- 02 Aug 19
There were up and downs and ins and outs in the latest survey of radio listenership in Ireland – but what does it really say about the big picture? That is a good question…
Elsewhere today, you will have seen headlines about one station or another winning or losing in the ongoing radio wars, as reflected in the latest JNLR figures. You might say that in some cases, the results are slightly worrying. But what do they really say about the state of radio in Ireland? That is the question.
One story used the word ‘declining’ in relation to the figures for RTÉ 2fm. And there is an element of truth in the suggestion: the figures reveal that the station’s market share is down from 7per cent to 6.7 per cent. The fact is that no one likes to see a drop – though it stands to reason that if one station gains in market share, another has to lose. But more important is the issue that there is a margin of error in the survey. If that is 3%, then 2fm’s figure seems far less worrying than might otherwise have been the case.
In fact, more of those that have been described as movers and shakers are up by a number that falls within the same margin of error. This, incidentally, is not to criticise the JNLR: with a sample size of 16,000 people it is one of the most robust exercises of its kind in Ireland. But it is not a simple exercise in counting. And there are times when you have to wonder: do people really know what they are listening to at all.
Back to the numbers: Ryan Tubridy’s morning show on Radio One is up 4,000 to 332,000. Morning Ireland is up 3,000 to 424,000. Feargal D'Arcy (pictured) on Today FM is up 3,000 to 109,000. Of these wins, Feargal D'Arcy's is the most significant by some distance. But it also falls more or less within a 3% margin of error. Which is not to say that it is wrong: D’Arcy is going from strength to strength as a broadcaster. His numbers should be increasing. But it is only if gains – or losses – are sustained that we can really say that something serious is afoot.
The drift in the weekend audience for RTÉ Radio One has the look of an issue in the making. Marian Finucane is down 14,000 on Sunday to 311,000. Saturday with Cormac Ó hÉadhra is down 15,000 to 212,000. But weekend listening has always been more volatile. And neither is way over the margin of error. And Marian Finucane is coming off the back of a huge increase on her Saturday listenership, in the last JNLR. At 374,000 – despite a loss of 8,000 on this occasion, she is up 45,000 year on year. Tat is well outside the margin of error – on the plus side.
For the most part, this is the pattern. Newstalk market share – on the back of a good performance from Ivan Yates, who has added 30,000 listeners to The Hard Shoulder over the past year – is up from 6.8 per cent to 6.9 per cent. Today FM had a bounce of 3,000 on the most recent survey. RTÉ’s market share in Dublin fell. Q102 and FM104 made gains. But it all has the feel of a merry-go-round.
Some local battles make for interesting speculation. Cork’s 96FM are genuinely pleased that their KC & Ross combo are the most listened to morning show in Cork. But the station’s market share fell. Cork’s Red FM, meanwhile, increased its share. There is cause for celebrations too in WLR FM, which enjoys a 41.7 per cent share of listening on Waterford.
If RTÉ 2fm really does have something to worry about, then they have already done something to address it, with a reshuffle of the daytime deck. One of the most important of these has been the shift of Jennifer Zamparelli to the 9am post-Breakfast Show slot. She outlines her vision for the programme in a fascinating interview in the latest issue of Hot Press. Will she help to turn the figures around? How much of a difference can we really consider a win, when the next JNLR comes around. Answers on a postcard please.