Now is the time to measure all radio listening in the UK.
It was no surprise to see the press release from Rajar yesterday, stating that their face-to-face, door-to-door methodology has been put on hold during lockdown. For the time being, published Rajar numbers will be based on historical data incorporating revised census population information.
The Rajar board are using this opportunity to review their methods and develop an upgraded system with their research partners.
The existing methodology has its detractors, however, all the stations are measured in the same way, on a level platform, so one is at least comparing apples with apples.
Whilst Rajar is great for those stations who are part of the survey, there are pockets of populations, and many stations who are excluded. Recently a station in Buckinghamshire asked Rajar how much it would cost to join. The quote came in at £38k, money the station’s management team would rather spend on programming. But this is only part of the story. The station’s TSA does not have many data points (hence the high cost of setting up a new survey), but it has a population of around 100,000 people. It is deemed to be “part of London”.
At LLR Media, we would welcome a new methodology which includes all stations in the UK. But how to do it? Online listening figures are reliable but bear no link to the numbers listening on FM or DAB. Not all stations point their listeners to the same streaming services so measuring “favourites” won’t work either. The current regime is careful to balance age, gender, social group and more, so it is important to retain this expertise to ensure a sample which reflects the population as a whole.
In 2020, there has to be a reliable and efficient way to collect audience data via an online diary system, with office-based researchers ensuring a true and representative sample. The cost of operating a system right across the uk would be mitigated by the savings made by moving online. But who should pay? And who would benefit?
Rajar is owned by the BBC and Radiocentre who represent commercial radio. Both are undergoing seismic changes. In their wake is an upsurge in community stations providing vital local services. More people listen to these stations than is evident from the Rajar data circulated every quarter, and it’s about time this was recognised.
Community radio offers something different which is not available anywhere else. If you want to hear cabinet ministers being grilled, or the world’s hottest DJs, or win tickets to a big festival, then commercial radio and the BBC are the place to go.
If you want to hear about the traffic for the school run, which shops are now open post-lockdown, or interviews with people of local-interest, turn to your nearest community station. Many many people are doing so.
Rajar have started work on a new measurement system and they said in their statement “Further information on the new service will be released once results of the validation tests have been assessed.” Let’s not miss this opportunity to look at a new approach which benefits audiences, smaller independent stations and the big guns alike.
Ultimately, Rajar is about market share, airtime trading and benefits for shareholders and stakeholders. We believe there is an opportunity here which can benefit all parties. Call us, we’ve got some ideas we’d love to share.