Almost 40% of South Africans are listening to the radio on mobile devices — more than those listening in their cars.

New figures from the Broadcast Research Council of SA (BRC) show the device of choice remains the portable radio (76%). Just 8% are listening via the DStv audio bouquet and 2% on computers. The trends have remained stable, with 87% listening at home; 33% in a vehicle; 11% at work/university and 6% in a public space.

Lance Rothschild, CEO of the Liberty Radio Awards, says: "The new data is not to be compared with the old radio audience measurement survey, which was compiled by SA Advertising Research Foundation, as the new figures are based on a substantially different sampling methodology and with more granularity in the detail gathered from the sample audience across 53,396 diaries."

The new figures should shore up advertisers’ commitment to radio, says one media planner, as there was some concern a changeover in research methodology might have "skewed the numbers down" and made the medium less attractive to brands.

Another media strategist says brands should use the new numbers "to embrace the sustainability of radio" but should also be using the medium in conjunction with online exposure, where most radio platforms have a strong presence; as well as experimenting with audio offerings like sponsored podcasts.

Rothschild says the BRC data, which covers the period from January to September, provides estimated listenership across 39 commercial and public broadcasting service radio stations and 266 community stations.

"Because it’s the second set of data released by the BRC, it is still too early to make an assessment of significant trends and shifts in audience data at this stage," he says. "However what is significant to the marketplace is the stability of the data."

Across a population of 38.3m aged
15-plus, BRC’s data shows that 35m
people listen to the radio every week (92% reach) while 28.6m listen on an average weekday (75%).

Listenership penetration across the provinces is widespread, with the Northern Cape indicating the lowest penetration (80%) and KwaZulu Natal the highest (96%). The average time spent listening to radio on a daily basis across the sample is four hours and six minutes, with longer listening in the rural areas and less in urban and city areas.

SA’s most listened-to radio station remains Ukhozi FM, with just over 5.3m daily listeners. The rest of the top five are Umhlobo Wenene FM; Lesedi FM; Metro FM and Thobela FM. Says Rothschild: "There are no dramatic shifts in the listenership figures of these stations, with Metro FM’s decline in numbers being a cause for slight concern."

He wonders if Metro’s decline could be an effect of the SABC’s 90% local music content policy implemented in May.

Of the top 10 stations, Ukhozi FM has the most loyal listeners: 59% listen exclusively to the station, while only 27% of Gagasi and Metro listeners listen exclusively to these stations.

With just under 300,000 listeners, Jozi FM is the most listened-to community station, way ahead of the Eastern Cape-based Unitra FM and Radio Tygerberg in the Western Cape.

Says Rothschild: "The community radio sector is often overlooked by advertisers, yet it attracts in excess of a quarter of all radio listenership."

He says the absence of substantial shifts in listenership trends is not unexpected and the general consensus across the industry is that at least four surveys are required before the data can be seen to be stable and trends can be identified.

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