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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lloyd

Smart speakers and radio - the latest Ofcom data

The latest Ofcom data is out – helping us better understand a fast-changing media picture.

And - unlike the Ofcom website or the new complaints bulletin format – the Media Nations Report is really easy to interrogate.

Seriously, it’s useful data.

58% of people say they have radio sets in their house that they listen to - with 28% having just one, but 4% having four or five. Amongst 16-34s, the number having any radio set falls to 37%.

If 58% sounds low, it is broadly consistent with previous years - in this Ofcom data at least - with the 2018 figure at 56%.

41% of respondents say some of their sets are DAB. 13% have 2-3 sets.

51% use voice-controlled devices for any purposes. 53% for 16-24s – but still just under half (45%) of 55+. The speed of uptake of these devices has been huge. (Note - These percentages are of those who completed the Ofcom survey online, excluding the 8% of respondents who chose a paper response). The most comparable figure in 2019 'smart speaker take up' is at 20% - although in my own research of late, I have found that not everyone recognises the phrase 'smart speaker' as the generic name for their dear 'Alexa'.

67% of smart speakers users ask their smart speaker to play streamed music (77% for 15-24s, 55% for 55+), and 60% listen to a radio station (34% 16-24, 67% for 55+).

In streamed music, Spotify and YouTube dominate.

Looking at the territories in which radio has traditionally had a key role, 27% of those who have smart speakers use their smart speakers for news reports and 12% for travel news.

18% of those with smart speakers use them for podcasts, with 16-24s also at 18%; and 55+ at 12%. Of those with smart speakers, 35-44s are the most enthusiastic about using them for podcasts (20%).

In terms of smart speaker brands, it’s no surprise that Amazon rules, with 69% of those with smart speaker having Amazon Echo, compared with 25% for Google Home/Nest - and single digital% for other brands.

The revenue graphs show the pain of the last two years.

BBC income has fallen from £761m in 2018 to £733m in 2019; and then down1% to £726m in 2020.

Across in commercial radio, national commercial revenues have fallen 6% from £303m in 2019 to £284m in 2020.

Sponsorship has fallen 24% from £115m to £87m.

Local revenues have fallen a foul 34% from £119m (2019) to £79m (2020).

This suggests that without the consolidation of recent years – and the benefits to national revenues of powerful brand sells, a locally-driven commercial radio industry would have been unsustainable. The uncertainty of this year, of course, has yet to be seen.

Other revenues for commercial radio have been broadly constant (from £82m in 2019 to £80m in 2020), albeit this is up from £43m in 2018. Whilst stations are doing more in various ways to generate incremental revenues, there may be a specific in here the hard data does not explain.

The fall in popularity of owned or virtually owned music in favour of subscription services is clear to see.

Radio Secrets is a comprehensive guide to contemporary presentation and production techniques in all formats, from writing to delivery, across radio and podcasting.

Read this book and gain insights into:

Tight contemporary music presentation-

Generating engaging talk content-

Developing authenticity and likeability-

Handling double-acts, callers and contests-

Understanding the audience and keeping them listening

Whether you are a newcomer or a seasoned performer, Radio Secrets is essential reading.

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