Music to your ears

By The Drum, Administrator

July 1, 2004 | 15 min read


Paul Bramwell, Universal McCann, Birmingham

In a region that is the heartland of GWR and home to flagship brands for Chrysalis and Capital, one major group has been conspicuously absent – until now. Last night (10 June) saw the launch of the Midlands’ newest radio station – Kerrang! With it came Emap’s entry into the region and, on the face of it, a pretty good chance of succeeding. The last two launches in the region saw Saga successfully established in both the west and east of the region. Saga, though, had the advantage that the commercial radio market had been ignoring its audience of 45+-year-olds and there was an obvious gap to be filled. Kerrang! does not have that benefit, in age terms at least, although it argues that in the home of Black Sabbath genuine rock fans are not being catered for.

At a local level, this is good news for clients and agencies, who now have even more choice, but at a national level I worry that the focus for many of the big radio groups, unsure of whether they are hunters or the hunted in the corporate acquisition trail, is to view their stations as part of a giant numbers game.

Across the region we have seen this scenario raise its head already, with some local station management being replaced by a kind of management by proxy from head office, at the same time ripping the heart and soul out of the station. Who cares, you may say. Well, a couple of interested parties have already voiced their concern.

Ofcom, for one, has recently completed an interim consultation on the issue of localness in radio and plans a more substantive consultation later in the year. In its interim report it recognises that localness is, ironically, most easily identified in its absence and provides a number of statements for consideration in determining what localness is and isn’t.

Of primary importance, though, are the listeners, who know when a station is truly local, genuinely part of the community, and we should never forget that radio is a local medium. None of the national commercial stations reach more than 15 per cent of the population, whereas, typically, the strongest local stations will deliver anything from 25 per cent to 45 per cent weekly reach. Listeners will see straight through a façade of localness and it doesn’t matter which measurement system is used; they will turn their backs on any stations paying only lip service to it.


Keith Morris, Robson Brown

I love Rajar release day. It’s so uplifting. All our stations up here do well every time the new data comes out. And they all get so excited about it and send us goody bags so we can share in their delight.

Let me share the latest good news from the North East with you.

Century is now the Number 1 station in the North East. That’s official at last and it doesn’t just mean it has the biggest TSA any more. It took over the number 1 slot for the highest weekly reach for a single station, with 507,000 15+ listeners.

Galaxy is not now the Number 1 station in the North East but, with 309,000 listeners between 15 and 34, it is still, by far, the Number 1 station in the North East for the Under-35s – which is who it is targeting anyway so anything else doesn’t really count, does it? \"Metro\" is either Metro FM or Metro FM and Magic 1152 combined, depending on what you want to talk about. If you add Metro and Magic’s listeners together they are the number 1 station in the North East, with a combined weekly reach of 519,000. Although I’m not sure the listeners of Magic would be particularly pleased to learn they are actually listening to Metro FM.

What is indisputable is that Metro FM is still the number 1 station on Tyneside (and Wearside and the bit of Durham and Northumberland that falls into Metro’s TSA) and has over half a million listeners, if you count everyone over the age of 4.

Down on Teesside, the news is also excellent. TFM’s hours have shot up year on year, 7 per cent on total hours and 23 per cent on average hours over this time last year. Similar good news for Magic 1152, whose weekly reach has improved a staggering 18 per cent. Next year it can look forward to being the Number 1 on Teesside again. Oops, sorry, just checking the figures and I see that TFM and Magic 1170 are already the Number 1 station (by Metro’s definition) on Teesside.

And what about our smaller brethren, who can’t really afford to send out text messages and e-mails to tell everyone how well they have done? Well, as you would expect, they have also done very well indeed.

Alpha is the number 1 station in Darlington, with more listeners than even the gargantuan Radio 2, never mind the local boys. Sun FM claims number 1 bragging rights in Sunderland with the highest Total Hours in the area. It may not have a lot of listeners but by golly, they love to listen.

Oh, I almost forgot about Radio Borders in Berwick. Almost out of our area and having to play its football in the Scottish League because it is so far north. Like its football team, we’ll claim it as our own when it is doing well, and Radio Borders is doing well.

Check out the national league tables and see who is Number 1 in the Weekly Reach percentage and Share of Listening charts. Yes, it’s Radio Borders.


Charles Reid, MediaVest, Manchester

Outside of London there are few radio regions as vibrant as the North West. Number one commercial station is 105.4 Century FM, reaching 810,000 adults 15+, each week (16 per cent), with healthy average hours at 8.5. New kid on the block, Smooth FM appears to be delivering on its promise to encourage trial, reaching an extra 76,000 listeners q-on-q with just three weeks of proper broadcast. Rumours abound that the success of Smooth will dictate GMG’s plans for the London TSA, fuelled by Jazz FM’s positioning in the media marketplace as \"Smooth Jazz and Soul.\" I worry that Smooth may be too middle of the road to generate real passion.

Taking a closer look at the Greater Manchester TSA, EMAP’s Key 103 remains number one, reaching 623,000 adults every week (23 per cent). Rival Galaxy reaches 410,000 adults each week (18 per cent), and could threaten a repeat of Chrysalis’ giant killing performance in London, although the station has lost 25,000 listeners in the past three months and has far less listener loyalty than Key.

It would be easy to write off Key 103 – but against certain demographics the figures remain impressive. Each week the station reaches 370,000 15–34-year-olds (41 per cent), and 324,000 ABC1 adults (28 per cent). The only problem is that media buyers have long memories and we still remember the days Key 103 reached almost a million adults every week.

Key 103 is investing heavily in marketing as it introduces a new daytime line-up to combat the recent departure of breakfast’s JK & Joel. Mike Toolan returns to breakfast and Steve Penk travels back up the M6 after a stint down at Capital (and some forgettable ITV video shows). So far, so 1996, but the introduction of Justin Moorhouse (Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights co-star) to afternoons may prove to be Key’s trump card.

Manchester may provide an important testing ground for major radio contractors. The proliferation of new stations large and small, FM and digital, means that large heritage FM brands no longer have it all their own way. Just as ITV has had to evolve in an ever changing, and competitive, marketplace, large FM broadcasters must take stock and plan carefully if they’re going to evolve and succeed.

Elsewhere in the region, Emap’s grip remains strong. Rock FM reaches 361,000 adults across Lancashire (28 per cent), with a very respectable 11.2 average hours. On Merseyside, Radio City lost 31,000 listeners at the last RAJAR, slipping under the half-million mark at 492,000 adults each week (28 per cent), and a slight fall in average hours (11.4 vs. 12.4). Across the whole region Emap can still lay claim to an impressive commercial reach overall, with Big City and Magic brands reaching 960,000 adults (35 per cent) each week through the good old-fashioned wireless.

Liverpool’s Juice FM now reaches 110,000 adults every week; with a recent change in management and re-positioning they could threaten a repeat of Galaxy’s success. Local stations (\"for local people\") also play an important role across the North West with the likes of Dune, Tower, Wire and Wish continuing to deliver solid local audiences.


Emma Hill, Radio Works

The South East has, excluding the area inside of the M25, almost 60 stations to choose from – where do you start ... Well, with the big players in the area would seem a sensible place.

The Capital Radio Group has FM and AM stations covering Hampshire, Sussex and Kent, and the GWR group has similar strength of coverage in Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. These long-standing commercial stations still perform well and tend to be market leaders in their area but the introduction of two regional stations has given the longer established groups a battle on their hands. Capital’s Ocean FM against Scottish Radio Holding’s Wave 105 in Southampton and Portsmouth and GWR’s East Anglian contingency against SRH’s Vibe FM.

Both of these newer regional stations are generating substantial audience figures each week. Wave 105 reaches 227,000 adults 15+ each week within Ocean/Powers TSA (this is more than Ocean reaches, and only 54,000 behind Power) and Vibe, while just targeting the under-30s, manages to generate a weighty weekly reach figure of 320,000.

In addition to this, the South Coast stations all have numerous local stations within their survey areas. Invicta has seven (with the majority owned by the Kent Messenger group), Southern FM has four and within Ocean/Powers TSA there are another five.

While all this choice is great for the listener and also programmers, who are able to target their core audiences more specifically, it does lead to a lot of confusion among many buyers. As someone who buys commercial radio across the UK 24/7, I have to say that Hampshire is one of the areas that causes the most confusion among our clients, but by playing to stations’ individual strengths and considering all the options available advertisers can ensure the best use of their all-important budgets.

One area often overlooked is the area outside of the M25. From UKRD’s Eagle (Guildford) to Star FM Slough (recently sold by UKRD and bought by Atvar Lit – the owner of Sunrise Radio in London) right round to the independent HertBeat FM (Hertford) in Hertfordshire and through to KM Group’s West Kent’s KMFM (Tunbridge Wells), you can plan and buy a complete M25 orbital package (albeit from five different sales points!). This allows greater penetration of the area without relying on London-wide stations to do the job for you.

Regardless of your campaign’s objectives, there is a local commercial station in South East that’s right for you.


Emma Hill, Radio Works

Well you certainly can’t say that there is a limited choice of stations in the South West – at the last count there were 30 permanent local/regional commercial licences!

In Bristol there is the mighty GWR FM defending its ranking as the most listened to commercial station in the area, with 365,000 listeners each week*. However, the growing competition (from the newly renamed Vibe FM, Bath FM and UKRD’s Star FM stations in Bristol, Stroud and Weston Super Mare) is making GWR fight harder than ever for its share of the audience. Vibe is also having to do the same, as it has undergone a lot of internal changes in recent years – three different names in the last two years, and let’s not even get into the station ownership! Despite this, Vibe remains one of the most efficient UK commercial stations for reaching the under-30s and is the only station of its type that officially covers two countries!

The GWR group covers most of the South West, with stations covering Bristol, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and Devon, and listeners in Cornwall have UKRD’s Pirate FM as their local station (perhaps one of the most aptly named stations in the country!). Within the region there are also an increasing number of very local radio stations. From the independently owned Quay West Radio in Minehead to UKRD’s Star FM in Stroud, there are options for even the most local advertiser.

Efficient targeting in this region is possible; the only downside to a buyer is there are several groups active in this area and the only way to ensure a well-balanced campaign is to consider ALL the options.

In addition to the choices available, the South West also has some of the most listened to stations in England. Radio Investments Spire FM (Salisbury) reaches a massive 55 per cent of all adults within its TSA each week and with GWR’s Orchard FM (Taunton) and Radio Investments Wessex FM (Weymouth) both at 43 per cent weekly reach it’s clear the South West programmers know their market. Orchard and Pirate also manage to achieve average listening hours in excess of 13 per week – it really doesn’t get much better than this when looking at local FM radio. High average hours are a strong indicator of success; it demonstrates the loyalty of the listeners and the success of the programmers, but ultimately enhances the success of advertisers’ campaigns.

So, should you find yourself in a caravan jam on the M5, remember you have options! Stylish townies with the kids in the back, twenty-something surfers and grandparents with Volvos are all catered for in the South West and they are catered for well!


El Long, MediaVest, Leeds

It’s a daily deliberation for me.

The radio in my car only holds six pre-programmed radio stations and in Yorkshire there are 28 different commercial radio options across the county, plus the non-commercial choices (although, as a broadcast buyer, I only \"do\" commercial radio, of course). Which ones do I choose?

In comparison to other regions, the Yorkshire radio market is varied and vibrant. The diversity of radio stations means literally any brief for any client can be answered by using the regional, local and really, really local stations. From one-man bands to big brand names, there’s always a suitable option.

The cities are obviously the best served. Emap’s Big City stations – Hallam, Viking and Aire – hold their own against strong competition from the likes of Galaxy 105 and Real Radio Yorkshire, plus the smaller locals like Stray in Harrogate and Trax in Doncaster.

Having said that, a little like the football club, Emap’s Radio Aire is no longer the premiership station for Leeds, although last RAJAR it did, at last, see a slight upturn in its fortunes. Galaxy 105 still reaches more adults 15+ in Radio Aire’s TSA* (unless you use their Magic AM station too) which is obviously not a fact the station boasts about.

Aire FM does, however, offer the most targeted way to reach the city of Leeds without wastage and, hopefully, the station’s unwise choices of the past will turn around with the return of the Simon Logan Breakfast show and the relegation of Cameron & Jamie to afternoons.

Real Radio Yorkshire isn’t far behind Aire in Leeds, although its rapid climb since launch would seem to be levelling off at around the 416,000 reach mark. Its target audience is much less like that of Galaxy and Aire and at 29 years young it’s not pre-programmed into my stereo just yet.

The obvious giant of the region is Chrysalis’s Galaxy 105, reaching 1,031,000 adults 15+ every week. It’s the biggest station outside of London and keeps surprising its rivals by remaining above the impressive 1 million+ listeners and keeping those crucial average listening hours above average.

At the other end of the scale, the smaller stations in the region, like Pulse in Bradford, Home in Huddersfield and Ridings In Wakefield, have a definite advantage of always being able to attract the 3 Ls (Loyal Local Listeners) and therefore keep attracting the location-led advertisers who need to talk to those in the vicinity without wasting valuable marketing pounds on those who don’t.

All in all, it would seem that in Yorkshire there’s a bit of something for all tastes, clients and broadcast buyers!


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