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Buoyancy, Weight And Floating In The Digital Seas

Pity the poor media buyer. With audience estimates for various segments appearing minute by minute there is no time to reflect. Fortunately, algorithms do all the heavy lifting now. When the numbers change very little it is an opportunity to consider a leisurely cruise and dance with the robot.

duck floatsUK radio measurement collective RAJAR has published audience estimates for the last quarter of last year and the biggest take-away for many media watchers is that young people have scurried away… or not. To be sure, both the national and London Q4 results were worrying for broadcasters aiming where the listeners aren’t. But the three month period that includes the increasingly lengthy pre-Holiday selling season, plus hangover, hasn’t been attractive to young people in years. And the only digital platform that matters is the iPhone.

Total listening for Q4 rose 0.9% year on year to 48.682 million. The commercial radio share of national listening was down just a hair and the BBC aggregate share was unchanged. The listening share for national channels was up to 15.7% from 14.6% cannibalizing local commercial stations that fell on aggregate to 28.2% share from 29.5%. Ad business news portal (February 9), interested only in the spots between the tunes, referred to “a lack of buoyancy.” BBC national channels were down a tad on aggregate, local stations up a tad.

Indeed, listening share changed measurably for very few channels in the national audience estimates. BBC Radio 2 remains at the top of the list with 17.3% listening share, down from 17.7% year on year. BBC Radio 4 gained a bit, 12.7% listening share, up from 12.4%, still number two. The Heart commercial brand was off a bit, 6.2% listening share from 6.4%, for 3rd spot. BBC Radio 1, often maligned, kept 4th place but dropped to 5.6% listening share from 6.1%. (See UK national radio audience estimates trend chart here)

From there to the end of the list, no national channel made a significant splash - except LBC - and none took a beating. LBC features talk-shows and phone-ins with a distinctive right-wing bent. Listeners with interest in the topicality of the moment also bumped up Radio 4, explained BBC director of radio and music Bob Shennan in a statement: "In an era of fake news, echo chambers and significant shifts in global politics, the role of Radio 4's Today as the trusted guide to the world around us is more important than ever.”

The London survey area audience estimates were far more interesting, offering media buyers something to gaggle about at the water cooler. Still there was very little disruption. BBC Radio 4 remains on top, 17.1% listening share from 16.1% year on year. BBC Radio 2, number 2, is still ailing, falling to 10.7% listening share from 12.2%.

Commercial station LBC 97.3 seems firmly in 3rd place in London, up a bit to 5.5% listening share. Magic London was off a slice to 4.7% and 4th spot. Favorite media watcher whipping boy BBC Radio 1 bumped up to 4.5% listening share from 3.7% one year on. (See London radio audience estimates trend chart here)

Dance station KISS London was off notably to 4.5% listening share from 4.9% year on year and tied Radio 1 for 5th place. Heart London was also off slightly to 4.1% listening share as was Capital London, 3.7% listening share. Classic FM was unchanged, also 3.7%. Commercial music stations had a rather dismal turn at the ratings lottery; Smooth Radio dropped to 1.7% listening share from 2.6%.

Sports channel BBC Five Live bumped up measurably, 4.0% listening share from 3.5% year on year. BBC arts and culture channel Radio 3 reached an historic 2.7% listening share, up from 2.1%. Long suffering BBC London dropped to 1.0% listening share from 1.4%.

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