by David Harber
On Thursday 31st July, the UK radio industry released its latest audience results. You may have seen articles about Chris Evans on Radio 2 having the biggest audience or Radio 1’s average listener being only 17 years old, but you are unlikely to hear much from Andover’s ‘local’ radio station.
The Breeze, formerly Andover Sound, now broadcasts from studios in Festival Place in Basingstoke although most of its output comes from an office block in Southampton.
Hardly an obvious decision to ensure the station best represents the needs and desires of its potential audience. That said, needs must and according to Celador, the station’s owners, they have a plan to be the biggest radio operator in the south. By “biggest” one must assume they mean by acquisition of “more stations”, not by acquisition of “more listeners”.
And judging by yesterday’s official audience results, it’s clear that they are achieving this aim. The radio group has a lamentable history of losing huge volumes of its audience after they purchase stations and rebadge them to The Breeze. In Portsmouth, they lost almost half their audience after a year, in Basingstoke they successfully achieved the same.
Listeners show their dissatisfaction with radio stations by ‘hitting the off switch’, but what about local businesses: the advertisers that allow radio stations to survive?
Radio is traditionally the most cost effective advertising medium and when there’s a radio station with interesting local content (news, comment and outdoor activity), it means there are sufficient volumes of listeners to convert into efficient advertising. Andover Sound, ‘The Pride of North West Hampshire’, was profitable from its first year. It created affordable, successful advertising campaigns for its clients.
KJM Group, the area’s largest and most successful window company was the first advertiser on Andover Sound in May 2006. It’s advertising has been constant, consistent and a permanent feature for radio listeners in North West Hampshire. Today, Marks Pearce’s marketing budget is largely spent elsewhere in, one would assume, much more cost-efficient ways.
According to yesterday’s audience figures, across the areas they serve, The Breeze achieves a measly 9.8% of their total available audience, which if translated directly to the area served by Andover’s transmitter, that’s an appalling 9,000 or so people listening each week (www.rajar.co.uk). If this were the case, it would be cheaper for advertisers to make house calls to sell their wares.
In listening to Andover’s version of The Breeze yesterday, I am able to approximate the amount of local businesses they are supporting and their advertising revenues. And it doesn’t look good. That’s possibly a direct result of a lack of advertising success for advertisers. Indeed, no longer are Kevin’s International Furniture, Vanessa’s Salon 73 or Kate’s Flooring and Ceramics heard on-air. KJM, Be Wiser and County Tile Warehouse are also absent from their previously consistent radio exposure.
As yesterday’s Daily Mail heralds that Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme has lost almost half a million listeners and that talkSPORT now has 3.4m listeners, it is interesting to see that Andover’s radio owner has a cynical habit of constantly changing the geographical parameters of their surveyed transmission areas; meaning it is practically impossible to make an accurate comparative of their audience delivery.
Having had the chance to catch up with a few Andover business people yesterday, I was fascinated by one throw-away comment, “I don’t listen anymore. Local people are giving the radio station the same treatment that the radio station has given Andover. All respect has been lost”.
Of course, just because you don’t listen to a certain radio station, or read a certain newspaper, it doesn’t mean that your next prospective customer doesn’t. However, as the number of your prospective customers both reading traditional media and listening to traditional media are seemingly in freefall, the media owners are still able to command whatever price they choose.
Andover Sound had a significant amount of repeat advertising, because it was accountable, it was discernible, it worked. If you know your advertising works, you’ll know how much you can afford to spend – and this is the future advertising model for traditional media. If you are unable to attain a quantitative response to your marketing… or accurate, recent figures are “unavailable” from the media salesperson, you should probably investigate other options.
As entry level advertising rates increase, while the number of prospective customers receiving your sales messages are seemingly depleting, that’s tough for the lifeblood of the Andover business, which is often an owner-manager enterprise where ‘order volume’ rather than ‘order value’ is the key determinant in profitability.
So where’s the future of advertising? Erm. Well, you’re probably reading it. At this point, there will be many more people receiving digital advertising messages than are actually engaged with listening to traditional media. And because it’s digital, every single penny you spend it accountable.
David Harber is the Commerical Manager for radiotoday.co.uk, the radio industry’s news portal.
A former Andoverian, he wrote the first words spoken on Andover Sound and worked at The Breeze until September 2013.
He is currently living variously between London and Manchester, but is available for informal, free marketing advice via Twitter: @_davidharber