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RAJAR announces first radio listening figures since suspending data collection in 2020

By | Published on Thursday 28 October 2021


RAJAR has published its first set of UK radio listening figures since data collection was suspended in March last year because of the COVID lockdown. After eighteen months, it also returns with a new method to tally up what radio stations people are listening to.

While the listeners involved in RAJAR’s research will continue to keep diaries of their radio listening, a new app called Media Cell is also being used. Running in the background on listeners’ smartphones, it uses audio content recognition to identify what radio stations people are engaging with.

“As with many sectors, we have faced an unprecedented set of challenges during the pandemic”, says Jerry Hill, Chief Executive of RAJAR. “The team at RAJAR, with the enormous support of our research partners Ipsos and RSMB, have developed a flexible design that strengthens the service both now and for its future evolution”.

Director Of Audiences at the BBC, Nick North, adds: “Coming out of such a difficult period, RAJAR has acted with speed and innovative flair without compromising the rigour and quality of its service, to produce a new, best in class industry currency incorporating the electronic measurement of listening. It’s a huge leap forward, and credit to the RAJAR executive, to Ipsos and RSMB, for making it happen”.

Speaking for the commercial radio sector, Radiocentre CEO Ian Moss comments: “The return of new RAJAR audience data following the COVID-driven hiatus is welcome news. The evolution in methodology is a good thing for the future of the industry, whilst helping to insure against future interruptions to data collection”.

But now that RAJAR is back up and running again, what interesting stats has it thrown up? Well, obviously we can’t do the usual year-on-year comparisons, but here are five interesting take aways…

1. Breakfast radio listening continues to fall – following¬†a trend that emerged two years ago. Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2, Greg James on BBC Radio 1, Roman Kemp on Capital FM, Chris Evans on Virgin Radio and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme are all down on the last time ratings were measured. Chris Evans – one time presenter of the (still) biggest breakfast show in the UK on Radio 2 – didn’t even break a million listeners. The one person who bucked the trend was Chris Moyles on Radio X, who increased his listeners to more than a million.

2. 65.8% of all radio listening now happens through digital means. The largest proportion of listening is on DAB, with 43%, while online and apps make up 18.1%, and good old AM/FM still accounts for 34.2%. BBC Radio 6 Music is back on top as the most popular digital-only station, with 2.7 million listeners, with its closest rival Kisstory now lagging behind on 2.2 million.

3. Publishing its first ever RAJAR figures, having launched in June 2020, Times Radio is pulling in 637,000 weekly listeners. That puts it ahead of Talk Radio, which recorded 450,000 listeners – a slight gain on its last listening stats. Another new station, Boom Radio, which is aimed at boomers who think that Radio 2 skews too young these days, is pulling in 233,000 listeners a week.

4. Heart retains its position as London’s favourite commercial station, with 1.91 million listeners, followed by Capital with 1.78 million. After that, the top five is completed by Magic (1.59m), LBC (1.56m) and Kiss (1.06m).

5. Stations aimed at young audiences aren’t having a great time. BBC Radio 1 faired particularly badly, falling to 8.2 million listeners from 8.9 million. A spokesperson for the station said that the numbers would actually be better if children aged between ten and fifteen were also included in the stats (making it more like nine million listeners). Still, for the most part, any station with a 15-24 core audience isn’t having the best time at the moment.