It’s long been said that the future of radio is digital – but, if the recent RAJAR results are anything to go by, it looks like that future is already here.
Earlier this year, more than half of listening was digital for the first time, with a narrow 50.2% share reported in Q2’s RAJAR report. This upward trajectory has continued into Q3, with 63% of Brits listening to digital radio each week.
At the same time, while the long-awaited DAB switchover has yet to be announced (following in the footsteps of Norway, which turned off analogue broadcasting last year), the government recently announced measures to give smaller community and commercial radio stations easier access to digital radio multiplexes.
But while the shift toward digital is positive in many ways, there are some unfortunate and unavoidable knock-on effects. Traditional radio stations, for example, are increasingly finding that they’re not only competing with each other, but with the wider digital audio offering as well.
The BBC has recognised this, and expanded its radio portfolio into a fully-fledged audio, with the recent launch of BBC Sounds – bringing together the BBC’s radio livestreams, catch-up, personalised music mixes and podcasts in a single platform for the first time. Commercial radio outperformed the broadcaster again this quarter, with figures showing that total weekly reach for commercial stations is now at 35.8 million, while BBC listeners were at 34.2 million, showing a quarter-by-quarter decrease of 0.5%.
Digital services, in comparison, have continued to go from strength to strength. By June this year, Spotify had attracted a huge 83 million users – an increase of 8 million in Q2 alone. Podcasts are also on the rise according to Ofcom, with the number of adults listening having almost doubled in the past five years, to 5.9 million.
But while commercial radio might be faring better than the BBC, brands should not become over-reliant on its power. As we shift toward a digital radio world, it’s important to consider audio opportunities outside of radio, too.
Younger listeners specifically are forcing this shift. That’s because they are favouring more personalised on-demand entertainment rather than linear broadcasts. Just 31% of audio consumption among 15-24 year olds is live radio, for example, compared to 71% of the general population.
So when targeting this demographic it only makes sense that digital audio is considered alongside more traditional radio campaigns, just as video-on-demand should be considered when planning TV airtime.
For advertisers, digital audio represent an opportunity not only to reach a growing number of listeners, but provide greater flexibility than radio-only campaigns – from geo-targeting capabilities to dynamic audio delivery to programmatic trading. And with listening on-the-go becoming more popular there’s also a chance to reach highly engaged listeners on a one-to-one basis.
The future of radio may be digital, but it’s the wider opportunities of digital audio that brands should tune into.