Radio Gets It Right
A survey commission by Rajar has revealed that more than 14.5 million people in the UK listened to Internet radio between April and May. The popularity of services such as iPlayer, which also streams radio as well as TV, is helping increase the number of radio listeners overall.
The research, commissioned by the industry's audience research body showed that the number of listeners had increased by 2.5 million on a previous survey conducted in October and November 2007.
The number of UK online listeners streaming or downloading radio content on a weekly basis also saw a rise. There were 8.1 million regular listeners in November, compared to 9.4 million by May.
Podcasts positive for radio
The growing popularity of podcasts also continued. 6 million people in the UK have downloaded a podcast, compared to 4.3 million in November 2007.
On a weekly basis, 3.7 million people downloaded podcasts, again seeing an increase of 1.87 million from the previous study. Apple continues to be the software of choice for almost three-quarters of podcast subscribers.
Although many predicted that the Web would have a negative impact on the number of live radio listeners, according to Rajar, the opposite has occurred. Not only is the Web giving the public another channel to access radio, they are also listening to more diverse content. 39 per cent of the people who downloaded podcasts said they have listened to programmes which they did not do previously. 15 per cent also said they listen to more live radio since discovering podcasts.
Interestingly, the survey found that over half (53 per cent) of respondents were interested in downloading podcasts containing advertising if they were free. This was in comparison to 31 per cent who would be happy purchasing podcasts that contained no brand messages.
"This survey gives a unique insight into the behaviour of the online/offline audio community and the impact of new audio formats on tradition listening. It also provides perspective on the relative impact of each of these activities," commented Christel Lacaze, Rajar research manager.
Dominic Hawken of digital media specialists, Deluxe Corporation, helped set up the Internet radio edition of Popbitch. He believes that Internet radio continues to be popular with both its audience and broadcasters due to its ability to build communities with its fans and easily measure listening figures.
"The fundamental difference between traditional radio and Web radio is the two-way interaction with the audience and the ability to see instant listener stats (who is listening, where they are listening from, how long they are listening for etc)," commented Hawken.
"If the site is truly geared towards online broadcasting - rather than just a secondary 'tick the box' stream from one of the analogue broadcasters, there will also be a strong sense of community and social networking on the radio station's website. Users maintain a profile and an existence when not listening or surfing, which grows and develops the more they feed it.
All of this combines to make the user a PART of the station, not just a listener. It becomes a lifestyle process rather than something you might switch on occasionally in the background. At Radio Popbitch for example, as well as the aspect of the social interaction, the listener has fundamental control over the playlist - they OWN the system and it sounds incredible - fresh, exciting and incredibly listenable," said Hawken.
According to Hawker, radio over the Web will enable broadcasters to target their audiences at a micro-level, tailoring content (and advertising) to their requirements.
"We've recently seen GCAP pull out of the DAB market to concentrate on FM and Internet broadcasting. The Internet is where the smart money is being focused. It's fair to say that currently the big stations offer their web-based streams as a support to the traditional analogue services," said Hawken.
"With the release of standalone (and soon hopefully portable) Internet radio players like the range powered by Reciva and streaming-oriented mobiles like the Nokia N95 and iPhone available on non-restrictive bandwidth plans, there will be an explosion of IP delivered radio and TV in the coming years.
"Given this move, it's possible to do some far more targeted and clever interaction with the listener. For example, commercial stations will be able to target individual adverts to individual groups or individual listeners, perhaps based on the online profile they have set up on the station site as part of its social networking structure.
"Other revenue streams are made possible through the ability to charge subscriptions for advertisement-free streams, additional content or automatically archived content, which can be customised to individual listening preferences," he continued.