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Good Broadcast examines the regional picture from this morning’s RAJARs

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This morning, the latest RAJAR figures have been released, showing the performance of radio stations up and down the country. Josh Wheeler, Head of Broadcast at Manchester-based broadcast specialist Good Broadcast analyses the results.

Welcome to RAJAR day.

Today is the day where radio bosses across the country will be eagerly refreshing their inboxes to reveal how their outlets and shows have been performing.

For us, at Good Broadcast it is also an incredibly important day. Our whole mantra is ‘Quality over Quantity’ when it comes to delivering for our clients – so it is vital for us to evaluate how stations perform.

The figures measure BBC and licensed commercial radio outlets across the country to highlight which stations are performing well with audiences.

RAJAR Ltd (otherwise known as Radio Joint Audience Research) is owned by the BBC and RadioCentre (the trade body which looks after commercial radio stations in the UK).

The figures are the most accurate way of measuring the reach of radio audience penetration – and therefore incredibly significant.

What do the figures show?

Overall, the figures show continued strength and confidence within radio. In February, the Government confirmed that from 1 April 2019 the cost of the annual licence fee would increase by £4 which covers TV, Radio, Online and the newly created BBC Sounds App.

Part of this increase will see the BBC continue its talent search as part of an ongoing plan to breathe new life into BBC local radio, first announced by the Director-General of the BBC Tony Hall back in November 2017.

The announcement was part of the biggest shake-up in a generation for broadcast with each station launching 15 hours of new, original and local content every week. Here it has resulted in brand new talent which would not normally make its way onto the radio – such as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid launching the Monday Night Social on BBC Radio Sheffield.

And … it is working. BBC Radio Sheffield has increased its listenership in the area from 14% in the last quarter to 20% now.

This investment is seeing positive growth across the board at BBC radio outlets. Further investment in the coming months and years will see this type of radio really deliver as it should – by making it even more local and more creative, celebrating local identities and reflect local living across the UK.

In total, 48.4 million of us (or 88% of the population /those aged 15+) us tuned in each week throughout the last quarter. On average, we are listening to just over 20 hours of live radio each week.

Our trend of becoming ever more digital continues to build – with 63% of our listening taking place via DAB. 68% of us are listening at home, and 64% of us are tuning in while in the car or on public transport.

During this period the BBC Sounds App really got going – officially launching in November (by renaming the London Eye to the London Ear for the day). BBC Sounds combines podcasts, radio output and music. The aim is to make an all-round personalised audio platform that learns about the listeners interests and tastes as the app is used to make personalised recommendations.

In reality, that means that younger audiences are currently being introduced to radio output which they perhaps would not have naturally found without the app.

As a radio fanatic, I am delighted that the medium is evolving, proving to be stronger and more resilient than ever. Oh, and whilst it isn’t broadcast from here…

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How do the figures stack up in the North?

As ever, the North has seen some major winners and some slight losses in reach and listenership. It appears that audiences remain keen to explore new stations – and the wide, varied and increasing choice on offer makes switching easy.

BBC Radio 5 Live – broadcast from Media City UK – has dipped slightly to 9% share (from 10%). The outlet has been wrangling with the University of Kent and News UK which released a report stating that 5 Live had moved away from current affairs. The outlet refuted claims and noted that it exceeds its news and sport obligations, with 76% of overall output being current affairs programming in the 2017-18 year.

5 Live focuses heavily on current affairs and there is a chance that the British public are suffering with Brexit fatigue and the last quarter has certainly been a testing period for current affairs broadcasters.

To give you analysis of the latest figures, we have broken down the data by cities in the North to give the clearest view of what is happening.

Manchester

BBC Radio Manchester was able to increase its listenership by 19,000 (taking them to 203,000) during the period – and it appears to have taken listeners from the commercial networks in the area. The outlet launched ‘Homeless Season’ during this period which aimed to shine a light on the homelessness crisis Manchester is facing – drawing parallels with how cities in Finland have tackled the issue.

Capital Manchester continues as the strongest performing outlet in the city – but dipped from 538,000 to 500,000 listeners. Hits Radio Manchester dipped to 271,000 from 375,000 during the last quarter.

Radio X Manchester and XS Manchester also saw slight dips – taking them to 226,000 and 95,000 respectively.

Leeds

The largest station, regarding audience reach, in Leeds remains Capital Yorkshire. During the quarter it added an additional 17,000 listeners who helped the station take its share to 21%.

BBC Radio Leeds also saw a significant boost during the period – moving their listenership to 216,000 per week (up from 174,000 during the previous quarter). On top of this, Heart Yorkshire also saw growth – from 399,000 to 444,000.

However, Radio Aire saw a slight dip going to 70,000 listeners from 90,000.

Liverpool

Bauer’s Radio City continues its domination in Liverpool – with 311,000 listeners each week (which is slightly down from last quarter). BBC Radio Merseyside is not far behind – increasing its listenership to 288,000 (from 276,000) last quarter.

Greatest Hits Radio Liverpool keeps hold of its share (218,000), and Capital Liverpool dips slightly to 203,000.

Newcastle

Capital North East is the strongest radio outlet in the region – delivering 414,000 listeners each week. Metro Radio saw a slight dip during the quarter taking its audience share to 278,000.

BBC Newcastle similar saw a change in figures – going to 198,000 from 213,000.

Why do we tune into local radio?

Local radio represents and gives a voice to everyday people across the country. The strength of local radio for brands is the trust that listeners place in these outlets. Therefore, if you get your approach right then you can engage and deliver real quality radio.

The reality is that people buy into other people – and the sound of a familiar voice who shops where you shop, eats where you eat and who knows your village, town or city like the back of their hand is far more relevant, engaging and ‘quality’ than a national outlet could ever hope to be.

Final Thoughts

Christmas always sees dips as we switch off and pick up the chocolate box instead, and so any dips are completely in line with expectations which will likely balance themselves out during the next quarter.

While BBC Sounds has been active for a few months now – it will be interesting to see just how much of a journey it takes the younger generations on when it comes to traditional radio output in the North.

At its core radio is about companionship – and therefore wields an awful lot of trust and loyalty as a result.

The great news is that in the North radio continues to look strong. The audience share, amount of hours listened, and ways of listening continue to grow and evolve. And, with the induction of BBC Sounds, the figures are likely to continue growing amongst younger audiences also.

So, I hope you see the power of radio within this article and if you are working in PR/Comms start to place emphasis on broadcast relations rather than often treating it as an after-thought to truly deliver quality over quantity.

To get you going – here are our top tips for landing quality broadcast effectively;

1.       Understand your audience

2.       Understand the programming

3.       Forward plan

4.       Lead with something stand out

5.       Offer relevant and authentic speakers

6.       Offer flexibility

We look forward to the rest of 2019 in broadcast which is thriving here in the North.

Good Broadcast is based in Manchester city centre with studios at MediaCityUK.

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