Rajar provides commercial radio reasons to be cheerful

Radio is proving to be among the most enduring of media. Quarter after quarter Rajar data demonstrates we continue to listen on a panoply of platforms.

Russell Parsons

Quarter two figures again show an increase, up 2.7% to 46.3m listeners, turning on and tuning in via their analogue or digital radio sets, laptops and mobiles to Wogan, Moyles, Vaughan and Theakston.

Commercial radio chiefs will find plenty of reasons to be cheerful in the data. The ad-funded sector continues to chip away at Auntie’s share of the market, increasing its slice of the radio pie to 42.7% while adding listeners at a faster pace than Radio’s 1,2,3 et al.

The sector will also be buoyed by the increasing number of 15-44 year-olds, seen by many marketers and radio chiefs as the most lucrative demographic, turning to commercial radio.

The great and good of the industry have been grumbling about the “squeezing” of the commercial sector by the BBC, accusing Radio One controllers of courting an older audience and Radio 2 of wooing a younger demographic, so they will be pleased to see their share of this group increasing.

Good news can also be found in the Shires and provinces. Global Radio’s Heart network, which has recently expanded to include a number of rebranded stations across the South and South West, saw its reach up 3% and hours up 4.7% quarter on quarter.

Amanda Barrett, radio engagement specialist at UM says the gains are “hugely positive” for commercial radio with the roll-out of the Heart brand boosting heritage stations that had been suffering from a lack of investment and marketing.

The UK’s second biggest radio group Bauer Radio also had a good quarter with Magic 105.4 and Kiss 100 posting increased share and reach while its Big City Network of stations registered their highest market share for more than two years.

Steve Parkinson, managing director of Bauer’s London stations, says the Rajar data is evidence of the commercial sector “getting its act together” in the first full-year following Bauer’s acquisition of EMAP and Global’s purchase of GCap Media.

He adds the amount invested in marketing by Global, which launched campaigns for Heart and Capital in the quarter, and Bauer with its “Good Mood” campaign for Magic 105.4, “can only be a good thing for commercial radio” at a time when the BBC is “vulnerable” to attacks over ethics.

So, plenty for the ad-funded sector to be happy about. However, it should not be too self-congratulatory. Commercial radio stations posted a 19.5% year on year decline in advertising revenues in the first quarter, the worst three month performance in ten years.

The industry faces a number of challenges, and not just as a result of the recession – how to harness the opportunities DAB brings and how to sell the technology’s benefits to a largely phlegmatic public, not to mention radio’s place in a multi-media world.

What is does have going for it, however, is a public hungry for product, and that offers plenty of opportunities.

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