The Radio Room

Listener Loyalty. Are you a sticker or a flicker?

Oh good lord. Some DJ-producer guy formulated a ‘track’  called ‘The loyal Song’. It’s been around since Georgia hit our screens on Love Island this Summer but my ears started to burn when it popped up on YouTube during the week. 

It got us thinking… Bucketloads of Irish people tune in to radio every day; and stay engaged for much longer than our EU pals; But are we a nation of Loyal Larrys or Gobby Georgias? We’re all good at talking about our favourite stations/ shows/ presenters… but are we as loyal as we think we are? We went digging for a closer look…




National stations get a slightly bigger slice of the share of listening pie in the main. Time spent listening to National Radio (7am to 7pm) is 45%. Local radio is just slightly behind with 40%. 



National Radio: Breakfast! (44.5% of available minutes)

Local Radio: 9am to midday! (45.9% of available minutes)



It kind of does! Radio listeners in the North West of Ireland are definitely a super-loyal bunch when it comes to their radio listening. Highland Radio has the highest market share in that franchise area with a massive 59% Prime Time market share (59% of all minutes listened are owned by Highland Radio)

But this is not the full story. We took a slightly different look at the average minutes listened in any week and…… (drumroll please) stand up EAST COAST, RADIO KERRY AND MIDWEST RADIO! These stations’ audiences listen for longest – That’s commercial gold because we know they rarely flick when the ad break comes on! 


The time-spent-listening measurement is key to understanding listener loyalty, success of advertising and how to minimise missed opportunities.


Funnily enough, we talk all the time about Millennials and Generation Z having shorter attention spans and guilty of consuming so many platforms at once that they couldn’t possibly be paying attention – but when we looked at ‘Solus’ listeners; listeners who only listen to one radio station… the stations drawing younger audiences came out on top. Good work young people of Ireland!


iRadio NE (at 57%) and Beat (at 58%) have the highest proportion of Solus Listeners – more than half of their listeners not tuning in to any other station! (From an advertiser’s point of view, this means that if they don’t put these stations in their mix, then that is a large proportion of listeners they will never speak to)


So there you have it. Over 80% of us tune in to more than 1 station every day. It appears we continue to tune into our favourite Breakfast Presenter on National radio; then a flick to the local station mid-morning; back to national for the lunchtime news and so on. I guess that’s why there’s still plenty of room for all radio stations in Ireland; and no need for anyone to shove over in the bed. Nice one!

Until next time,


Shock Horror! Young people DO listen to radio!

If Pope John Paul II represented Irish Radio Station bosses (I know, quite the stretch. Stick with me… ), this is what they would say. They love you youngsters! (cue awkward cheek-squeeze) They especially love that you are tuning in despite general opinion that you don’t!

I was chatting with my 21-year old niece Ailbhe recently. (Well, she’s my husband’s niece but I like to claim her because she’s clever, beautiful and smart, tee hee.)

I asked Ailbhe does she listen to the radio.

To my delight (and surprise if I’m honest), she listens all the time. Wahoo! So contrary to opinion, all is not lost; and it looks like we’re not giving enough credit to young folk for not all being consumed by social and digital 24/7.

Me? I love music radio. From the days spent listening to The Red Hot Sound of Sunshine 101; and waiting by my clock radio every night to catch Love Letters In The Sand on Atlantic 252, music radio really has built the soundtrack of my life. I found myself dipping into Radio 1 and Newstalk in the past year or so (life’s subtle way of telling me that I’m growing up. At 40, I guess it’s time.) I’m still however loving music radio with most of my attention these days on 2FM, Today FM, FM104 and Spin, depending on who’s on air. So am I listening to the ‘right’ stations? And do these stations want me tuning in? I went digging to find out more…


The average age of a radio listener in Ireland is 45 (With 35 to 44’s holding the biggest piece of the radio pie). The average age of a radio listener in the UK is much higher; in their 60s in fact; so that’s a good start. (To the UK’s credit, digital radio listening is streets ahead so listeners under 60 in the UK simply consume their radio slightly different to us). With these figures in mind, you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering just how good a job the youth stations are doing at recruiting under 30s; even under 25s.


Not true. In fact the average age of a Spin listener is 30. Not 18 to 24 as you might think. Right, let’s try another. FM104? Average age 36. Okay, that’s a little better. Today FM? 39. Yipee, I’m still relevant! 2FM? 37, wahoo, looks like I’m not as off-track as I thought I might be (although 2FM are aggressively; and very successfully gobbling up 15 to 34 year olds so they would probably be happy enough for this old lady to move on!)

The ‘Youth Music stations’ (Spin, Beat, iRadio and so on) are showing average ages of 27 to 32 (iRadio North East is the ‘youngest’ of these with an average age of 27).

Mark Cunning, General Manager of iRadio spoke recently on the challenges Irish radio is facing with young listeners… “There’s no doubt we’re in a busier market than ever before. Streaming services provide plenty of challenges – the good news for radio is that we’ve for the secret sauce that Spotify and iTunes haven’t managed to replicate yet – personality. My feeling is ‘screen time’ is the biggest challenge in recruiting younger listeners – there are so many opportunities for distraction; On-demand, social networks, even messaging apps, we’re fighting with them all for some attention; and if you can’t beat em, join em! That’s why iRadio has become so much more than just radio – it’s a go-to brand for young people.”


I wasn’t completely convinced that Ailbhe’s thoughts on radio fitted in with the research; maybe because my perception is that 21 year olds spend their audio time on Spotify/ Soundcloud and so on. So I asked her if she could persuade a bunch of her pals to get together and exchange a box of Krispy Kremes for a good old brain pick to get a slightly bigger picture of how young adults view this ‘traditional’ medium. I had 10 young adults in the room on Monday evening; aged 21 to 25. Here’s what they told me:

  • All ten listen to the radio; ON a radio! (only one person said they listen on a smartphone; and only sometimes)
  • The stations they listen to most? Spin 1038, Spin SouthWest, 2FM, Beat, FM104 and iRadio
  • They mostly listen to radio in the car; with the radio at home a close second (most agreed that they turn on the radio if they’re cleaning or doing jobs around the house)
  • Music is the main reason why they put on the radio
  • Three of the ten I spoke to said they would tune in to radio for new music; but all ten said they would generally go to Spotify as they have to “wait for new tracks to come on the radio”



Yes, it still holds true that listeners to news and talk-based radio stations are generally a little older. The average age of a Radio 1 listener is 57. On the other end of the FM dial, Newstalk’s average age is 48.



The gold medal goes to Dublin’s Sunshine 1068! Sunshine have had a very strong few years with both audience growth and age profile targeting. 5 years ago, their daily age profile was 53. It is now at 49. They are bucking the trend when approximately 60% of Irish radio stations have added a year or two to their average listener age since 2013.

RTE 2FM are also continuing their winning streak with recruits under 30. Their average age has gone down from 39 to 37 in the last 5 years.  



Cork’s Red FM takes gold here. The average listener daily on Red FM has gone from 30 to 38 in the last 5 years. This is most likely the result of rapid growth in the Cork market; and some pick-up from their main competitor 96FM (average age 46).



Although radio has proven itself as a very resilient medium over the years, there are few radio stations doing a visibly good job at getting young listeners on board who will ‘age’ with the station for the next 20 years. Today FM did a Mammoth job of recruiting young listeners from 1998 to 2004; and many of those listeners are still there and in their early 40s now. But who’s getting it right? Spin, 2FM, iRadio are the stations leading the way in this area. They are working hard at not just building ‘FM’ listening; but also making sure that an iRadio listener for example, is also an iRadio follower (Instagram), friend (Facebook) viewer (video) and supporter (to build all-important brand loyalty and secure the stations future). They are also working hard on getting into the ‘heads’ of Alexa, Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home and more. These stations know that people still listen to the radio in their hundreds of thousands… but younger listeners have lots more choice on how to consume it.

Mark Cunning also feels strongly that the industry has to work together to hold a strong offering to young listeners: “At iRadio we’ve been actively engaging both with other stations and independently on research projects enabling us to get to know our younger listeners. For us to cater to them effectively we need to know their passions, their aspirations, what they love and what they hate. In arming ourselves with as much information as we can we’re better placed to provide a service that they’ll align themselves with.”



All the average ages mentioned are based on daily listening. There is a strong trend though when we talk about daily and weekly listenership. In many cases, stations appealing to an older cohort on weekdays, attract younger listeners at the weekend, lowering the average age of the listener when measured across 7 days. Regional stations show a similar, but opposite trend, with a small rise in the average listening age at weekends!


The argument between agencies and media owners is not going away soon: Just how well is Irish radio targeting 15 to 34 year olds? Quite well actually. It’s much more difficult for the local stations around the country to pull in young listeners as the demand from the older and hugely-loyal listeners is steering the editorial content somewhat. National and Regional stations look to be leading the way at the moment.

18 to 24 year olds may not have money to ‘react’ to advertisers’ messages; but the radio industry needs these recruits to keep the industry alive for years to come. So stay tuned kids!

Until next time!



LOCAL RADIO: Man’s best friend?

A few years back, I sat in Uncle Jimmy’s kitchen in the West of Ireland along with my Dad and siblings (You’re never too old to be dragged around visiting the country cousins by your Da). The chat stopped abruptly and we sat in silence as the death notices came on the radio. Jimmy listened intently as the sympathetic female voiceover went through the notices for that day.

“Mary Hedwin, Moss Road, Ballinasloe, died peacefully in her home….”

We continued to sit; daring not to interrupt in case Jimmy would miss anything. Calm-voiceover-lady continued…

“…PJ Mulhearn of Main Street, Knockrockery, Co. Roscommon. Reposing at Flynn’s Funeral Home tomorrow evening at 7…”

Jimmy sat upright. “Now, there’s one for me.” Just like that.

He looked around at us and continued (with one ear still cocked in the direction of the radio)… “He’d be a brother-in-law of a second cousin of mine from home, god rest him”. We looked around at each other, not sure whether to laugh or sympathise. The first thing that went through my head was that death notices are a bloomin’ social service to listeners!

Is this is what Jimmy plans his day/ week around?? Unbelievable!

BUT… how engaged he was (and it wasn’t just the death notices) stuck in my mind long afterwards; and it changed the way I looked at local radio.

Here was a person living in rural Ireland. He trusts what he hears on radio. Radio is his best friend. His local station not only keeps him up-to-date on what’s going on; it makes him listen, laugh, and overwhelmingly, it keeps him included. It keeps him company. It keeps him RELEVANT. 

When the radio is on, he’s never alone. It all sounds very old-school I know; but the sentiment of radio remains the same.

Urban folk might guffaw at the death notices as a bit of a joke. Or as commercial folk, we might roll our eyes now and again at an accent or colloquial banter. But do you know what? No matter what age the listener is (and they’re not all Jimmy’s vintage let me tell you!) local radio still works. It never stopped working! It works because it is tailored to local listeners and it resonates with them. They listen in their thousands and they listen all the time.

(11 of the 17 local stations outside of the urban areas showed an increase in audience in the latest JNLR figures; amazing results in the face of competition from ‘new’ media!)

The local garda station might have closed its doors. The Post Office might have shut up shop. But local radio in rural Ireland remains as relevant as ever.

Local Radio is still doing exactly what it says on the tin.  

Until next time!

Weekend Listening on Radio: Tuning in or checking out?


I was flicking around on the Irish Radio Player app last Sunday morning and I came across Mario Rosenstock’s Sunday Roast on Today FM. (Filling in for Mario that day was one of favourites, Ian Dempsey – what a buddy system this pair have!) The format was smart, well-produced and most importantly, it kept me engaged. It had everything a radio show should be. It got me thinking… everyone in advertising talks about midweek listening. Clients request midweek-only all the time. So I thought I would delve a little more and share some facts about weekend listening. First of all, I had a look at THE BIG 4 – The 4 mainstream Nationals (Sorry Lyric, you’re lovely but for the purposes of mass audience adult radio, I’ve left you out of this one) The Big 4:
Daily reach: Mon-Fri Daily reach: Saturday Daily reach: Sunday
RTE Radio 1 869,000 -24% -26%
RTE 2FM 399,000 -23% -35%
Today FM 412,000 -34% -49%
Newstalk 402,000 -38% -48%
RTE Radio 1 basically beats all stations in Ireland in all demographics bar the under 25’s so leaving them aside for now, there really is very little between the 3 stations that follow. Today FM, now in its 21st year, holds onto the number 2 position in Irish Radio (after RTE Radio 1). However, RTE’s youth music station 2FM has almost 40,000 more listeners on Saturdays and 50,000 more listeners on a Sunday… nothing too shabby about that weekend performance! (Source JNLR July 2017 – June 2018) There are 3 weekend shows on Irish Radio reaching over 300,000 listeners; all on Radio 1:
  1. Marian Finucane on Saturday (11am-1pm, 329,000 listeners)
  2. Marian Finucane on Sunday (11am-1pm, 321,000 listeners) and
  3. The Business (Sat 10-11am, 307,000 listeners)
Outside of that; you will likely pick up daily audiences on a Saturday or Sunday of between 90,000 to 140,000 on National Radio Stations and audiences in the region of 40,000 tuning in to their Local Radio Station.   Where’s the value? From a commercial point of view, you are of course going to pay handsomely to advertise on the top National weekend shows, based on an individual spot-buy. This is why, unless you are only looking at one show, it is much better value to buy a package with an element of the top show(s) but buffer with some spots outside of that. You will still get a great audience reach; in the demographic you’re targeting; but without the price tag!   The winning weekends… So does any station buck the trend and beat weekday listenership on Saturday or Sunday? In a word, no! Who comes close though? Or at least minimum fall off once the weekend comes round? Lyric and 2FM are the two National winners. Lyric drops by 21% on Saturdays and 19% on Sundays. 2FM falls by 23% on Saturday and 35% on Sunday (which sounds like a lot but with Today FM’s Sunday audience showing a 49% decrease from weekdays, and Newstalk down 48%, weekends on 2FM are looking strong). Regionally, Spin South West only lose 7% of their audience on Saturdays and iRadio North West are down 15% come Saturday so these 2 stations are holding their audience really well at weekends too. Local radio stations when combined (That’s local stations outside of Dublin and Cork) stay really strong across weekends with a 9% listened yesterday figure on both Saturdays and Sundays.   Don’t just take my word for it…  So what’s my point? I’m aware that this could be read as me being a negative Nora when it comes to weekend advertising. On the contrary, I’m more of a positive Patsy myself so here’s the good news… Simpified! 7 days is better than 5! (mostly… There are a million ways to target an audience, but I’m generally speaking; and presuming we’re trying to reach as many listeners as possible without driving the frequency too low.) I took to the latest JNLR Listenership data to see if the figures carry the same sentiment. I chose 3 stations at random,
  • 1 National
  • 1 Local
  • 1 Regional
I then ran audience reach and frequency figures for all 3 stations based on a basic, all-adult, 21-spot package (with 15 spots in Prime Time, 7am to 7pm). All run against the latest JNLR listenership data. See for yourself how weekends add to the audience reach (the number of times each listener hears the ad drops slightly on a couple of the runs, but in my mind not enough to warrant leaving weekends out)
Station Days Audience Reach Frequency
Newstalk Mon – Fri: Mon – Sat: Mon – Sun:   357,000 383,000 394,000 3 2-3 2-3
Cork’s Red FM     Mon – Fri: Mon – Sat: Mon – Sun:   125,000 140,000 142,000 5 4 4  
  Beat 102-103 Mon – Fri: Mon – Sat: Mon – Sun: 74,000 81,000 85,000   3-4 3-4 3  
  So there you have it. Weekend listenership will always chase the tail of the big dog on midweek – but make no mistake, unless you have a very specific, targeted plan for midweek-only, there is no reason to leave out weekends. Irish Radio editorial teams continue to develop new shows (Like Mario’s Sunday Roast) and new talent (like Stephen Byrne on 2FM) every weekend. Listening is strong in general (especially on Saturdays) and tracks very well against other countries and their listening habits. Pretty much the same demographics that tune in Monday to Friday are tuning in at the weekends too (albeit less of them).   Don’t just stick with Monday to Friday programming for your commercial plans. Listening habits are different at the weekends but it doesn’t mean they’re not tuned in! In fact it has been suggested that weekend listeners are perhaps even more likely to react to advertising at the weekends as they are in a more relaxed frame of mind – therefore less likely to ‘flick’ when the ad break comes on – and more likely to soak up your message. Food for thought as you tune in this weekend…   Thanks for listening!   Siobhan.  

LISTEN UP!… Creative Advertising and good radio ads matter more than you think!

“Hi Mary, nice windows! – “Thanks Margaret, we just had them fitted by The C-Thru Window company! All done in just one day and they even took the old ones away!” “Wow Margaret, sounds like I need to give them a call! “Margaret, it couldn’t be easier! Just visit…” blah blah yadda yadda silly punchline at the end etc etc.

Sound familiar?  Mary and Margaret just made me want to throw my radio out the window.

You’ll remember the ad alright… but for all the wrong reasons. I would much prefer to recall the ad for being smart, speaking my language, grabbing my attention, and making me want to react. 

As someone who has worked in radio for many years, creative advertising is a subject that comes up time and time again.  We all know the impact radio can have on your brand. However, it is imperative that the importance of good creative ads is not being brushed under the carpet… alas, this message is taking a long time to translate to the airwaves!

Here’s what happens more than we would like: A client books a fantastic airtime campaign on radio; but doesn’t appreciate the importance of the actual ad, or put the time or investment into getting the right ad to the listener. The ad does not match the quality of the campaign. In turn, the message is weak and the tone is unclear. The campaign hits the airwaves with excellent reach and frequency. But even with all this, by the end of the activity, the client is a little underwhelmed that the ad didn’t perform optimally – in other words, ‘move all their boxes’.

Of course this happens now and again no matter what medium you try; but it’s so important not rely on the airtime alone to do all the work! Radio can take a horse to water but we can’t make it drink. The airtime is just one element of a radio campaign.

What ads do you recall hearing? More importantly, what ads do you remember? What ads made you want to react?

I have my own thoughts on the subject but to get a really qualified voice, I spoke to Cathal McLysaght at Sound crater…


What is the most important element in a good radio commercial?

A great voiceover, music selection and production values can make an ad sound great but the script is the most important ingredient in producing an ad that sells.

Hook the listener with a strong opener. Have something interesting to say and deliver it in a way that stands out. Have one simple message and end with a call to action.

Easier said than done but that’s the key to branding success!


What makes an ad memorable in your experience?

It’s hard to beat an ad that moves you emotionally. The Barry’s Tea Christmas ad encapsulates everything that is good about radio. It is brilliantly written and voiced, emotive, creative, and the product shines through.

Radio being “the theatre of the mind” is bandied around a lot when people want to promote the power of radio – sadly these days, you can listen to many ad breaks and not hear one example of this.


Phone numbers in ads. Discuss!

One word… NOPE! Generally speaking. I’d make the exception for a catchy free phone number.

Very few people will take the time to remember a number when they know they can do an online search. Even if your call to action is to get the phone to ring I still don’t think people will try remember the number when they have a smart phone in their pocket. Also, including a phone number will also use up five seconds of your ad which could be used to say something interesting, so in the words of The Streets… or the inimitable Dell Boy… LEAVE IT OUT!!


When do conversation ads work well?

Conversation ads have a bad rap because they are generally stuffed with unnatural sales speak and come across as very corny. Personally, I think we tend to tune in to a conversational ad more than a message read at us, so a good conversational ad can be very effective.

It’s important that the conversation is natural and believable. That means a client will get a lot less sales points in so it’s harder to get over the line.


How many times should a brand be name-checked in their ad?

I always try to think about the ad as if it were my business. Creatively it is nice to have less mentions but three is the magic number for a standard 30 second ad. The web address will usually be the third mention. Two mentions in a 20″ ad.


What are your thoughts on good v bad creative? What’s the difference? What impact can it have on a brand/ activity?

Good creative will keep you involved in the ad and keep you listening to the key message. Bad creative immediately becomes wallpaper and our mind tunes out; or we just change channel.

Good creative is like a deal between the advertiser and the listener. Let me tell you about my product and there will be something in it for you! Whether that’s being entertained or the opportunity of a great offer. Simple.


What’s your favourite ad?

It’s impossible to pick a favourite but I like the Northern Tool and Equipment ads. “Purse” “Snuggle Muffin”. These ads ran as a campaign in the US.

In 2018 they are probably a little bit un-PC but they’re still funny, relatable and well-acted. This is a good example of how a sales message and entertainment can work together. When the phone is answered you know what it’s for, the sale is naturally brought in to the conversation which keeps it believable and the tag drops in the name again.

Have a listen for yourself HERE (Purse) …and HERE! (Snuggle Muffin)


Is ad length important? 

Absolutely. I generally produce 30/ 40 second ads. It’s hard to do a short ad well but if they are well written and produced, a 10-second ad can be so effective. Short ads often fail; but only because people try to cram too much in. Less is more. My advice if a business is not sure: Speak to your agent or production studio; they will get an idea of what you want to/ need to say, and will make a well-educated recommendation from there.

I would also try to avoid a 20″ ad that wants to be a 30″ ad.

A creative or conversational type ad would generally need 30-40 seconds.


If you could give one piece of advice to brands when they’re looking at a radio ad, what would it be?

Try to be a little different.

Even one word used in an unusual way can become the difference. Look what Mr. Kipling achieved with the word “exceedingly”. His cakes are not just ‘good’…


 You can contact Cathal at Sound Crater – Creative Audio Production (


Thanks for reading! That’s the first blog post done and dusted. No excuses now for less-than-brilliant radio ads! Feel free to leave a comment or suggest any things you would like me to cover in future posts.  


Until next time…