RAJAR Q3/2012 - will your station be the next XFM?
Some of radio's larger changes are being highlighted in the latest RAJAR radio audience figures, out today: including 6music's success over its rival XFM
I’m also interested in correcting mis-informed perceptions about radio. We can only evolve, change and develop if we understand where we are and where we’ve been.
And... I like to see where we are on digital developments. Everyone, of course, has some sort of vested interest, but i’m always disappointed that the people who shout the loudest about radio are newspaper journalists (little experience and their own digital problems) and people who own analogue radio stations. Which, I don’t think is necessarily the best position to start at.
So, some things that stick out for me....
Internet vs DAB
A pair of ears is a pair of ears. I don’t really mind HOW people listen to my station, just that they do! However, all platforms have a cost to stations and a cost to listeners. Some platforms are more equal than others.
There tends to be a perception that internet listening is bigger and growing faster than DAB. This is incorrect.
The chart below shows ‘reach’ of each of the platforms. DAB has just under three times the listeners that internet radio has. The difference between the two is growing exponentially as well. In Q3/2007 the difference was 5.1m people, in Q3/2010 7.9m people and this quarter 9.4m people.
Including all the digital platforms (DAB, DTV and Net) – some form of digital radio is now used by 51.2% of the population and it accounts for 31.3% (nearly a third) of the whole country’s radio listening.
This is down marginally this quarter because internet radio and digital television lost significant reach and hours (whilst DAB added both).
6Music vs XFM
XFM invented UK indie radio in 1997. Whilst 6Music is an excellent radio station in its own right, it owes a huge amount to XFM’s heritage. And to its choice of presenters! Shaun Keavney, Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamaq, Guy Garvey... are all ex-XFM.
XFM meanwhile has had to deal with a number of corporate owners, the vagries of the advertising market and a lack of marketing firepower. All of which has a knock-on effect to the variety, popularity and quality of shows. 6Music also gets to spend £7.8m a year on content. Which is handy.
However, the nature of 6Music means that it’s very attractive to old XFM listeners. Have a look at this chart of XFM and 6Music’s share in London....
I’m not really sure how XFM can make much of a comeback against 6.
6 is already a digital-only station (albeit with an audience that’s more likely to be digital than not) so it will also naturally grow further as take-up increases. XFM is suffering from the double whammy of 6’s growth and its own product having been under-invested in across pretty much every metric – content, marketing, online, mobile.
6Music vs Radio 3
Okay, so 6Music and Radio 3 aren’t exactly competitors (though they do share 150,000 listeners) but in the pantheon of BBC services it’s interesting to compare them.
Here’s the hours listened from both stations:
6 has had two quarters in a row where it’s bigger than Radio 3. From a reach perspective it’s not too far behind either...
The rise of 6 is the results of a two things – platform availability in their core demo and a radio station with the right content that’s had a key awareness drive.
Its growth has pretty much destroyed one radio station and its bulk now means that others will have to develop new stories to justify their cost and reach.
It’s also a harbinger for other radio stations that the new world is changing the old one right now. Standing still (or even worse harking back to the past) with programming, a lack of marketing or new product/platform development will result in steady decline whilst new entrants take your market.
What are you doing to stop your station becoming the next XFM?
Matt is a Founder and Creative Director of the new media and radio consultancy firm, Folder Media. He works with a cross-section of UK radio and entertainment companies including the NME, Absolute Radio, Radioplayer, the Radio Academy, the Radio Advertising Bureau and Now Magazine to help grow and develop their businesses. He also acts as Programme Director for the Sony Digital Radio Station of the Year, Fun Kids.
Visit Matt Deegan's website
It’s one of those rare Global tactics that go wrong where you tightly target one section of music such as mainstream indie rock at a tight young male demo and neglect the other genres which made Xfm the must listen station under independent ownership and eventually once Capital grasped the brand after acquiring the station in 1998.
The US style modern rock format doesn’t work here as shown by Xfm’s Rajar, while 6 Music despite in my own opinion being an anal listen and nowhere as accessible as the old Xfm have grasped alternative music as a wider spectrum of music with the budget and presenters to match.
If, under independent ownership, Xfm was a must-listen, why did no-one listen?