Joanna Wriglesworth
Joanna Wriglesworth
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Listening Figures Drop For Radio 4’s Today Programme

Radio 4’s Today programme is so often the icing on the cake in a broadcast PR campaign, so it could come as a shock to many of us in the industry to learn this flagship news show has suffered a fall in listening figures.

RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research), the monitoring body of UK radio listening has just  released its Q2 summary, reflecting the listenership of the past 3 months. Radio 4’s Today programme has seen its listening figures drop 252,000 since the last quarter, contributing to a total fall of 839,000 since spring of last year.

So, is the Today programme’s fall in listenership a tell-tale sign of a decline in radio in general? Well, no not particularly. According to the BBC, when put into context, the drop in listeners simply correlates with a quieter news agenda. This quarter last year saw a snap general election, the Grenfell Tower fire and three terrorist attacks in the UK. A BBC spokesperson said: “There were record figures (7.82 million) last year as the nation turned to Today during significant news events… Audience figures fluctuate for news programmes across TV and radio in line with news events and the latest Today figures show a sustained loyal listenership and an overall increase since 2014.”

As listeners we go to Radio 4’s Today Programme for in-depth analysis of current affairs and this need intensifies when the news agenda is saturated with stories.  Therefore, recent figures aren’t a significant threat to the broadcast industry, but more a reflection of the general news cycle.   The Today programme is an institution and “compulsory morning listening” for millions.   It also sets the news agenda: the headlines you hear at 0900 and earlier are nearly always reflected in subsequent bulletins on other channels, online and in the newspapers the next day.

So how does this relate to broadcast PR? Well it essentially indicates that there is still a massive loyal core audience in radio that can be reached with a simple radio day. With 90% of the adult population listening to some radio channel at least once a week (that’s a total of 1.026 billion hours), there is huge opportunity to gain recognition and success with a broadcast campaign.

With Today it’s not so much about the quantity of listeners, more significant is the quality.  Not every PR story is a good fit for the programme obviously, but if you are trying to reach influencers and decision makers, there is arguably no better outlet.  They also like quirky (tune in around 0845 to hear this):  we supported English Apples and Pears for many years and they are a perfect example of that quintessential British story which so suits Today.  The business slots (0615, 0655 and around 0855) can also yield good opportunities as part of a radio day.

Shout! Communications can help provide you or your client with expert consultancy and production on any upcoming campaigns you wish to pursue.   For most stories we’ll guarantee a minimum of  10-12 radio opportunities, 1-2 which we expect to be nationals,  providing a solid platform for your message to be broadcasted to an awaiting population.  Oh, and with one of our directors a former reporter on the programme, we have found many opportunities for our clients on Today.

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