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Radio's JNLR's may tell only 60% of the story

Why podcasts are the new black*

*views are strictly personal

Recent numbers

I am a little sad. Not sad in a 'down' kind of way, but sad in the way that there are probably very, very few people who choose to spend their time reading the JNLR's (radio's listenership bible) line by line. But I do. That's my kind of (happy) sad. And why? Well the numbers are so informative and they help #TeamSBS, those of us who produce and present Today FM's Sunday Business Show, to understand our audience and then to try to reflect audience relevant content on our programme.

'Ox ports'

Without repeating both cliche and fact, younger people watch, read and listen to their media on the their phones. In my 'forever' audience research (I'm always asking people what they listen to/read/watch...) just the other day I asked a twenty year old woman when she last switched on a radio, and she said, 'recently'. On further inquisition it was because the car she was travelling in didn't have what sounds like an 'Ox Port', which is in fact the the auxiliary (aux) port. This is what she normally uses to play her Spotify playlist. Like most of the rest of her age, she doesn't use the actual radio. She wants to to listen to her chosen content, on her time, on her own personal device.

The doers and the don'ters

There is one big glaring omission in the JNLRs that, for me, render the numbers meaningless. Let me preface the following by saying we did really, really well in the recent JNLRs so this not sour grapes. But I do like accuracy.

The numbers of people that I regularly meet at SME events that I MC, who say nice things about the Sunday Business Show (unrequested I might add) is both gratifying but also highly informative. These people are really busy. If you haven't set up your own business recently these people work incredibly hard. Think twelve hour days, six or seven days a week....and that does not include family commitments.

A very large number (I haven't taken a census) tell me they listen via podcast, for convenience. Just like the woman I quote above it means they listen to the show in their own time, often walking the dog or strolling in the park. But JNLR numbers do not include podcasts. Therefore the numbers are wrong...and they could be very wrong.

Why aren't podcasts included?

I mention my fetish for radio figures. There are over 200 pages in each JNLR report. For brevity I'll only draw your attention today to page 104. Thirty six per cent of RTE Radio 1's total Sunday audience who say they 'listened yesterday' are over 65 years of age. The similar number for Today FM is just 1% (a statistically immaterial number). RTE owns the over 65s.

I don't wish to be ageist but, in my experience, that more mature RTE audience is less likely to use podcasts. It's my guess that many of them most likely (but it's not measured) turn the radio on first thing in the morning and leave it on as background comfort blanket throughout the day, switching if off as they go back to bed. No need for podcasts so.

Anecdotally, a large number of the Sunday Business Show audience does podcast the show. But it's also official. The show rates in the iTunes Top Ten business podcasts, so someone is listening. But not, seemingly, those who stand over the JNLRs. Could this omission possibly be encouraged by RTE Radio 1 whose relative numbers might be changed dramatically if the JNLR beancounters joined the 21st century?

Everyone's a winner

For the very few outside the industry who take an interest in the actual listenership numbers, social media coverage of the quarterly numbers can be amusing. Basically you can find some metric e.g. fifteen year old left-handed redheads in which your programme/station excels. But if you're being serious about the numbers (essential to attract advertising and sponsorship) a proper analysis is needed. Trite coverage of 'Joe' beats 'Tubs' is nowadays correctly filed under the entertainment heading.

But until podcasts are included in the JNLRs maybe 'not to be taken too seriously' might be best heading for those writing about the 'numbers'.