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Long-awaited RAJAR return reveals two thirds of radio listening now on digital


By Chris Sutcliffe, Senior reporter

October 27, 2021 | 4 min read

The RAJARs, the auditor of radio audiences in the UK, has announced the ups and downs of the industries for the first time since 2020 revealing how habits have changed greatly since.

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Digital radio is the main beneficiary of the latest RAJAR release

British radio broadcasters reach broad audiences although younger people are less likely to regularly engage with radio in any form. That is despite DAB and other digital formats now accounting for well over 60% of total listenership.

Radio, in general, reaches 89% of the British population aged 15 and over, per the latest RAJAR figures. 62% of the population is exposed to BBC radio per week, listening to around nine hours of its stations over the course of a week. Crucially that breaks down to 72% of over 45s, while only 50% of under-55s listened to BBC radio.

BBC Radio 2 accounts for 26% of all listening per week, with BBC Radio 1 following at 15%.

Meanwhile, commercial radio reaches 66% of the population per week, for an average of 8.6 hours a week. By contrast, younger audiences typically listen to more commercial radio than audiences over 45 - 69% vs 64%.

Global accounts for the highest amount of listening across its various stations, with 23.5% market share. Listening hours across its radio network grew 5% year on year versus Q1 2020, and now stands at 236 million hours.

In terms of format, 34% of radio listenership takes place across AM and FM stations, versus 66% in digital. Of the digital total DAB accounts for 43%, with online and in-app making up 18% and DTV listenership accounting for 5%. Even in environments like in-car listening, digital audio is at the fore, with 53% of in-car listening happening via digital channels.

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, said: ‘’The new RAJAR listening data for Q3 2021 confirms the importance of digital listening and digital platforms which now account for two-thirds of all radio listening.

“It’s funny to consider that some radio industry commentators used to question the viability of DAB which is now comfortably the predominant radio platform accounting for 25% more hours of listening than FM and AM combined. It’s good to see the new distinctive digital-only stations launched during the pandemic finding audiences and supporting digital growth."

The latest RAJAR results are unusual in that they are the first since Covid interrupted the face-to-face radio listening data gathering. The organization has used the occasion to broaden the number of sources it uses, thanks in no small part to the rise of digital listening: “The passive data is collected via an app running on a smartphone/tablet that identifies radio stations by matching exposure to a station’s audio output. All data is from the diary and passive sources is integrated and processed to conform to the standard quarter-hour weekly diary format, consistent with the existing RAJAR data structure.”

According to the latest AA/Warc ad spend forecast, radio ad spend is set to grow 18.6% this year, and a further 4.1% in 2022. This strong showing in terms of digital ad growth - and the success of digital-only stations - should help bolster optimism around radio as a medium for marketing further.

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