Community radio listening figures - do 10 million people tune in every week?

What is the total audience of community radio in the UK?

By James Cridland
Posted 21 January 2015, 9.33am est
Jonathan Creaser

How many people tune in to community radio in the UK?

You might have heard a figure that "10m people tune into community radio every week". Radio presenter Duncan Barkes quoted it recently, and it's also made its way to the community radio mailing list, where people are using it in relation to tomorrow's expected announcements about the Community Radio Order.

Community radio is going well in the UK, and many stations sound great and add a real benefit to the community that they serve. However, repeat a figure often enough, and it becomes the truth: which would be a shame, because it's not true.

The figure comes from an Ofcom report into community radio from 2011.

This document says, in paragraph 2.26:

Based on our computer modelling of population data and signal reception, we estimate that close to 10.5 million adults (just over 12.5 million people in total) are able to receive a community radio station broadly aimed at them

So, the 10m figure is based on "people who can receive if they wanted to", rather than "people who tune in".

If everyone who could pick up a community radio station tuned in, then you could say "10.5m people tune into community radio every week". Except they don't.

So, what's the real figure?

Community radio isn't in RAJAR; but RAJAR does measure all radio listening in the UK. If you don't pay for RAJAR, you're still in the figures - but lumped into a figure marked "Other radio". So, when audiences are told how to fill their diary in, they are asked to put all radio listening that doesn't go into a specific station's column as "other radio".

"Other Radio" could include pirate radio, internet radio from overseas, small commercial stations who aren't in RAJAR, and things that people think are called radio but aren't really. On a national level, though, this figure is amazingly reliable; it's a national sample size of over 100,000 adults.

"Other Radio" currently has a weekly listenership of 3.8m adults a week.

Only 17% of the total UK population can pick up community radio, according to the same Ofcom report we mentioned earlier. So, if we're charitable, and we assume that "Other Radio" is just all community radio listening if you can pick one up, and nothing else - a vast over-estimation, but worth a punt - then the entire national community radio audience is 646,000 people.

I'd think it not unreasonable to claim than half a million people tune into community radio in the UK. Community radio has grown in coverage and professionalism since 2011. But, whatever the number is, it certainly isn't ten million. lists all RAJAR public figures, like BBC Radio 2's. Just search for a station and click the total audience figure.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


5 years, 4 months ago

'Community Radio' is a term much like 'Digital Radio' which can mean whatever it suits your purposes best. There are plenty of internet-only stations out there who consider themselves to be community radio - they don't have an Ofcom licence, but they behave like stations which do, and I expect that their listeners would tick 'other' if they had a RAJAR diary. They aren't in the 17% of the UK population which Ofcom says can pick up CR - on the basis of internet availability they must be available to the vast majority of the population (not 100% of course as not everybody has internet access). Lies, damned lies and statistics?

5 years, 4 months ago

Hi, Richard. Not quite sure of your point, but very happy to engage. If "other radio" is 3.8m listeners a week, are you saying that Ofcom-licenced community radio broadcasters' weekly audience is lower or higher than my 500,000 estimate? You seem to be saying it's lower still.

5 years, 4 months ago

James - I'm certainly not arguing with your estimate, in either direction, just making the point that it's impossible for anybody to claim scientifically what the audience might be for CR as it's not a specific term. As far as listeners are concerned, radio is just radio, and the only stations which can hope to build their future based on listener numbers are those which subscribe to an objective measurement methodology (and I'm not trying to start a discussion about the accuracy or otherwise of RAJAR!). No particular beef, apart from scepticism about people who use statistics badly ('station x reports a 90% increase in ABC1 femail listeners between 25 and 34' based on a sample of 200 adults 15+ etc etc...). Keep up the good work!

5 years, 4 months ago

and I possibly jumped in a bit quickly on all this, missing the point that the whole discussion is about Ofcom licenced CR stations - but they obviously couldn't have a weekly reach of 10 million!

5 years, 4 months ago

Isn't the fact we're debating the share of CR's against what these stations are supposed to be about, which is serving small populations or providing a niche format which wouldn't be commercially viable elsewhere?

5 years, 4 months ago

The figures would suggest an approximate market share or reach for Community Radio as a whole of approximately 4.6% in the few areas where it can be received - But given the accepted very wide variation in the quality of the output from Community Radio stations - I imagine the actual figures for individual stations could vary enormously.

5 years, 4 months ago

The simple answer is that it is impossible to say how many people listen to Community Radio in the UK. 10M per week may be way off the mark, but so is 500k, because that is based on 2011 figures. Lots of stations have launched since then, including many internet-only. In any case, not all Community stations have the same objectives - some measure success on listener numbers but others are using radio purely as a vehicle for delivering other Social Gain objectives. Their success may be measured on the number of people trained, new skills delivered, improved self-confidence, employability or awareness of other campaigns.

That said, I do believe the radio industry as a whole would benefit from seeing where and how Community Radio is being successful (in listener number terms), and then perhaps we can find a way to work together to benefit the industry as a whole.

5 years, 4 months ago

There are many ways to skin this cat, but perhaps one method might be to see if there is a correlation between listener hours/reach/whatever, and the number of "Followers" on Tunein? I've looked at a few stations and on first impressions there does seem to be a broad correlation.

If there is a correlation (and that can be statistically analysed), then it would be possible to estimate listener hours/reach/whatever from their "Followers" count.

If someone can supply the numbers, I don't mind doing the analysis. (I don't fancy trawling through Tunein writing down the follower count for every station!).

We can be certain that the number won't be the actual number of listeners, but it might be a reasonably robust/defend-able number based upon real data and reasonable assumptions (if there is a correlation)

5 years, 4 months ago

I'd love to think that is true Glyn - but I think this actually exagurates the Community Radio listener figures because there are more people wanting to listen to the station out of the on air reception area because the low (25 watt) power of CR transmitters means that proportionally more of the stations listeners have to use apps and Internet to listen to the broadcasts . For example in Cambridge the Tunein figures are

BBC Cambridgeshire 17.1K
Heart Cambridge 16.5K
Cambridge 105 (CR) 6.2 K
Star Cambridge 4.2 K
Cam FM (Student CR) 2.6 K

So if the correlation were correct Cambridge 105 Community radio would have a 50% larger share of the market than ILR Star Cambridge, and it might explain why Star Cambridge has withdrawn from RAJAR for the last year or so.

However - we have no on-air figures for these two stations - so what the actual figures are who knows?

5 years, 4 months ago

Maybe that's something we can test for if we get the figures - for example examine if the correlation rate changes by transmitter power for commercial stations....

5 years, 4 months ago

Yes indeed - it is also interesting to note that the figures for Cambridge 105 and the other stations for example is out of proportion to their respective TSAs

the ratios are approximately

BBC Cambridgeshire TSA 740 K TUNEIN FOLLOWERS 17.1K 2.3%
Heart Cambridge TSA 880 K TUNEIN FOLLOWERS 16.5K 1.9%
Cambridge 105 (CR) TSA 160 K TUNEIN FOLLOWERS 6.2 K 3.9%
Star Cambridge TSA 280 K TUNEIN FOLLOWERS 4.2 K 1.5%
Cam FM (Student CR) TSA 160 K TUNEIN FOLLOWERS 2.6 K 1.6%

which would suggest that Cambridge 105 has proportionally approximately double the number of online listners than any of the other stations - and there is a very high probability that these listeners are outside the TSA unless Cambridge 105 has an enormous actual market share in it's TSA!

5 years, 4 months ago

Greg - scuse my ignorance, where do you get the TSA figures from?

5 years, 4 months ago

approximate TSAs can be calculated from the populations falling in the MCAs as defined by OfCom For the commercial and BBC stations these are calculated by RAJAR in order for market shares and reach to be calculated.

5 years, 4 months ago

So presumably you've generated those figures manually by representing the MCA in a tool like this?

5 years, 4 months ago

No I didn't know about that - but thanks for sharing - I got the Star, Heart and BBC TSA figures from Rajar and I just happen to know the approximate Cambridge 105 figure

5 years, 4 months ago would be very happy to list TuneIn follower numbers. Two issues with it: first, they don't have any APIs, and secondly, we need to add TuneIn IDs to our data. Neither are complete fails, though - the follower numbers are scrapable, and we could add a new URL type. Would that be useful?

I don't, however, think that TuneIn, Facebook or other methods have much to do with audience levels.

5 years, 4 months ago

Ofcom Overlaps file suggests Cambridge 105 MCA population is substantially less than your estimate....
But it is a year or two out of date now.

5 years, 4 months ago

Well that would make the figures even more remarkable then Glyn, but as James says I don't think the tunein figures can really rate to audience levels in any one period - They are just the number of people who have ever listened to the stations using the Tunein Ap or website since they were included on the Tunein site.

5 years, 4 months ago

Sounds useful James if it's do-able without undue effort. Would would be even more interesting would be Tunein's listening figures by station - reach, duration etc. Over time such directly measured stats will become increasingly important when/if internet listening takes a larger share. If they don't offer that service already, surely they must be considering it, even if only as a premium service?

5 years, 4 months ago

True Glyn, but for almost all these stations "Tunein" is not the main way on-line audiences listen. BBC has it's own ap , then there is Radioplayer etc

5 years, 4 months ago

Personally I don't bother with the others - I prefer a one-stop (app) solution, even though they have degraded the experience with the current version of Tunein.

I bet one of James's mates knows exactly what share of online listening each app has!

5 years, 4 months ago

The share of listening is different for every radio station. If you are in BBC iPlayer Radio, and Radioplayer, and TuneIn, you will clearly be splitting audience three ways (and there are more than that). Some stations even (stupidly, in my view) promote TuneIn as a way of listening. So I can't see these figures helping in terms of overall audience.

TuneIn do offer stats to stations on the platform. But they are just TuneIn stats, so not very useful.

5 years, 4 months ago

Yes but Tunein reaches some places Radioplayer doesn't James, so I can see why it is also mentioned....

5 years, 4 months ago

Tune-in is the only mainstream way of listening to community station Rinse FM on a mobile unless you live in their FM TSA. Although Rinse are on Radioplayer, as they don't have a low bitrate stream, they can't go on their mobile app.

5 years, 4 months ago

But James, I'd argue that while Tunein is not ALL radio listening, it is a representative sample. People who use it can listen to (virtually) any station without restriction. eg: I use it for listening to community stations, Caroline, Radio 4, and some internet stations. In contrast iPlayer would not be representative (coz presumably you can only get BBC stations on it!). Not tried Radioplayer so don't know about what stations are on that - if it has all UK stations including community then it also would be representative for UK market.

5 years, 4 months ago

But surely Glyn as Martin demonstrates some CR stations can ONLY be picked up on Tunein whereas the BBC for example is mainly not - so the figures will naturally be proportionally higher for CR stations on Tunein

5 years, 4 months ago

Glyn - research I have done for clients shows that if you are a P1 listener to a station, you will download their app. ("P1" - American jargon for "preference one", ie the station you tune into most often). For other radio stations, you will use an aggregator like Radioplayer or TuneIn to help you discover them. Indeed, that is Radioplayer's part to play here - the mobile app is built for discovering stations. (You should try it).

So I don't believe that TuneIn is representative. Further, online listeners skew younger than FM ones, so even online in totality isn't representative of total listening.

And to Martin's point above - for RinseFM, you can take a rough guess that for listening on a mobile device, the split will be 100% TuneIn, 0% Radioplayer. However, for Resonance it might be 60% Radioplayer, 40% TuneIn. So, once more, it can't be representative.

That said, I'd like to add integration with TuneIn on and that sounds like a fun project.

5 years, 4 months ago

I think we're in danger of pre-judging things a bit here. The thread is about assessing listening of the CR sector in the UK - not necessarily down to individual station level. Obviously we'd screen out internet-only stations and BBC stations. Maybe if Radioplayer figures could be made available they could be added in to increase statistical significance.

So IF the numbers can be made available and IF they indicate a correlation, then we can statistically test some of the assertions you make. Maybe some of those assertions will become fact, maybe not. I think it would be an interesting exercise to see if there is a correlation or not, and I don't mind doing a bit of spreadsheet-bashing to see.

Alternatively if someone's got a better suggestion.....?

5 years, 4 months ago

Yes I have a better suggestion - OfCom should fund some market research to actually find out...

5 years, 4 months ago

You can now enter a TuneIn URL for every station we list - click 'edit', then 'websites'. (Please do so for your station!)

Rinse FM already has one listed. I'm hoping I can now write a parser to grab the number of followers.

5 years, 4 months ago

RAJAR clearly don't survey everywhere, so the 3.8m is only part of the story. At Seahaven FM we approached RAJAR in April 2014 as they now state they will quote for community radio stations on an station by station basis. We received their quote on 6 May 2014, They said "A commercial station coming would pay the £8,126 and the other stations on the survey would cover the additional cost as this is how the commercial ratecard works. Of course commercial stations are not liable for community station costs which is why we need to do a separate quote. "

Well the quote was £27,054.00, just a "little" out of our reach so we declined.

confused of Seahaven FM!

5 years, 4 months ago

Well, I've now written the TuneIn parser and it is in production. And here are the results so far. So let's have some fun with the TuneIn figures and see how you do...

5 years, 4 months ago

Impressed by the speed of your coding abilities Mr Cridland. And also by the amount of followers some stations have. Could you add 103.9 Voice FM to your list?

5 years, 4 months ago

Not if they live in my town.
Community radio here is dire! A drive time presenter who sounds like he's forcing his voice through his nose and therefore a tin full of hornets, a girl with a speech impediment so bad you can't understand a single word and seems to have a total lack of how to talk over music, 2 sports presenters who drone on and on and have never heard of the radio addage, tell them,tell them again,tell them you told them because WE listen in chunks and may have missed a footie score and NOW WANT TO KNOW.
It really is dire, and I used to work in hospital radio!

5 years, 4 months ago

@Xan of course, though you can edit it yourself, you know... ;)

Anyway, 103.9 Voice FM now listed, and you're straight in at #68...

5 years, 4 months ago

Err I think that's Cambridge 105 at #68 James, Voice is at #82 :)

5 years, 4 months ago

I am just wondering if there should be a seperate chart for internet only stations - where the only way to listen is online ? eg Radio Caroline

5 years, 3 months ago

Community radio here is dire! A drive time presenter who sounds like he's forcing his voice through his nose and therefore a tin full of hornets, a girl with a speech impediment so bad you can't understand a single word and seems to have a total lack of how to talk over music, 2 sports presenters who drone on and on and have never heard of the radio addage, tell them,tell them again,tell them you told them because WE listen in chunks and may have missed a footie score and NOW WANT TO KNOW.

I'm here. You're there...
Volunteer? :)

4 years, 3 months ago

Just for reference - TuneIn now has an analytics platform (currently in BETA) called Amplifier. You can ask for a free invite from the TuneIn guys - it's just a few metrics at the moment but great to see your followers/listens broken down some. (Number of session starts, number of unique listeners, number of hours listened)

4 years, 3 months ago

"number of unique listeners" - probably better reads as "number of unique devices", since a) TuneIn don't know how many people are in the room, and b) TuneIn don't enforce registration, so don't know whether my smart TV and my phone belong to the same person.

And are anyone's Amplifier stats actually increasing?

4 years, 3 months ago

This is really useful but I'm still no nearer to working out overall listener figures esp. for FM. Is it dodgy ground to make huge assumptions for advertising purposes? When looking at other local CR they have inflated FM/Overall listenership up from their tune in listeners by x20. is there any correlation between multiplying tune in to find fm listeners? We have previously tried market research at popular local events such as - not only asking people if they know about the station but do they listen and if so, rarely, occasionally, often, etc.

4 years, 3 months ago

Very dodgy IMHO - but the stats for tunein listeners are useful to be able to quote in themselves. FM listeners can only be assesed by Market research really whether that is via RAJAR or through an independent survey - and even then we know there is a fair margin of error in the results unless you have a very large sample covering a broad spectrum of the listeners in your TSA. If you publish programmes to "listen again" (on Mixcloud for example) - you can get stats on these too which can be useful - and finally you should be able to get stats on your own live webstreaming service. But sadly, there is no substitute for actually asking people what they listen to in order to find out who, if anyone, is listening....

4 years, 3 months ago

Hillz - the answer is "Yes" for a correlation between Tunin likes and FM listenership. The multiplier is 4.5.

It's on this very website - here

James has a downer on it despite 87% correlation. But, as Shikara once said - "Stats Don't Lie". (I recall Winston Churchill had a different opinion).

I don't think you can take any figures as gospel, but this is a useful addition, and defend-able in front of advertisers.

4 years, 3 months ago

there's lies, damn lies, statistics and dodgy correlations!

as media UK warn....

Caution: the above graph may be a silly thing to do - TuneIn followers simply show the total amount of people who have hit a follow button. RAJAR weekly reach show people who listen to a station regularly. We probably shouldn’t be comparing them.

4 years, 3 months ago

How do you set up live webstreaming service to website? We had it on our old website, but last year we had someone redo our website and it now streams from tune in - thus sending all web listeners to tune in. I do remember the stats being good on previous web stream.

4 years, 3 months ago

TuneIn do have online audience stats. You need to ask them for access to Amplifier.

But the best way is to do the audience research you were talking about. Ask 500 people whether they listen. Try and ensure they're roughly indicative of the type of people who live throughout your area. Multiply the results by the total people who live in your area. Hey presto, you have a "20,000 people listen to our station" figure. (And ensure you're clear about the source).

4 years, 3 months ago

I'm not quite sure what this argument is all about. To quote James Cridland, 'I'd think it not unreasonable to claim than half a million people tune into community radio in the UK. Community radio has grown in coverage and professionalism since 2011. But, whatever the number is, it certainly isn't ten million'.

As a practictional in CR it seems a fair number. 500k out of 10 million is a 5% reach. Which is actually not a bad number at all for mostly volunteer run operations.

In fact you can spin that number out in an empirical way, allocate somewhat lower numbers to specialist language etc communities, albeit these stations gladly enjoy high reaches within their own communities.

But that is the point of community radio, surely? it is reach (and effect too) within purely your target community, however large or small it may. I don't think people are getting this yet but an overall 5% ballpark reach number seems as good a place to start as any.

4 years, 3 months ago

Absolutely James - otherwise THIS could happen

Wow, I didn't know that had! Good spot.

3 years, 10 months ago

This article states that although community radio isn't in RAJAR, they do measure ALL radio listening in the UK, and community radio is included in the figure called "Other radio" (along with pirate radio & internet radio).

It's also stated that only 17% of the UK population can pick up community radio, so if ALL "Other radio" listening related to community radio ONLY, that would give them a total listenership of 646,000 across the UK.

If we assume that somewhere between one third and two thirds of all "Other radio" listening relates to community radio, that would give community stations a total listenership of between 215,000 and 430,000 across the UK, and with roughly 200 stations that would equate to 1,000 to 2,000 listeners per station on average, which I think may be a reasonable estimation.

Having said that, it's only an average, and will vary a lot from station to station, depending on the quality of their output, and the size & population of their coverage area.

3 years, 10 months ago

I don't think that you are far away there Rob - but from our own figures I know that our community radio station (Cambridge 105) has over 7,000 unique listeners in a month on-line alone - and that does not include the FM and DAB listeners where I would estimate that we have around 5,000+ unique listeners in any one month.

However, I would be surprised if we had more than 2000 listeners at any one time.

With us, outside of our general daytime shows we have a wide range of programmes - community programmes such as Polish waves, Italian language, LTBG, Women's programme etc ; arts programmes covering local Film, Theatre, Food and Book reviews through to specialist music shows - like Northern Soul, Mod Music, The Local Music Scene, Rock, Indie, even vintage 78s - And then a comprehensive OB coverage of local events and festivals etc.

In my experience, the listeners for one show are not always the listeners to others. So, we have a very wide range of listeners but they do not necessarily cross over from one show to another. I am not entirely sure how that would be reflected in any Ofcom survey results.

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