Radio’s AM audience peak is more brunch than breakfast, but old pricing habits die hard

Radio’s AM audience peak is more brunch than breakfast, but old pricing habits die hard
Jordan & Perri: Bauer Media moved the duo's timeslot an hour later in response to audience behaviour changes

Despite changing listening behaviours since the Covid pandemic leading to longer and higher listening throughout the day, the myths of dual breakfast and drivetime peaks persist among advertisers, media buyers have warned.

Breakfast listening to commercial radio between Monday and Friday goes longer and later than previously, according to The Media Leader’s analysis of historic Rajar audience data and interviews with UK media buyers.

While many would expect a spike in listening during both breakfast and drivetime shows, the data shows a peak in the morning which has been shifting and elongating later over time.

Our analysis of Rajar’s average weekly audience figures for the last 10 years suggests a change in listener behaviour away from breakfast and drivetime commuting, and more towards what could be considered as a new “brunch cluster” for daytime audiences.

Source: Rajar – Listening to commercial radio.


This is why for example, major radio broadcaster Bauer Media has changed its timeslot for its KISS Breakfast show with Jordan & Perri to air between 7am and 11am, instead of 6am and 10am.

Liz Martin, commercial marketing & insight director at Bauer, told The Media Leader: “Since Covid we can see that there has been an increase in radio listening as a whole, with a general increase in at home listening.

“With more people working from home, listening patterns have changed and total 8- 8:30am peak breakfast listening has reduced, whilst listening between 10am and 1pm has increased. In order to reflect these later and longer breakfast listening behaviours, at Bauer Media we have shifted breakfast show timings across some of our stations.”

WFH and flexible working effect

The widespread adoption of hybrid working and working from home are key factors causing this shift in listener behaviour, according to Sam Austin, head of audio at Goodstuff Communications. Radio is also being used increasingly “to keep me company”, which was revealed to a seventh need state fulfilled by radio in Radiocentre’s Generation Audio study.

Austin said: “We still have a lot of people in the industry who still consider radio as a breakfast and drive medium, but actually, radio listening is flatter across the day, it does not have those peaks and troughs.”

Analysis of fourth-quarter Rajar audience figures for all commercial radio (2013-2022) shows there is only one morning peak and this has flattened considerably since the pandemic began in 2020.

In terms of listening by location, the latest Rajar results revealed 63% of all radio listening was at home, 23% in a car/van/lorry and 14% at work or elsewhere.

Michelle Sarpong, head of display, audio and OOH activation at independent media agency the7stars, said: “Despite the changing patterns, sales houses still price breakfast and drive time as peak. However, this was something that started to and did change during Covid with the new WFH patterns and routine activities such as pick-up and drop-offs were not happening.”

She added both advertisers and agencies are “still upweighting” towards these peak times, however, she does see investment and delivery shift into another dayparts as the agency plans radio based on impacts and frequency using its planning tools based on listening patterns.

Sarpong also said another element to the discussion of what counts as peak time comes down to “the most popular DJs” broadcasting at peak times, reflecting the premiums, even if listenership is “becoming more evenly spaced out”.

What’s next?

Heidi Carroll, founder of independent media agency MeerkatWorks, predicts that audio peak times will flatten further as listening of radio via internet devices continues to increase. Total online listening share increased by 43% year-over-year — and now comprises nearly a quarter of all digital listening — the latest quarterly Rajar figures revealed earlier this month.

Everything is going to flatten out a little more given that people can easily have something on in the background,” Carroll explained.

She gave the example of how in the past, listening to a station like Magic FM might have been difficult somewhere like Haywards Heath where you could sometimes struggle to get a strong signal, whereas now all you need is a device and wifi or 4G to connect to your favourite radio station.

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