traditional radio and DAB, which targets listeners based on the overall listening profile of the station, digital audio allows for additional audience overlays to be implemented, along with more specific geo-locational targeting. Together this offers advertisers another way to reach the right people, at the right time and in the right place; the cornerstone of any successful ad campaign. However, this doesn’t come cheap and the challenge that needs to be faced is balancing the relationship between targeting and effectiveness to ensure cost-effective results are maintained.
All Response Media viewpoint
As with all campaigns, the use of radio in any schedule very much depends on what the goals are. Is this about building brand presence, delivering a performance metric, or as is typical, a mixture of the two? Traditional radio can work from both a national and regional point of view and with almost 90% of the population listening, it allows us to add very cost-effective reach to any other media channel being used.
Where it becomes more interesting is in how online audio adds to the mix. With this accounting for roughly 20% of all audio listening, it is becoming a more important discussion in all the planning we do. However, as the cost for this channel is significantly higher than traditional airtime, we always assess the requirements for using it with clients first.
What the latest RAJAR results do show us is that radio’s role in the media mix is becoming more and more important. As such, campaigns are making increasing use of radio as we continue to demonstrate ways to measure its use, from regional sales uplift, voucher code redemptions, through to brand recognition and considerations to purchase. Radio is a vibrant medium and is continuing to grow.
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