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OPINION: Thanks a million, RTE (but your data is dead to me)

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Digital Audience Data from RTE December 2023 (visme.co)

RTE make big claims for their digital audience numbers but don’t publicly verify their data.

Radio Teilifis Eireann, or RTE as it is known, is a national institution, and in more ways than one. However, the Irish public service broadcaster courts more controversy than acclaim and this doesn’t inspire confidence in its ability to provide services the public sees it pays for.

Recently, mobile users of the RTE Radio Player app will be familiar with the presence of “annoying” pre-roll audio advertising on its live shows. Before the RTE Radio app allows the user access to the selected live show, say Today with Claire Byrne at 10 am daily, it runs a series of ads, what RTE refers to as pre-roll audio advertising.

Annoying because the mobile RTE Radio Player application doesn’t allow the audience to remove the ads by offering an option to pay to remove the ads as other apps can. Ads on the Mobile RTE Player can repeat up to five or six times before readmitting access to the Live show. The RTE mobile app has a bug that causes pre-roll ads to repeat themselves whenever the show is paused, or knocked into a pause, as mobile apps frequently can when disturbed by motion. It also doesn’t seem a coincidence that this annoyance proliferates at holiday time!

Pre-roll advertising promise advertisers high-level audience engagement as audiences are “captive audiences” that wait for the show to begin. The problem arises if the pre-roll ad, expected to play only once, repeats, as it frequently does .

Wondering what audiences think of this, thecircular.org began researching RTE player mobile users’ satisfaction data with pre-roll audio morning news programme advertising and began by considering:

How does RTE compile its digital audience report data? Why is there no data on mobile RTE player mobile app user satisfaction on their website?

In the digital audience report for December 2023, RTE refers several times to a 2022 B&A report as the source for its user data. However, in chasing the source of this data online, thecircular.org failed to find a satisfactory link to anything published by B&A on RTE for 2022. In recent digital audience reports on the RTE website and in their digital audience report for December 2023, RTE refers several times to the report, as the source for its user data.

The 2023 audience report refers to “unique browser and streaming figures” but doesn’t mention how these figures are compiled or arrived at and by whom and there are no links to verify the data for the period mentioned by RTE. 

The 2023 audience report from RTE provides no link to that data. This link on the RTE media sales website was a dead link.

Further digging did find mention of a “Public Perception of Public Service Broadcasting in Ireland Report” by Martina Chapman of Mercury Insights, on behalf of the formerly named Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) that refers to research findings from a B&A survey for 2016-2018. Perhaps this was the research that RTE refers to as its B&A Survey 2022 source. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was dissolved in March 2023 and is now Coimisiún na Meán | Ireland’s media regulator (cnam.ie).

The 2019 Mercury Insight report mentions that: “Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) was appointed in February 2016 to undertake an annual tracker survey to provide statistical information on and track, over time, public opinion/perception of public service broadcasting in Ireland in terms of public service value and importance and, in particular, public opinion on how the public service broadcasters are delivering on their principal objects as set out in the 2009 Act.”

RTE has so far not replied to phone calls and email to their communications and audience research department by thecircular.org.

Coimisiún na Meán has said by phone that they cannot comment on a request for information to thecircular.org.

B&A Ireland also said to thecircular.org that they have no response to a request for information as the company is currently in the middle of a merger.

The following survey might help to clarify what audience users of the RTE Radio app do think regarding RTE player mobile users’ satisfaction with pre-roll audio morning news program advertising.

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