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The New Digital Rules Aren't Digital At All

Brand loyalty continues to challenge the media sphere. Those darned young people are brand switchers. They see media brands differently, some say, identifying more with digital platforms and smartphone apps. Legacy media brands are doomed, say the same prophets of digital wisdom. Alas, media consumers arenít paying attention.

kids do the darndest digital thingsThe April through June (Q2 2017) RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) UK radio audience estimates were released this week (August 3) and media watchers scrambled to confirm conventional wisdom. Commercial radio, as a whole, is catching up with the BBC; except that always happens during Q2. Digital platforms are (almost) overtaking analogue; except online and smartphone app listening is growing faster than DAB. Listeners are tuning-out big name show hosts; except they’re not. All of this is excused because media buyers have left for the beach.

Basic rankings in the national audience estimates changed very little year on year. BBC Radio 2 still tops the list, though reach share dropped to the lowest in five years, 16.8% from 17.2%. In second place BBC Radio 4’s audience jumped significantly, roughly as much as Radio 2’s audience dropped, 12.3% reach share from 11.9%. The Heart national network held its number three ranking, up slightly to 6.2% reach share from 6.0%. Long suffering - mostly of critics - BBC Radio 1 kept 4th place, bumping up to 6.2% reach share from 5.7%.

The Capital national network held 5th place, up slightly to 4.3% reach share and best showing in nearly four years. The Smooth national network moved up to 6th place and national channel Classic FM up to 7th place as BBC Five Live dropped to 8th. The KISS national network placed 9th, down slightly, and LBC rose noticably to 10th from 12th. (See UK national radio audience reach share trend chart here)

Audience rankings for London were also relatively stable, one year on, with reach shares jumping up and down. BBC Radio 4 topped the London list with 14.8%, up from 14.5% year on year. Radio 2 placed 2nd, up to 11.6% reach share from 10.0%. Talk station LBC held 3rd place, jumping to 7.6% reach share from 6.6%. (See London radio audience reach share trend chart here)

Terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and, of course, general elections figured in reach share increases for Radio 4 and LBC, both in the national and London surveys. LBC may have also benefited from media attention following the dismissal of one of its show hosts at the mid-point in the survey period.

As commercial radio in the UK consolidated in recent years into, essentially, two ownership groups - Global Radio and Bauer Media - brands and brand extensions (once called radio stations) appeared throughout the country on expanding digital platforms and realigning FM distribution. By consequence the national commercial radio space, measured by aggregate reach, continues to grow, 16.7% of total reach from 15.8% year on year and 14.5% in Q2 2015. Local commercial radio has fallen to 28.3% aggregate reach share from 29.4% in the same period last year and 29.8% in 2015. Overall, commercial radio attracts 45.0% reach share, fairly stagnant through the last four quarters.

BBC Radio, by contrast, last added radio channels in 2002; Radio 1 Xtra, Radio 4 Xtra, 5 Live Sports Extra and 6 Music. All are digital-only. Aside from seasonal variations that affect listening generally, the reach share for BBC Radio channels, on aggregate, has drifted lower for several years; 52.3% in the Q2 survey period. Aggregate reach share for BBC local and regional channels has fallen more sharply, until the current period; 7.3% up from 7.0% one year on. The majority of BBC Radio listeners are aged 45 years and older; 60.6%, down from 61.3%. However, the reach share of listeners 15 to 45 years is up; 38.0% from 37.3%. Brand loyalty is an interesting concept.


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