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Is multiplatform now the norm for the average consumer?

By Martin Phillp
Posted 20 June 2015, 9.01am edt
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In the last year without noticing, I've noticed a change in how I listen to radio and watch television.

On an average day at home, I'll now listen to radio not using FM or DAB, instead using mobile apps. I have four apps, Absolute, Nostalgie France, XiiaLive and LBC. The latter allows you to listen to all Global and Communicorp stations with the exception of The Arrow.

On my desktop, I have the UK Radioplayer desktop app and AIMP3, a media player than plays most UK radio streams including Ogg Vorbis.

The only time I listen to linear radio is on a cheap DAB portable from Asda if I'm commuting or going to the supermarket.

Is this the norm for more listeners, or is the trusted FM or DAB radio in the kitchen still the main way of consuming radio?

Comments

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

We should clarify: "linear radio" normally means a non-stop stream of radio, whether you get it on FM, DAB or on the internet. So you are listening to lots of linear radio. But not much over-the-air broadcast radio.

RAJAR mainly talks about "share of listening" in terms of platform, based on total hours listened. I've linked to the actual figures, but they contain some 'unknown' listening; shortly, those figures will be added, proportionately, to the others; so doing that we get:

  • FM/AM: 60.1% of total hours listened
  • DAB: 27.5%
  • DTV: 5.1%
  • Online/apps: 7.2%

So: you can see here that your listening pattern isn't usual. To directly answer your question:

is the trusted FM or DAB radio [..] still the main way of consuming radio?

Yes.

But. RAJAR also publish data showing reach - people who use these platforms once a week. These figures are markedly different (these are adjusted to remove the 'Digital unspecified', which is 8.6%):

  • All Radio: 89.3% of the UK tunes in once a week
  • All Digital Radio: 58.1%
  • DAB: 38.5%
  • DTV: 15.4%
  • Online/Apps: 17.4%

The difference here is explained by the fact that we we've still got the FM radio in the car, perhaps, but we also might listen to a bit of radio via the telly in the bedroom, or listen to a brief snatch of radio while walking to the shops and back on the mobile phone.

And, as you've probably already spotted: the majority of the UK (58.1%) use digital at some point during the week, which probably means the majority are multiplatform (assuming that many of us still use FM in one location). If my understanding is correct, that means 64% of radio listeners are using digital radio of some form every week. Less than 1 in 5 listen to any radio online, though.

So, to answer a question you didn't ask:

is the trusted FM radio [..] still the only way of consuming radio for most people?

...the answer's no.

2 years, 3 months ago

DAB is heavily advertised as thee platform for digital radio, so it should be the most listened to platform.
Nobody is going to advertise that you can pick up a Hudl 2 from tesco for around £99 pounds with the ability of turning it into a digital radio with pictures, streaming STEREO stations with decent separation in a kitchen, for example.
(A £12. 50p purchase of a separate Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable plugging Hudl2 on to the big telly allows you to watch video at 1080p HD, so my old Blu Ray player is near redundant.)
Generally, internet radio tuners are the poor relation in the field of advertising because the big names in broadcasting are scared stiff that listeners will be set adrift to sample stations in other countries and may take some time to wander back!

I have already given away old DAB radios to my former places of work before I retired and actually apologised to my former colleagues for DAB's mediocre audio quality. That is, before they accused me of insulting them!
The receivers in my humble abode are all upgrade replacements to internet radio tuners with integrated DAB/FM tuners.
Even the hifi unit has a Revo Mondo plug-in device for internet radio reception.

My daughter down in Dumfries & Galloway purchased a Roberts Stream 205 stereo radio with embedded DAB+. She likes Capital-Edinburgh & CFM as favourites, I like listening to Absolute 60s and others. All fantastic in an area with no indoor reception for Digital One. -DAB+ reception may never come to D & G!

Oh I forgot to mention in the car reception, my mobile connects up to the auxiliary input of the sound system, but reception can be scratchy on the road. DAB is a lot more reliable for signal continuity whilst driving.

Be liberated and continue to listen outside the box and away from the confines of DAB, for DAB has its limitations.
If DAB was regulated to minimise data rates output at 160kbps stereo and 80kbps mono bandwidths, DAB could be a good system. Most people are contented with 128kbps stereo MP3 as a near equivalent to bad old DAB at 160kbps (MP2).

P.S. In the early days, I thought DAB was DABTASTIC, but its technological gleam got lost on its way. Poor old DAB is only loved by a miserable 25% of listeners after nearly 20 years of existence...

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

Lovely rant, Willie. But

Poor old DAB is only loved by a miserable 25% of listeners

38.5% of us use DAB once a week. I mean, really: rants are better with facts.

By the way: DAB's launch? Generally held to be 1999, 15 years ago. And if nobody's going to advertise a Hudl... what on earth am I doing here?!

2 years, 3 months ago

It's not just radio that's gone multi-platform in my life.

I have CD players - to listen to CD's ..... in CD quality as well (making up for the lack of "CD quality" on DAB radio, which seems to annoy some people, although I cant think why I would want to listen to a song in CD quality on a radio if it keeps getting spoken over, cut short or even wedged between adverts and jingles to spoil my enjoyment).

I also have streaming services that are plugged into my hi-fi system either by the use of a smarthphone or one of the dongles plugged into the HDMI ports of the TVs in each room of the house.

I have music on a PC, which if I bother to leave switched-on, the whole wi-fi network can pick up and play via my wi-fi radios, smartphones or TV dongles in other rooms of the house.

I also have music stored on USB sticks and even SD cards. I use the USB sticks for plugging into the car stereo and the SD cards for the very many old mobile phones I have and still keep, purely for internet and music playing purposes.

In the car I can listen to radio via DAB, FM, AM and smartphone (if the signal is reliable enough). I can listen to music via CD, USB stick or an auxilliary device such as a mobile phone and a streaming service provider or the mobile's own SD card.

That's just music and radio.

When it comes to viewing something, I still have linear TV piped into every room, for which I can choose either Freeview or Sky. However, more and more I find myself using IP devices for wathcing TV, including Roku's and android-for-TV dongles fr a little more flexiblity. My wife also uses a laptop, a tablet and occasionally a smartphone for watching Chinese soap operas when she's in the kitchen cooking. On the very rare occasion I have watched something on my smartphone if I have been away from home.

So multi-platform is everywhere - for everything.

Very soon you'll be able to control the heating, lighting and even the cooking via smartphones, even when you're not in the house. There are wi-fi cooker knobs that will turn at a time you set them to, to begin cooking the stew as you make your way home. You'll also be able to give your neighbours and relatives electronic keys to your front door, which can be restricted to give them access only at certain times of the day, so as they can feed the dog in your absence. Your plant pots will tell you your cactus needs watered and your fridge will tell you that it's running low on milk.

2 years, 3 months ago

@willie

I find it funny that people think there's some DAB platform conspiracy from the radio industry. Our main aim is for people to listen to our radio stations, we're really not that bothered how they do it. In your write up you excitedly talk about how you've abandoned broadcast for IP (except for the car where it's "scratchy") and then just listed a load of broadcast radio stations that your family listen to.

I think, as James' figures show, listeners are very comfortable listening to radio in lots of different ways. Whether through luck or judgement, I think it's good for RADIO that so many different, quality, stations can be heard on all of the different platforms.

What is surprising, and it's somewhat replicated around the world, is how low internet radio listening is. I think there's always been an expectation that this would have been higher by now. Even with broadband penetration so high, consumers seem to be attracted to other things when online. Internet radio can deliver amazing choice and infinite quality - but no one seems to be really bothered. There's also only a handful of people who make any money out of linear internet-radio in the world, none that I know of in the UK. It'll be interesting to see how Apple do with all of their money and marketing.

I think this internet radio question is why it's so important for radio to innovate both on and off IP.

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

What I also forgot to mention is that I also occasionally listen to radio via the Tune-in app on a cheap as chips NOW TV box on my tv. I can also cast Tune-in to my Google Chromecast.

As for television, there is a gradual change to VoD. Netflix is becoming mainstream, NOW TV is an alternative to Sky for pay tv in Freeview households, while Amazon will pick up customers by adding them to it's £79 Prime package which includes free one-day delivery of physical goods.

Linear distribution isn't dead by any means as James's figures show, but it's certainly more of a multi-platform environment that it was a few years back.

2 years, 3 months ago

Troopers, The original promise for DAB was CD or near CD quality sound reproduction and was advertised as such until the DAB industry was forced to withdraw the sound quality claim. Broken promise!

If the rajar figures are collated by means of a snooping device on a given sample rate of digital radios, the aforementioned listening percentages will be accurate. Otherwise, the error margin of data gathered could be akin to a pre-election poll.
If it is the latter, I suggest the online listening percentage could be higher than what is reported!

I am not an anti-DAB propagandist, the errs of this system could be fixed overnight!
Analogue radio excepted, there is no such thing as a differential between DAB and so called non-digital ways of listening like through your tv or online because digital is computer technology of zeros and ones!! The radio on all these products is digital radio.

All that said, the digital radio system is fantastic except DAB. The new medium wave is DAB!!

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

All that said, the digital radio system is fantastic except DAB. The new medium wave is DAB!!

Hardly. Vanilla DAB has it's place in the multi-platform environment, especially with in car distribution.

If it comes down to the mono v stereo debate than the dropping of bitrate to Absolute 80s and Planet Rock has hardly affected them. In fact, Absolute 80s increased share after dropping to mono.

I'd be raving about using mobile 3G/4G networks distributing radio instead, yet with most networks still having strict data caps, the UK mobile industry is still not up to distributing mass amounts of video and audio.

2 years, 3 months ago

Audio quality was trumpeted for a short time when there was little new content and devices cost more than £500. Two things that, unsurprisingly, meant it wasn't very successful. The current approach to bit rates, rightly or wrongly, has had little or no negative effect on take up. Indeed, you could argue the space that's been freed to provide more stations is what's driven the growth.

RAJAR asks 100,000 people a year about the Radio listening habits. It's an incredibly robust sample size.

I've also spent enough time wading through server logs of radio stations to know that the multi platform RAJAR figures are pretty much in line.

2 years, 3 months ago

Matt, I will watch out for the next batch of digital radio adverts which will probably again portray DAB as the best thing since sliced bread. There will be little or no mention about digital radio's other platforms.
A possible result being the minimal impact of eradio take up!

2 years, 3 months ago

We've run Radioplayer ads and DRUK ones that talk about online and mobile. All the new DRUK POS includes online (not just Radioplayer) talk up.

However, all that's irrelevant, because if you look at countries that have gone heavy on online - the US particularly, they're in exactly the same place as we are.

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

Willie, in Germany, Denmark and Norway, internet radio is also less than 15% of hours. Most countries don't even bother to measure it.

When you look at actual hours according to streaming stats, incidentally, the figures are even lower than Rajar's claims. And, as far as I can see, there is no growth in web streaming in places like the US, in spite of tremendous growth in smartphone ownership.

2 years, 3 months ago

It does look as if I am ploughing a near lonely furrow with my enthusiasm of internet radio devices. I think the audio quality on these devices are a knockout, but not perfect.
I will not be returning to DAB radio, unless a better service of sound quality is offered in a future DAB+ MP4 era!
I appreciated today's feedback..Cheers

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

I don't think so at all, Willie. Internet devices are good. I listen to LBC via DAB in the bathroom, and FM radio in the car, but apart from that, almost all my listening is via internet.

Where I think it gets hard for me to understand is where enthusiasm for internet appears to then mean negativity towards DAB. I don't see anyone being negative towards AM: yet the audio quality for that is pretty appalling. FM in many parts of the country isn't much better. And the audio quality for Fun Kids, for BBC 6 Music or for a number of other channels is appallingly bad on FM. In fact, I don't appear to be able to pick up a decent signal of those stations at all.

The great news about a multi-platform future for radio is that you can choose the platform you want. So why slag off the ones you've decided not to use? I simply don't understand the need.

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

I listen to LBC via DAB in the bathroom, and FM radio in the car, but apart from that, almost all my listening is via internet.

Since LBC went national on DAB, I now have a choice between hearing London travel news on hissy FM or the LBC app, which gives you the choice between the London or national feeds.

Luckily in this multi-platform era, LBC London News also has local travel on DAB (and on the LBC app or a little known medium called AM) at more regular intervals, six times per hour in comparison to LBC's two bulletins outside of breakfast and drive.

Lets not forget those listeners who also listen to radio via their Freeview tv sets, which I'm sure contributed to the early success of The Hits Radio which was it's main distribution outlet and other tv platforms such as Virgin and Sky who also offer radio stations.

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

LBC doesn't have a national feed, if you listen closely.

Your choice is - for travel alone - "London only" or "The main London stories and a few others. The weather is always London + UK.

There again, my views on travel news are relatively well-known: unless there is a major issue (motorways shut, major rail stations shut) it is entirely pointless, and only there because it is sponsorable.

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

LBC doesn't have a national feed, if you listen closely.
Your choice is - for travel alone - "London only" or "The main London stories and a few others. The weather is always London + UK.

There are also very subtle changes to advertising as well on the London version.

The core LBC programming is perfectly fine to listen to on DAB, yet travel which former MD David Lloyd said when he ran LBC was a core element to the station when he kept the feature during Iain Lee's tenure on drive isn't very good as the national travel bulletin takes away some London roads from the running order and replaces it with trunk roads.

2 years, 3 months ago

James, I think you are referring to two quality issues here, the quality of audio and the quality of reception. I have no problem with DAB reception in my part of the country. Using the proper aerials will reap rewards with DAB or FM station pickup.

Fantastic audio output was never promised for AM, but was promised for DAB. Too many stations were shoe horned on to multiplexes with the result of an out of spec process flow with degraded audio output on most channels.
The DAB product is good, but the DAB process is below par!
Some DAB critics sincerely believe that a DAB+ process will magic wand a turn of events to improve DAB. But if the process is deficient and the industry refuses to see the errs of their ways, DAB+ will just become DAB mark 2 with the same problems!

The sad thing is, most DAB critics will forward a ''get well'' proposal because they did have faith in DAB, but there suggestions were ignored and they are classed as ''negatrons''.

When DAB was introduced, the plan was around 30 channels for London and around 15 to 20 channels elsewhere. Rural Ayrshire with around 390,000 population has now around 49 channels streaming on DAB with duplicated formats and mediocre sounding audio. Do we need 49 channels on a linear radio platform with extended choice?

There are some dreadful sounding stations on internet radio as well, mainly small fry stations. One community station called 3TFM in North Ayrshire received my request earlier today to pump up the bandwidth from 48kbps stereo (MP3) to at least 64kbps (preferring a bit rate of 128kbps MP3)..

PRO2 years, 3 months ago

James, I think you are referring to two quality issues here, the quality of audio and the quality of reception.

No, I'm really not. I'm referring to a strange behaviour from people who prefer one platform (in your case the internet) and feel it necessary to slag off another platform (in your case, DAB).

Good news. Radio has a multi-platform future. If internet works for you, great!

That's all.

2 years, 3 months ago

I personally have nothing against AM nor FM because I highly respect these platforms. I erected a roof top aerial for FM stereo back in 1973 for the hogmanay launch of Radio Clyde. More channels moved to stereo through the 70s/80s with DAB now pulling us slow but sure back to mono.
I also applauded the IBA's AM Stereo tests on Radio Orwell back in the mid 80s.
I thought the government refusal to back the IBA's AM Stereo aspiration was a missed opportunity.

I did five years voluntary work on UWS Radio, a student station with additional community programme commitments. The station was DAB EXCLUSIVE outwith the university campus away back then. Part of the service was promoting Digital Audio Broadcasting.
If I did not have faith in the DAB technology back then, I would never have participated in the radio project. Trust me!
There is nothing worse than misplaced faith, but I am not a bitter person. I just move on away from DAB..

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