Gaining critical mass can be a struggle for some radio newcomers
THEY arrived at the party after the Celtic Tiger had already checked out, but the latest listenership figures show Ireland's fledgling radio stations are managing to pick up audiences despite their straitened marketing budgets.
Leading the way are the Northwest's i102 and the Southeast's Beat 102. The older of the i-radio stations, i102 now commands a market share of 11.9pc after picking up an extra 0.9 points in the listenership book that covers April 2009 to March 2010.
Beat's numbers have been going in the opposite direction, losing 0.1 points of market share in the latest book, but the Southeast station still reaches 12.1pc of its region's audience every day.
Spin South West, meanwhile, has "continued to hold its own in an aggressive region", with a 9.8pc market share, according to Mindshare boss Dave Sneddon.
But while the progress of the three leading newcomers is undisputed, the picture gets a bit more murky when you delve into the inroads made by the three other recent arrivals on the Irish radio scene.
The other "superregional", i105, grew its market share by 1.6 points to 3.6pc in the most recent book. Initiative commercial director Dave Tallon celebrates this as a "doubling" of the station's share, but his peers are less enthusiastic.
"Although there has been steady growth, Today FM and 2 FM's dominance across all demographics in this area has meant i105's growth has been slow," says Mindshare's Sneddon.
Starcom boss Craig Farrell, meanwhile, describes i105's progress as "disastrous", though he acknowledges the performance would look better if i102 weren't doing so well.
The performance of 4fm also proves divisive. Sneddon highlights the fact that 4's weekly listenership is up 13,000 in the latest book, giving the station 116,000.
"This is a definitive recovery . . . making them the fastest growing station in the country," he stresses, attributing the rise to 4's rejigged programming line-up.
Farrell, however, says he's "not blown away by" the 4 figures, stressing that it's going to be a "slow burn", while Tallon says the multi-city station's figures are "still well below expectation and below critical mass for many advertisers".
Meanwhile, the market share of final newcomer Phantom continues to hover around the 1.5pc mark. "It hasn't really been able to grow audience at all," says Farrell, adding that Phantom's experience makes him "struggle to see the need for more stations".
It's a point that's echoed by Tallon, who feels the "radio landscape has reached saturation". Mere weeks from their launch date, the team at Radio Nova will be hoping to prove them wrong as their station becomes the final one from the latest licensing blitz to enter the fray.