A record month for Audio and Music's websites
Following the headlines in March's iPlayer stats pack that we published last month, I wanted to share some more details and insights about BBC Network Radio's interactive performance, as it was a record month for us. They say events drive reach, and plenty happened on the Radio websites in March that helps prove the adage. Reach to all BBC Radio sites hit 3.7 million average weekly unique browsers*. And if you factor in A&M's music and events websites, such as Music and Radio 1's Big Weekend, we recorded an overall reach for all BBC Audio and Music sites of 4.3 million UK average weekly unique browsers. That's an all-time high for us.
Online interest in Chris Moyles' marathon 52-hour broadcast for Comic Relief was a big part of this, pushing traffic to the Radio 1 site to a record 2.4m average weekly UK unique browsers. Live footage from the studio, carried on the Red Button, attracted 2.84 million viewers. And then there was Fearne Cotton. Her offer to appear in a swimsuit if the total raised by Moyles topped £2 million caused a surge of traffic that helped crash the Radio 1 site for a brief time. So, events do drive reach, and we've learnt some useful lessons there about capacity planning. On top of this, there have been about half a million clicks to view the section of the programme again via the website, and at Radio 1's official channel on YouTube.
We've had a superb month for live online listening. And although live listening via the internet still accounts for a relatively small amount of all digital consumption, we know people find it convenient to stream radio at their desks: compared to consumption via analogue platforms, online radio listening doesn't fall away so dramatically after radio's 'usual' breakfast time peak. In March, we recorded 29 million requests for live streams, 18% up on this time last year. Record performances across BBC network radio contributed to this, including 5 live sports extra, which nabbed 1.3m live stream requests for its World Cup Cricket coverage. Did I say... events drive reach?
We broke more records with our podcasts, delivering 12.3m successful downloads to UK subscribers in March. The Archers topped the list of our daily podcasts, with Scott Mills in second place. Interestingly, although Radio 4's landmark series A History of the World in 100 Objects ended last autumn, its podcasts remain popular enough to make it the 5th most popular daily podcast title in March. This is evidence of the demand there is for making podcasts available for longer and of the public value we can create by opening up the archive. First indications from the Desert Island Discs archive are also very encouraging. I've just had a first sight of April's podcast results - they're looking equally promising, including several hundred thousand successful downloads of our Royal Wedding 2011 podcast. This included a lot of interest from users in English-speaking countries around the world such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. It's another good example of how events drive reach.
A final, encouraging thing to note is the steady growth in reach to A&M's websites optimised for mobile devices. We've done a lot of work over the past 2 years to improve the usability of those sites, including automatically tweaking the pages to suit the device in question, and adding the ability to stream live radio for many devices. Devices are becoming easier to use too, and the performance since the start of this year suggests that the effort is now paying off: significant numbers of users now accessing A&M's content via mobile. March was a great month for this. There was growth across the board, with new sites for Radio 4's Desert Island Discs and Radio 1's Big Weekend contributing to the increase. And there was especially strong growth for Radio 1 and 1Xtra, where all mobile devices are now covered with key services and where fans used their phones to join in the fun with Moyles & Co for Red Nose Day. Which all goes to show... well, you know what goes here.
* Unique Browsers: this is the term we use to describe a single computer accessing our websites. It's not the same as measuring 'people', and it's not a perfect proxy - but is the closest we have for now. One 'unique browser' is counted for every distinct 'cookie' which has visited a website within a given timeframe. In the BBC, this timeframe is one week. A cookie is a small piece of information that a server sends to your computer to identify that computer on its return. Whenever you clear your cookies, as some people regularly do, your computer is issued with a new cookie when you return to a website.
Alan Phillips is senior business manager, BBC Audio & Music Interactive