Our younger listeners want on-demand content | radioinfo

Our younger listeners want on-demand content

Sunday 18 June, 2017
Photo: Radioinfo

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Recently, RAJAR - the UK's radio listening research company -  released their own "share of audio" figures as part of their MIDAS research, showing what kind of audio that the British put into their ears.

Of course, radio is the most popular type of audio: 77% of all audio listened-to is live radio. That's the headline figure from the UK: and similar research in the US, Canada and Australia come up with roughly similar figures.

The data RAJAR released this time also includes the figures for different age groups. This makes for fascinating reading: and perhaps it gives us some clues to radio’s future.

Perhaps surprisingly, younger listeners don’t find radio any less interesting than older audiences. RAJAR don’t release demographic information for ‘total radio’, but in the US, who do, Nielsen’s Audio Today shows that 92% of young (18-34) people listen to the radio every week - almost identical to the US population’s average of 93%. The figure isn’t dissimilar for the UK. Young people still listen.

However, younger listeners listen less. Nielsen’s Total Audience Report says that 18-24s consume 10 hours of AM/FM radio a month, which is a third less time than 50-64 year-olds. The UK fares slightly better (though the figures aren’t public): more radio in the UK is aimed at younger audiences; but the reasons aren’t surprising - younger people commute less, for a start, and consume less media in general - particularly TV.

RAJAR’s new figures show an interesting difference in “share of audio”. For Brits aged 55+, live radio makes up 89% of all audio listened-to. However, for Brits aged 15-24, the lowest age band that RAJAR publicly report on, radio accounts for just 57% of all audio listened-to.

For younger audiences, digital tracks account for 18% of audio time, and on-demand (podcasting, music, listen-again) accounts for a further 20%. These figures also exclude YouTube - used by many as a free substitute for music subscription services.

Technology clearly plays a part, since younger people are happier with new tech than older folk; and young people historically gravitate to music rather than speech, for which there’s more choice. But I suspect the main reason for the difference is the expectation of on-demand. The idea of tuning in to hear someone else pick the songs - particularly at random - may not appeal.

Broadcasters have already made steps to combat this. Urban station Capital Xtra has a clever app which allows listeners to skip songs they don’t like - the app moves away from a live stream into a personalised one, but still with presenter breaks and idents. While owners Global are tight-lipped about how well it does, I hear that live streaming has increased significantly: possibly because just knowing that you can skip songs is enough.

Top 40 station BBC Radio 1 has focused on a strategy of “listen, watch, share” - ensuring the best parts of the output are shareable with others. The station also produces video content for YouTube, Facebook and the corporation’s own iPlayer. Station Controller Ben Cooper has admitted the station needs to work harder at the traditional ‘listen’ part of the strategy, however; and there’s always a looming concern about lack of focus.

However, it’s never been clearer that audiences are expecting more interactivity and on-demand content from the entertainment brands they use.

This latest research - and more like it - only serves to underline that live broadcast radio will still be the major consumption medium for radio, but only as part of a multi-platform future.

About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK's ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs media.info the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio's future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.


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