So upon hearing that the latest RAMS data was available, I set out eagerly to see what radio trends had emerged. After all this was a combined rolling wave of two major fieldwork periods, from mid-October to end March. For the number crunchers, we had a sample size of 28,931 to work with!
In addition to this, in true South African style, there had been major newsworthy events over this six month period - events that warranted heavier than normal consumption of electronic and instant news media channels. We had our fair share of strikes, updates on the Oscar Pistorius trial, terrorist attacks, excitement at the State of Nation address and xenophobia to name but a few. Sport, always an audience puller, had plenty to offer: soccer, rugby, cycling, tennis, golf and cricket. Surely this was enough news to keep us riveted to one station or the other?
Sadly, this appears to not be the case. Radio listening was in fact down - roughly 5 minutes aggregated across all stations, days and day parts. On average we still listen to an average of 03h16 of radio per day, with the exception of the Free State at 04h14! A very interesting fact is that we spend more time listening radio than we do watching TV, 03h16 vs 02h59 on TV.
Where was the slight drop-off in audiences most evident? If we look at radio listening by each quarter hour on a weekday average, the morning drive and afternoon drive has seen the biggest loss of audiences. This is strange and goes against what we think given that people are spending more time commuting, and with load-shedding, peak hour traffic is a nightmare.
When looking at weekend listenership, Saturday afternoons appear to have dropped off – yet this is peak sports broadcast time. The same applies to Sundays. What really stood out for me was the big drop on Sunday mornings. The ALS stations always perform well in the morning particularly due to religious broadcasts, but there has been a constant drop from May ’14 to the latest data.
By region, Gauteng remains the most hotly contended province for share of audience. We listen to an average of 2.2 stations, with the national average sitting at 1.9. The Free Staters are probably the most loyal market, listening for 04h14 to an average of 1.7 stations.
Interestingly, radio has also become an out of home medium because consumers listen through their mobile devices - a huge 40% of us in fact. Just take a look around you when you are driving past a queue for public transport - the number of earphones plugged in to mobile devices bears testament to this statistic. (Personally I now tune into a new community station, Hot 91.9FM, via an app called Tune In……)
Our loyalty to our station of choice is borne out by the high social interaction with our stations. For instance we actively engage with our stations via Facebook and on Twitter. Metro FM has 663,823 Facebook likes, 94.7 has 159,953 likes, East Coast Radio has 138,756 likes, Ukhozi FM has 136,513 likes, 702 has 115,927 likes, and my personal favourite at the moment, Hot 91.9 has 11,129 likes (as at 3 June ’15). With regards to Twitter invariably the individual DJ's have a larger following than an individual station. This also fluctuates with current affairs. The EWN reporters (in particular Barry Bateman) saw a massive increase in followers during the various stages of the Oscar Pistorius trial. But that is another whole story in itself.
Key commercial station 94.7 has seen a 17% drop in audiences across all day parts from May '14 to June '15. Capricorn FM has also had a massive drop of 40% in this 12 month period (rural listeners in Limpopo). Limpopo in general is seeing a loss of audience. The giant Thobela FM has lost just under 9% of their listeners. Not bad if you look at the likes of East Coast Radio, which has lost 15% of their audience. Gagasi has also lost listeners, some 13%. However Ukhozi FM listenership is unchanged. I’d suggest East Coast Radio and Gagasi have a look at their line-up to see where they are losing people. Talk radio stations like 702 appear to consistently deliver the same numbers - with 116 000 likes on Facebook and a listenership of 821 000, this station has a loyal audience although let’s not get started with the high price of advertising during morning drive!
We used to coin radio as the "Cinderella" medium, because it was often over-looked by planners and considered a less attractive medium when compared to the glitz of TV. This still seems to ring true with the top line findings of the latest RAMS. Despite a large number of newsworthy events, radio audience has seen a marginal downward shift. But has there been a downward shift in rates? Hmmm, I’ll leave you to ponder that answer.
(Source: SAARF RAMS June release 2015, Facebook data 3/6/15)