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Explaining 'the Rajars'

Friday 8 July 2011, 14:55

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Vintage transistor radio

I always thought that the average Feedback listener was younger than I am, better dressed and more intelligent, and now I know it's true. I also now know that 1.4 million of you tune in to the programme every week.

Well I'm guessing about the intelligence and the quality of clothes, but the audience figures are certainly kosher. How do I know? Because RAJAR told me so. RAJAR stands for the Radio Joint Audience Research, and is jointly owned by the BBC and its commercial rivals.

Every year 100,000 RAJAR surveys are completed, detailing what people listen to and when. Up to now they have used paper diaries, but this month listeners are able to switch to filling in their listening diaries online if they want to do so.

It was the evidence from RAJAR that helped the BBC decide to move many of its children's programmes off radio and on to online, because they found that not enough young people were listening and that the real audience for such programmes had an average age of 48.

Some Feedback listeners wonder how reliable RAJAR's research is so this week I went to see its Chief Executive, Jerry Hill:

So how useful is this research to the BBC? Alison Winter leads a team of eight audience researchers in the BBC's audio and music department. I asked her what role the Rajar data plays in her work?

By the way, I'm sorry that we couldn't run our much trailed Today feature on Feedback this week. They won't allow me into the programme's offices without a minder, and she was sick this week. We'll keep trying.

Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with the programme, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts.
  • Feedback is on Twitter. Follow @BBCR4Feedback.
  • RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) is jointly owned by the BBC and commercial radio trade body the Radio Centre. Under the existing, paper system, participating listeners are asked to record their radio listening in quarter-hour time blocks for one week.
  • The most recent RAJAR figures for 'linear listening', not including on-demand listening or podcasts, for the first quarter of 2011 are on the RAJAR web site. The next Rajars, for the second quarter, are due on 4 August.
  • There's a press release describing the new online diary on the RAJAR web site (PDF).
  • Picture by Roadsidepictures. Some rights reserved.

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    Comment number 1.

    I'm grateful to Alison Winters for clarifying the RAJAR system as a 'pre-call' rather than a 'recall' one, but that probably muddies the waters further for RAJAR diarists who I suspect will no longer differentiate between what they listen to live and what they listen to in time-shifted mode. At the risk of getting one of her naughty-step e-mails, whilst I'm not in a position to dispute the assertion that time-shifted listening is still "a tiny proportion, estimated at less than 1%" of the overall radio listening, in the case of Radio 4, with a current 43m live listening hours per month, and an approximate 9% online live listening hours, of which 57% is time-shifted, the current time-shifted element adds up to about 5%.

    Insignificant small beer, you may think, but at the Sonys, radio reputations are made and destroyed on increases or decreases of less than 5%.

    Also, time-shifted listening suggests a more deliberate intention on the part of the listener and a greater likelihood of the whole of a programme being listened to, as opposed to a radio station being on 'in the background' as it were. So come on, Alison Winters, let's see the per-station range of time-shifted proportions so that everyone can judge whether, in your words, they are "still not to a level where we think the time is right for them to be included in the RAJAR survey".


  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Enjoyed reading your posting Russ, but the principal conclusion that I come to regarding time shifted listening is that radio – and specifically live radio - isn’t of interest to the delayed listener. Radio ceases to exist if listeners simply download all the programmes. R4 pays very good salaries to programme schedulers, should these individuals be concerned about their future employment security?

    Time shifted listeners will miss out on speculating where Jenni Murray is up to with her crossword puzzles whilst listening to the WH serial – or wondering if Susan Rae is a bit cheesed off when she doesn’t pronounce the letter ‘g’ (as in mornin’ Thomas) ) when cranking up R4 at 0520hrs. You love drama – very important radio incident after the first broadcast of Sarah Daniels’s ‘Cross my Heart and Hope to Fly’ – which was really an integral part of the play for very serious radio listeners.

    “Insignificant small beer, you may think, but at the Sonys, radio reputations are made and destroyed on increases or decreases of less than 5%.”

    Not many hard-line radio enthusiasts amongst the judging panel of the Sony awards, so I wouldn’t worry about reputations. Ever spot any of these individuals supporting the Radio 4 messageboards? Monkey Cage won a Sony award, but will it inspire anyone to become an engineer or genuine scientist? Conversely, Dr. Philip Kilner unified the arts and engineering graduate in ‘What Scientists Believe’ – but no Sony award for that programme.

    Incidentally I noted that Ms. Winters spoke with a noticable southern accent and possessed a very southern radio character.

    Here’s a GORGEOUS analogue four ganged tuning capacitor for your delight + a rather delightful Zenith Trans-oceanic RX J



  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Add your comment,

    Obviously Rajar can only be a measure of the few who put themselves forward, and the fewer again, who are selected subject to whatever sifting criteria. Constrained as they must inevitably be by the formal context, means of measurement, and status of themselves as enhanced listeners,in these new circumstances the later extrapolations, like Roger's guessings, although not accurately representative will be as sufficiently useful as those from a regular high street polls would not be.


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