The audience system RAJAR has finally made a comeback with its first release since Q1 2020. The latest Q3 2021 report includes radio listening panels as well as a door-to-door survey to broaden out the reach.  The service has been designed around the traditional quarter-hour diary and is reported in the same way. However, this time it draws no comparison with old data, to avoid observing misleading trends and speculative insights across different methodologies.

Radio consumption has remained strong with a total reach of 89% of 15+ adults with a 66% reach across commercial radio stations and an average listenership of 8.6 hours per week. Notably, younger audiences are listening to commercial radio with a 69% reach, versus older audiences between 45 and 69 with 65%.

The data also highlighted how consumption behaviours and habits have changed over the period. In particular, digital and DAB formats now account for over 60% of all listenership – a strong sign of how Covid-19 has encouraged digital shifts from traditional formats. Of the digital total, DAB accounts for 43%, with online and in-app making up 18% and DTV listenership accounting for 5%. Digital stations have also influenced in-car listening too with 53% tuning in via digital channels. How this shift to digital will influence loyalty toward stations remains to be seen. For example, with more and more stations available, will consumers become more promiscuous with their choice or shall we witness choice paralysis?

The digitisation of radio has enabled the launch of smaller, niche radio stations with easier access points of listenership; indeed, many broadcasters are launching bespoke digital sub-stations. Within the new survey, we see the reach of these smaller stations with Greatest Hits Network publishing their first numbers since their rebrand in Sept 2020. They report a weekly reach of 3.2m whilst Magic at the Musicals, and Times Radio also debuted with 184,000 and 637,000 respective weekly reaches. It will be wise to monitor how far the launch of sub-stations will cannibalise their parent stations, or whether their bespoke nature will attract incremental reach from non-mainstream listeners.

The new RAJAR listening data for Q3 2021 confirms the importance of digital listening and digital platforms, which collectively account for two-thirds of all radio listening, despite radio industry commentators previously questioning the viability of DAB. According to latest ad spend forecasts, radio ad spend is set to grow 18.6% this year, and a further 4.1% in 2022 – driven by digital audio spend. Given the focus on digital consumption, it will be interesting to see whether advertisers mirror audience consumption with their audio budgets – a move that could lead to a strong marketing outlook for the channel.

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