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http://www.rajar.co.uk/listening/quarterly_listening.php

The RAJAR figures are a ritual.

Once every three months R4's Head of Audience Research (he does many other things too) phones up on a Wednesday evening and reels off a few key numbers for Radio 4 and Radio 7. The conversation lasts about 30 seconds - and we are both exaggeratedly laconic. Yesterday he began with "Quite good really" or words to that effect and then went on to say... "9.98million/12.5%/6.69 million/PM all-time high/everything up/Radio 7 984,000."

I said "That's OK then. And if we indulge ourselves by musing about rounding up to the next significant figure we get to 10 million for Radio 4... but we must not cheat." End of conversation.

I will decode - and all of what follows applies to the first three months of 2009.

9.98 million people per week listened to Radio 4 for at least 15 minutes per week. (This figure is called 'Weekly Reach'). This figure has been exceeded only once in the last ten years or so - during the Iraq war in 2003.

The average amount of listening per week of those 9.98 million is 12 hours and 50 minutes.(Radio 4 has the highest average weekly listening figure of the national stations). Radio 4 listening now accounts for 12.5% of all listening to all radio in the U.K - the highest figure since the current measuring system for radio listening was introduced over a decade ago.

Weekly Reach for Today is 6.69 million. That too is a very high figure and when Today's figures are strong it helps the overall R4 figure. PM's figures - 3.84 million and a 15.1% share - have never been better - or at least not since the new measurement system was introduced.

But it was not just News programmes that did well this quarter. Drama and Comedy for instance had a bumper quarter too. And Radio 7's weekly reach was its best yet at 984,000.

But - and it's a very big but indeed - RAJAR figures - whether up, down or sideways - do not tell the whole story about Radio 4 or Radio 7. Quality, range, distinctiveness, originality all matter and are not always reflected in the RAJAR figures. I remember one quarter a couple of years back where I thought we had transmitted some really outstanding programmes but the RAJAR figures were not particularly noteworthy. And - painful though it may be to admit - the reverse is also possible. But I hope not in this case.

The radio industry, unlike television (BARB) does not have overnight figures. Occasionally one yearns for evidence that a particular programme or piece of scheduling has reaped rewards - but on the whole the absence of the 'overnights' is a liberation. You can put in a greater number of 90 minute plays on Saturday afternoons - for instance - without instantly fretting about the impact on a particular Saturday afternoon's listening. One day the technology may allow for overnights in radio - and I can't deny that I would be reading them voraciously - but for the time being I enjoy not having them.

So it's been a good RAJAR quarter and I hope we have been delighting and stimulating you - but I am acutely aware that what goes up can come down - so we won't be spending the day awash with champagne.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by kleines c

    on 20 May 2009 07:04

    When I was at school, Mark, my maths teacher made us listen to Radio 4. Perhaps you could get more younger people to listen to 4 by broadcasting something which might be useful, or even entertaining, for classes. Then you might break through the ten million, nay, the hundred million barrier. What is radio 4, after all, Mark, if not to listen? All the best, c (and the gang).

    ;)

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by bushy-tailedhattie

    on 12 May 2009 08:49

    That is fine for those who are Web Designers and understand their way around websites and all the jargon. For those of us who do not really understand what a widget is I can assure you it is pretty hard and frustrating. So much so that those of us who are not technowizards give up.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by HardlOfHearing

    on 12 May 2009 07:37

    I disagree with all the comments that poo-poo the new site design. I think the design team have done a tremendous job. They've lifted the site out of the late 1990's, and made everything a lot easier to find and use.

    The moaners will always make more noise than those that quietly appreciate. This is especially true when it comes to radically new web designs. Some users will always need to overcome the bad design that they had became accustomed to and 'relearn' where to find things.

    Back on topic: I find it hard to believe that you don't have stats for your web listeners. I read somewhere that online radio is growing fast. Given my consumption that doesn't surprise me.

    Seb
    Web Designer

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by ouphrontis

    on 12 May 2009 01:40

    I totally agree with #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10
    When will the madness end.. this is reminding me
    of the Poll tax debacle.. or better still how the
    old London Transport would put up the fares to
    keep the numbers riding the Tube down.

    If only Radio4 didn't have such a great product!

    1700+ have voted.. and 90%+ agree the new design
    is driving them nuts.

    http://www.vizu.com/vot/Entertainment/BBC/RADIO4/RADIO/poll-vote.html?n=157092

    Let those in control keep patting each other on the back reassuring
    each other what a wonderful job they are doing...

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by Steve Bowbrick

    on 11 May 2009 17:26

    @realplayerclare I'm not seeing any problem with the latest episodes of the two programmes you're trying to listen to so I'm going to suggest that you take a look at this iPlayer support page, which is actually quite useful. You might find this forum useful too. There's no cunning plan to exclude people living abroad, honestly! But non-UK listeners do sometimes get a different service: the Flash-based iPlayer doesn't work outside the UK so unless a programme is available in RealMedia format you won't be able to listen. This shouldn't be affecting you now, though.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 13. Posted by realplayerclare

    on 11 May 2009 16:32

    I have just tried to listen to 4StandsUp and the News Quiz, but as usual,the message 'this doesn't seem to be working. Please try again later'. Well, this is probably the 10th time, and just as many days that I have tried. What am I doing wrong? Is it because I live in France,don't pay my radio license, and the BBC have cunningly worked out a way that doesn't allow people living abroad to access Listen Again? Could you please tell me if this is so, and I will stop trying. Thanks.

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by TV Licence fee payer against BBC censorship

    on 11 May 2009 14:11

    #11

    "Remind me, why was it changed.."

    Because they can! :~(

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by fjpickett

    on 11 May 2009 10:11

    It's a good job the figures don't include website visits, or they might tell a very different story. Remind me, why was it changed..?

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by bushy-tailedhattie

    on 11 May 2009 09:30

    I have been airing my views on the other blogs. However, I now just want to agree wholeheartedly with the above and thank goodness there are so many others who feel like me. We have been ignored, as I knew we would be right from the start. Totally unhappy and depressed with the arrogance of the BBC over those dreadful, dreadful 'big pictures'. Maybe we can just hope that one day those responsible for this terrible website will see the error of their ways.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by EmSydney

    on 11 May 2009 08:16

    Just agreeing with a couple of people below - great that the RAJAR figures are up but personally since the redesign of the radio 4 website I now listen for about 1 hour a week compared to 4 plus hours per week before.

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