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Another Last Glimpse At The Green Leaves Of Summer

Lifestyles and demographics have long challenged media designers. The digital age has brought this into plain view, if not necessarily plain sight. Adopting all this blinding change doesn’t seem like change at all to some, just a moment with Instagram. Resistance is futile though fist-shaking certainly feels good.

hits of summerUK audience estimates for the quarter ending mid-September (Q3) were released this week by the Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) institute. Being largely a survey from the summer months it measured radio listening when most folks were outside their normal routines. Some were on holiday, separated from the usual grind though, as always, grumpy about the weather. All of this is reflected in the results.

Overall, the radio channels of public broadcaster BBC on aggregate extended their lead over commercial channels. Year on year BBC Radio reached 52.1% of UK listeners, up from 51.5%. Commercial radio channels, on aggregate, reached 45.3%, down from 45.8% one year on. Local stations for both sectors continued their long slide.

Long supreme BBC Radio 2 remained at the top of the national survey, 17.6% reach share of persons 15 years and older, up from 16.7% year on year. Second place BBC Radio 4 was unchanged at 11.8% reach share. BBC Radio 1 moved into 3rd place, though dropping slightly to 5.9% reach share from 6.0%. Commercial network Heart dropped to 4th; 5.7% reach share from 6.2%. The Capital network remained in 5th place, unchanged at 4.2% reach share. (See UK National Radio Audience Estimates trend chart here - in Resources)

Audience estimates for the London market area were, as usual, far more volatile. There are many reasons beyond sample size. News-talk BBC Radio 4 held its top ranking but slipped considerably in reach share to 14.4% from 15.5% one year on. Radio 2, second place again, was unchanged at 10.9%. Commercial station LBC 97.3 held third place on a bump to 5.8% reach share from 5.1%. Dance station Kiss London moved into 4th with its best showing in five years; 5.5% reach share from 4.4%. Capital London also moved up, 5.2% reach share from 4.3%, for 5th spot. (See London Radio Audience Estimates trend chart here - in Resources)

More granular data attracting attention when overall data doesn’t easily fit narratives, another fall for the BBC Radio 1 breakfast (morning) show brought out the critics. National audience estimates for the time slot dropped to 4.93 weekly listeners, lowest since RAJAR started counting. Five years ago a strategic decision - perhaps with political overtones favorable to commercial operators - to “chase away” older Millennial listeners and concentrate on Gen Zers born attached to their smartphones. The operation was successful but, well, everybody knows the rest.

Radio 1s 50th anniversary was recently celebrated. Teen-aged listeners who propelled it to iconic status are now in their 70’s, yelling at people to get off their lawns and tuning into the conspiracy theories on the LBC morning show. Radio 1 “is still the number one breakfast show for young people,” said an anonymous BBC source to the Guardian (October 26). “But they don’t consume as much traditional radio as they used do.”


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