The UK radio industry is on the up. Why?

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Surprise! In a world of relatively flat radio revenue figures, radio revenue in the UK market went up by 11% in Q2/2017. Wow! How did they do that?

Well, first, it might have been 11% in one quarter, but UK radio will probably end the year about 4% up at around US$875m. 

Over a beer in a French bar – and I point this out not just so it makes claiming expenses easier – I had a chat with a few folk from the UK to try to understand why the UK was having a good time of it.

First, they’re keen to point out that radio audiences remain in good shape, certainly when you look at cume. It’s cume that matters when you’re trying to grow your brand, after all, so that’s a good and useful figure to start with. RAJAR, the UK radio research company, does a good job with publishing these figures, too – they come out every quarter and are always accompanied with stories in the press.

Second, digital audio – podcasting et al – has helped revitalise radio. Heads of radio in agencies, previously consigned to the dark ages because they were the only ones working on a medium with no clear ‘digital’ advertising proposition, now find themselves working on the new shiny star of the digital world – and they are really making the most of it. Particularly, the UK has focused on personalised ad-replacement, and the DAX saleshouse, selling audio ads across everything from streaming radio to music services and podcasts, has certainly helped keep things simple.

Third – radio isn’t online. That’s a good thing when you consider all the problems that online has had this year: from having ads next to dubious content, or dodgy ad measurement that has overestimated views or engagement. And, of course, ad-blocking has reared its ugly head, too – about 30% of visits to my websites have ad-blockers on, as one example, and that’s probably not very good. As a traditional advertising medium, radio suffers from none of this stuff – reliable (and regulated) content, recognised and understood research figures, and all that. 

Finally, the UK, like CRA in Australia, has a very strong industry advocacy group, Radiocentre, with some clear and consistent messages. The US don’t work together much, with the NAB, Nielsen and RAB doing various things but not really singing radio’s praises in the same consistent way as Radiocentre does. It really helps. Radioplayer has also been doing great work from a more technical point of view, ensuring that all of UK radio has a place in the dashboard, on an Amazon Echo or in the hybrid radio receivers of the future.

I keep on talking about the benefits of working together as an industry. It’s something that is a good thing to do – and now, it’s something that appears to dramatically affect your revenue, too.

After understanding a little more about the UK radio industry, it turned out that the bar we were in also sold food, so we had some of that and chatted some more. So when the Australian Tax Office sees the receipt I claimed for, here’s hoping they also read this: because I think this was well worth it.


About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland