By Stuart Buchanan, Junior Broadcast Executive at 4mediarelations
There was a time when most homes relied on a radio.
The wireless, sat in the corner of the kitchen or living room was a key transmitter of news, a primary source of entertainment and a pioneering medium for releasing the latest music and sculpting the latest trends. Whether you were tuning in to the Peel sessions, listening to the King’s Speech, sat in a huddle as Winston Churchill addressed a war-stricken Britain or picking up crackling commentary of the moment Geoff Hurst secured a hat-trick and a World Cup win for England at Wembley, the radio has been a pretty damn significant form of media all told.
But the world isn’t built on black-and-white scratchy medium wave signals nowadays. Exactly how does radio stack up against a world of tablets, online streaming and seemingly endless glut of readily-available content to fish through?
Well, those who have discarded the radio for more advanced technology might be shocked to learn that they actually represent the minority. Radio has evolved, and rather than discarding the media, we have incorporated new ways to enjoy radio output in a digital age. In the parlance of Freddie Mercury, all we need is radio gaga!
Radio lives on
According to the latest RAJAR figures, 91 per cent of the UK listened to some form of radio in the past three months, the highest figure since 1999. That’s 48.4 million adults (15+) listening to an average of 21.3 hours a week, with 52 per cent exploiting modern listening techniques via DAB or online streaming.
Audio broadcasting has found its feet in a new world; 25 per cent of adults and 45 per cent of 14-25 year-olds have listened to some form of radio through their smartphone, up by 32 per cent and 23 per cent year-on-year respectively.
The beauty of the ever-changing face of audible broadcasting is that, especially given technological transformations of late, there is now more scope for varied content, interactive engagement and listening to any show any time you want to. Those who believe that ‘there’s never anything for me to listen to’ simply haven’t been looking hard enough.
Digital listening accounts for 36.1 per cent of all listening hours, up nine per cent from last year. ‘Listen again’ functions are starting to spread further than just the major BBC stations allowing audiences to dictate their own playlists and schedules, leading to a boom in podcasting. One look at the iTunes ‘Most Popular Podcasts’ list suggests that Radio 4 are getting this right. ‘Friday Night Comedy’, ‘Desert Island Discs’, ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ and ‘Comedy of The Week’ all regularly appear in the top five or ten every week.
The two breakfast shows that rated highest this time around, despite both being part of the BBC’s 55.2 per cent share of the overall radio market, cater for completely different audiences. Chris Evans’ BBC 2 breakfast show has been the biggest hitter of its timeslot for quite some time, but still managed to put in a record rating of 9.82 million listeners. Nick Grimshaw’s Radio 1 effort added 700,000 this quarter, rising to 6.29 million.
What this shows is there are still fervent audiences out there, waiting to be informed and entertained if radio stations can get it right…and they are.
Growing commercial market
On the commercial side of things, London’s Biggest Conversation (LBC) went national via DAB in early February, whilst smaller stations are also thriving. For instance, The Bay, covering North Lancashire and South Cumbria, has a 42 per cent reach within its area and is by far the most listened to station in its area.
It seems things could be set to become broader, with Communications Minister Ed Vaizey pledging to invest over £21 million in the broadcast industry funded by the BBC, government and commercial sectors. This will be used to increase digital radio coverage so more homes can receive DAB signals, allowing the evolution of broadcast media to plod on into the future.
So, if you’ve ever turned the radio on and back off again within a couple of minutes, keep trying…use your tablet, use your laptop, use your phone and search, search, search. There’s definitely something worth treating your ears to.