On 26th October, the day the latest Rajar audience survey results were released, we recorded and published a bonus episode of ‘Tripod: the audio advertising podcast’. Howard talks to Matt about the results and what they mean for advertisers.

Bonus episode: RAJAR Q3 2023 radio audience analysis


The latest quarterly UK radio and audio listenership survey results are out, and it’s another good ‘book’ for Commercial Radio. But what do the results mean for advertisers? Trisonic Co-founder and Media Director Howard Bareham joins Matt Hopper with an analysis of the latest audience figures.

If you have any questions arising from this episode or you'd like to talk to us about audio advertising email ⁠info@trisonic.co.uk⁠ or visit our ⁠website⁠.

Rajar audience analysis podcast transcript


Hello and welcome to Tripod, the Audio Advertising Podcast. I’m Matt Hopper, a co-founder of audio agency Trisonic. We’re a little way through season one on Audio Creative and the next episode’s out next week. But today we’re bringing you a bonus episode about audience figures for radio and audio in the UK because the latest Rajar survey has just been published.  I’m joined by my co-founder, Howard Bareham, our Media Director.

Howard, you’ve been buying radio and audio for over 25 years, if I may say so. You must have seen around 100 Rajar surveys. How does this one rate?


Matt, I can’t believe you just said that – 100 Rajar surveys – that’s 100 mornings of getting up slightly earlier than I probably would. I mean, there are some aficionados that will get up at three or four the morning to do a Rajar release. But I actually got up at 6am, so I had a lie-in.  And as you can tell, I do need my beauty sleep! And folks, just to just to mark your card, the Rajar results are released to the stations and the press on the Wednesday and they’re embargoed till midnight. So when I get up at 6am, turn the computer on, I can then start taking a look at the results.

And I guess, I mean, you know, we’ve seen for the last seven years or so that the Commercial Radio sector has been increasing, and this Rajar release is no different. So overall, it’s great news for advertisers because all stations are up, you know, stations ebb and flow, but the majority of stations are up in this survey period.

And overall, Commercial Radio now reaches almost 40 million people a week. The figure stands at 39.2m. And as I say, it’s been increasing exponentially since probably the start of 2017 versus the BBC. So the BBC obviously has lost some talent to Commercial Radio. Figures have been poached, such as Ken Bruce, which we’re going to talk about in a minute. And stars like Chris Evans, who joined Virgin Radio.

The BBC reaches 31 million, so Commercial Radio is about 9 million ahead of that. And as I say, that gap starts in 2017. And this investment has been in marketing and employment of new talent. So a lot of station groups you will hear, if you listen to stations like Heart or Magic, are running, you know (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). Money giveaways, which have been around for donkey’s years. But it’s always been a mechanism to entice listeners and retain listeners….


Holidays, cars and money they used to say basically.


Yeah. I mean that’s it. I mean that’s the name of the game and that’s, that’s what these stations are doing because it’s fine generating listeners to sample the station, but you have to hold onto them.

Hence these competitions. I mean it’s not the be all end of these things, but hence the competitions last for weeks or months… the chance to win. But I guess they cover their cost because it’s like a £2 text entry or £3 text entry. Same as what you see on television, basically. But you know, it’s a way of getting listeners to sample the station, plus other marketing activities.

And you have to congratulate the commercial sector.It’s easy to talk about it, but they’ve actually done it and they’ve put their money where their mouth is, but they’ve actually got the right plans in place and success seems to be non-stop at the moment.

And I guess mentioning Ken Bruce, part of this strategy has now been to try and entice BBC stars and he’s one of them and he works for the media group Bauer, and he’s on the network of stations called Greatest Hits Radio, which I guess is playing a sort of, you know, 35, 40+ mix of music.

Hence Ken Bruce came from BBC Radio 2 and his show is a mid-morning show and now reaches 3.7 million listeners a week for his show the mid-morning show across the Greatest Hits Radio network, which is up a whopping 124% year on year. So these are all new figures – he’s joined, but he’s turning the dial.

And as we’ve said before, it’s important that… it’s fine making the investment, putting the dollars in, taking out of a bank account, but you’ve got to put money back into the bank account. And that is the trick here for the industry sales teams, to try and entice and attract new advertisers to the medium, but also get existing advertisers spend more money.

But overall, it’s great news for whatever size of advertiser you are, because while we’re talking about sort of big network shows like, you know that the Ken Bruce Show or the networks of Heart, these stations are all available, you know, nationally as a group of stations to cover the whole of the United Kingdom, but also to cover regions and also locally.

So the benefit really is that for advertisers and listeners alike, you are getting this investment coming in, creating great programming and great advertising opportunities and it’s all quality, and listeners are lapping it up. And the other area where I guess where there’s been growth is that new stations are being developed all the time, but the FM frequency is full.

So this is where the new stations are being developed across, you know, digital platforms. So radio station apps like the Global Player where you can access their podcasts, you can access radio shows, extra content for signing up. And as these listeners are signing up, obviously if you sign up, you have to give some data to the radio stations, so we know more about them.

And these listeners can be targeted either nationally, locally, regionally. And interestingly, on that digital line, what we have seen for the first time is growth of listening to radio stations on digital television (DTV it’s called). So that is either listening to hybrid stations, I guess like GB News,  talkRADIO talk TV, which are sort of simulcasting what they’re showing on the television on the radio.

GB News does that permanently whereas talkRADIO is slightly more of a hybrid because it started as a radio station, talkRADIO,  and they still have that as a brand and they have bespoke radio shows. But it’s the same output. Which is interesting because TV listenership has been has been flat. So it’s interesting to see that that is part of a growth area within that digital sphere.


Yeah, a lot of people, anecdotally anyway, that a lot of people listen to their radio on the same device that they watch their TV. They have a soundbar on the TV. That’s the way they listen to their radio. So that I guess would count as DTV listening.


Yeah, absolutely. 100%. And I think, you know, smart speakers have, you know, taken the column inches, I guess in terms of how people are using smart speakers and the different dynamic campaigns, you can run on smart speakers to make them more interactive. So you can ask the smart speaker…(I’m not going to say what name, ‘cos it’s going to turn the bloody thing on!). But you can ask the smart speaker, So I have an advertiser. Can you give me more information or a the brochure or whatever? And that will grow because it’s more interactive I guess. And it’s exciting for advertisers and it’s a new way of reaching consumers, you know, and interacting with the consumer in a sort of two way conversation.

But smart speaker listening is actually flat in this in this Rajar. But I wouldn’t read too much into that –  like all these things Rajar is a quarter’s listening. You need to look at the trends and you need to do that probably over 12 to 18 months, I mean, people get very excited about, you know, that they’ve got more listeners last week than this week. But you really have to look at a period of 12 to 18 months in my 100 RajarS experience. That’s what I would ask for. What I would say is we’ve done it, as you say, for a long time, and it’s the trend that counts.

But you know, it’s another good showing from Commercial Radio. The success continues and digital listening’s growing as a great format for advertisers, great ways of engaging, different ways of engaging with the listeners through these digital applications, such as smart speakers.

And, you know, I’ll be getting up early on Thursday, the 1st of February 2024, because folks, that’s when we’re going to be back with another bonus Rajar episode.


Thank you, Howard. Howard Bareham, Co-founder and Media Director of Trisonic. We hope you found this episode of Tripod useful. If you’ve got any questions or comments, please get in touch with us at Trisonic.co.uk. Please follow or subscribe to the show so you don’t miss an episode and a rating and review would be great if you have time.

Next Thursday we’re back to our bite size episodes on Creative best practice. What you ask your listeners to do in an ad can make or break an audio campaign. So next week we’re talking about how to get call to action right.  Until then, goodbye.

We will be back on Thursday 1st February 2024.

Sources: RAJAR Q3 2023.  Reach numbers are weekly adults 15+


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