THE BLOG

BBC Radio 1 - Don't Just Count Our Listeners

15/10/2014 07:11 BST | Updated 14/12/2014 10:59 GMT

If you are caught daydreaming in a meeting, or more likely these days checking your phone, and are asked for your thoughts - don't panic - here is a great 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card. After pausing to show everyone your thinking face, declare to the room that you are trying to work out what success really looks like for this project. Your colleagues will then nod and move on, and you can then get back to thinking about your next holiday or texting your mate.

But these days what is success? Is it trending worldwide or going viral? And in terms of radio, is it still about how many people you reach or the number of hours they listen for? I want BBC Radio 1 to be the R&D of audience measurement in a digital age, to challenge old perceptions and to work out what success actually means for a radio station in 2014 and beyond.

What we need to avoid, is being criticised for failing by using old and outdated ways of judging success in a digital disrupted world. Are we using the best measurements?

Take average age for instance. Radio 1's average age is 32, and as it is targeted at 15-29 year olds, it therefore could be seen as failing in its remit. But, that 32 is the mean average. Take these two facts into account: the current population has many more older people than younger, and secondly, you only have 10 year olds (the age RAJAR starts to measure at) up to 15, versus 29 till death on the other side. Therefore your mean average age will always skew older. Look at ITV2 at 42, BBC Three at 37 and E4 at 33.

And just to really push this point home, 63% of Radio 1 listeners over the age of 30 claim to be parents, so there will be a lot of shared listening with teenagers - as any frazzled parent will testify to keeping their offspring happy in the car or kitchen by putting their station of choice on. That issue of shared consumption really messes with judging the success of your brand by average age, just look at the average age of a CBeebies viewer who is 27 years old.

So, if you are looking for a better way of assessing whether Radio 1 is successful at attracting 15-29yr olds, maybe you should look at mode, the most common age of a listener, which is 17 years old. Or, maybe move away completely from the world of averages and look at the fact Radio 1 is reaching 40% of entire UK population of 15 - 24 year olds.

But that is only part of the picture, as Radio 1 is no longer a traditional radio station. With its strategy of 'Listen, Watch, Share', the average age does not take into account any of the activity that reaches young audiences on new platforms. With over a billion minutes of Radio 1 videos watched on its YouTube channel, it has a million and a half subscribers. A third of those subscribers are 12 - 17 year old females.

Traditional media is evolving to become TV channels, radio stations and online platforms all coming from the same hub and we need to find out how they can work best together. Instead of looking down the lens of historic organisational structures, turn it round and see what it should look like from the audiences' point of view. That way audiences, or fans of your brand, can enjoy and love your content seamlessly when they want, on whatever device they want. Therefore when your organisation and your distribution models change, so surely should the way you measure what you do.

My ambition is that Radio 1, which continues to reflect and celebrate the culture of young people in UK society today, can work out a new modern way of quantifying that meaningful relationship between the BBC and it's youth audiences on whatever device and on whatever platform. I'll let you know when we've cracked it.