Digital Audio – ‘Only half the story’


As a child, when I was in trouble with my Mum over some poor behaviour on my part, she’d ask me for my version of events. I would offer a version that supported and vaguely justified [in my head] my actions and with her Mother’s intuition, Mum would often coin the phrase “you’re only telling me half the story.”

This phrase springs back into mind whenever the quarterly Rajar [Radio, Joint Audience Research] figures are published and all the various publishers start crowing about how they’re always wonderful. The classic, my Dad is bigger than your Dad playground conversation is the general gist of what they’re all saying.

Radio has and currently retains the largest share of all adult audio listening at 89% and has hovered around the 90% weekly reach for many years. The BBC, once the dominant player now trails Commercial Radio by a significant 6% in Reach [59%-65%] and in Total Listening Hours too, by 9 million hours.

So, whilst all overall radio listening has remained pretty stable over the last 20 years there has been a changing of the guard in claiming top honours.

So all good yeah? Especially if you’re an advertiser.

Mmm, as Mum would say to me – this is only ‘half the story’, in fact it’s a lot less than half the story. 

Below are some of the key points to be aware of when considering the very affective medium of audio, specifically digital audio in your advertising mix.

  1. What is Digital Audio?  many publishers/commentators conflate digital listening to the radio with Digital Audio, BUT there is a very distinct and crucial difference which audio advertisers need to be aware of and that is; Digital Listening figures include those listening via a DAB [Digital Audio Broadcasting] device and DTV [Digital Television] and currently over 60% of radio listening is via a digital device. However in Digital Audio Advertising terms, the audience is people who are listening though a ‘connected device’ [connected to the internet] and DAB and DTV are not connected devices in this sense. Listening via a ‘connected device’ accounts for 32% of all radio listening.
  2. The Digital Audio Advertising World – includes radio as described above, but is joined by Online Music Streaming, Podcasts, Audiobooks and increasingly In-Game audio advertising in Mobile Games too.
  3. No Country for Old Men” – borrowing this from the 2008 movie, Digital Audio in the advertising sense is dominated by Gen Z and Millennial listeners and less and less of their listening is spent with radio. Podcasts & Online Music Streaming has an 87% reach of Under 35’s, compared to 81% for Live Radio. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the difference is even more marked at Under 25’s at 91% v 75%. I’m sure this won’t be a surprise to anyone with teenage children.
  4. Five Star Performance – the audio landscape has changed significantly in the UK over the last 5 years, with Podcasts and Online Music Streaming more than doubling in both Reach and Hours. It’s here where the younger adult audiences particularly have migrated, but the impact on the overall UK audio market is significant. Podcasts has risen from a 9% Reach and 26 million hours listened per week, to a 20% Reach and 68 million hours listened and Online Music Streaming  has risen from 17% Reach to 35% and from 88 million hours to a staggering 208 million a week.
  5. Ahead of the Curve – as I mentioned in Point 2 above, in [mobile] game audio advertising is a relatively new vanguard opening up in Digital Audio Advertising, as users want an experience free from Video Ads interrupting their enjoyment of the game. Audio fulfils that need perfectly and over 2.9 billion people worldwide are active Mobile Gamers with the core audience demographic being mid thirties females. A number of publishers, platforms and re-sellers are now offering advertisers the opportunity to reach this very lucrative market.


If your target market is under 40, it is mostly listening to audio on a connected device, irrespective of what that content is and this is only going to increase for every generation as the population ages. Live Radio still has a significant share of listening amongst the younger half of the adult population, but to reach them more effectively with your advertising spend, traditional and DAB are not the best routes to market.

The old adage “I know 50% of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half” was more often a problem for radio advertisers over the years, which saw the migration of many local/regional advertisers from radio to the online ad space. However that peace of mind offered by analytics and campaign performance data from digital advertising is now available to those same local/regional advertisers, with the connectivity and traceability of digital audio advertising.

*Source: RAJAR Q2, 2022

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