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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lloyd

Rajar - The Big Long View

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

The great thing about not running a radio station myself now is a) I sleep at night; and b) I can afford the luxury of spending some time with the bigger picture – looking across the longer term rather than scurrying around to find a minor victory for the press release and the sales team - and some alcohol for presenters.

Today, the latest Rajar figures (W1 2020, RAJAR-IPSOS) indicate radio audiences for the period up to March 2020. There was a sufficiently large sample available before COVID hit (it’s consistent with previous survey periods), so these figures largely reflect life pre-Covid. It will be fascinating to see how the media world settles at the other end of this journey.

The reach of all UK radio (UK TSA) returns to 89% of all adults. It was down to 87% last quarter; but is back to the level of a year ago. The high in the last ten years has been 92% - back in 2011; and 2012 even saw some 89% figures – so in terms of radio’s resilience as a medium, overall, that is a healthy sign.

Loyalty remains at an average of 20.2 hours per listener per week. It’s down over half an hour from this time last year and over an hour down from five years ago. That’s appreciable, but over a five year term in a fast changing world, radio is still resilient. Over the last year, the slight erosion in loyalty is caused by a decline in the number of very heavy listeners.

15-24s rise to an 82% reach from 78% in the last quarter’s figures and 80% a year ago. It’s the highest since the end of 2018. Five years ago, it was 83% – the high over that time has been 86%. Ten years ago, the figures were at 89/90%.

Loyalty amongst 15-24s remains as it was last quarter at 12.5 hours per week of listening – an all time low. It was around 15 five years ago and knocking on 17 ten years ago.

In terms of platform reach, obviously the ten-year trends for AM/FM and DAB reach are clear. In the last few quarters the level of relative change between those two, however, is minor. The growth in DAB reach has slowed to a trickle – as has the lessening of AM/FM reach. DTV again is stable in reach of late; but was trending gently down long term.

The real change is the reach of radio online, up 8% quarter-on-quarter and up 15% in the last year. It now reaches almost half as many people as DAB. 30% of radio listeners use online listening for part of their listening.

DAB listening tends to be for longer spells (13.6 hours per week on average), followed by AM/FM (11.9), then online (9.5) – with DTV listeners using their DTV sets little (5.9 hours).

Online therefore, accounts for 14% of all listening. The ‘radio set’ (AM/FM/DAB) accounts for 82%.

The average age of the listener is now 48, that shifts very slowly but it has nudged up from 46 ten years ago.

The BBC reaches 61% of all adults, the same as last quarter, down from 63% a year ago, it was 65% five years ago and 68% ten years ago. This, of course, is in the face of unprecedented levels of new commercial brands which, in consolidated hands, have edged into BBC format territory more than ever before.

The BBC reaches 49% of all 15-24s, up from 47% last time and down from 52% a year ago. It was 54% five years ago and 60% ten years ago. The last five years however have seen drops in all demos (35-44s down from 63% to 57%; 45-54s down from 69% to 62%). Loyalty amongst the BBC's 15-24s remains at 6.2 average hours this time, as before, down from 6.6 a year ago and 8.7 five years ago.

Commercial radio returns to its record 66% reach figure, up from 64% last quarter and 63% both five and ten years ago.

Amongst 15-24s, commercial radio reach rises to 67%, compared to 65% last quarter and 66% a year ago. It was 70% five years ago and 73% ten years ago Average time spent listening falls from 10 to 9.8 this time, but up on 9.6 a years ago. Commercial radio's average age shifts from 43 to 46 over ten years.

Although listening at home accounts for by far the lion's share of all listening, the very long term trend sees that declining, with listening on the move growing. Listening at work has remained incredibly static. The mix is very different by demo, with home and on the move in a real pincer movement amongst 25-34s.

The above data comes from the published figures for W1 2020. Rajar has also published its invaluable MIDAS study which pokes around under the digital settee, assembled by calling back some Rajar respondents in a separate study. This suggests live radio owns 72% of the audio cake, down from 74% a year ago. Podcasting stays at 4% (although rising in actual numbers), with on-demand music rising from 11 to 14%. As on demand grows, owned music whether on CD or digital falls. Smartphones are the most frequently used device for catch-up - accounting for 45% of catch-up radio listening hours. Smart speakers account for 6% of audio generally, compared with 4% a year ago.

Check out Matt Deegan's post on Rajar too- and Adam Bowie's.

Related blog post: 'What can radio learn from how it has handled COVID 19?'- including research in a Covid world.

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