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James Cridland - radio futurologist
Why is Aussie radio booming?

Why is Aussie radio booming?

· 5 minutes to read

Aussie radio is doing brilliantly. In Brisbane, NOVA 106.9 is Brisbane’s #1 station in share (12.6%) and has achieved the biggest cume ever for the Brisbane market - 700,000.

Commercial radio revenue is growing strongly, too - up 11.2% year-on-year, says Commercial Radio Australia.

What’s Aussie radio’s secret?

Well, let’s do the easy one first - yes, radio stations are posting some record audience figures. 700,000 listeners for Nova is impressive, and part of that is due to Paul Jackson’s capable overview: he’s a great programmer.

However, Brisbane’s population has grown by 31% over the last ten years. So, perhaps another reason that radio stations are posting record listener numbers here is because there are more listeners than ever before.

Just to underline that, Nova’s 12.6% share isn’t a record, or anywhere near it. Five years ago, Nova was posting a 14.1% share.

This is also the case in the UK, where radio is posting “biggest ever audience” releases; once more, because the population is bigger than ever before (growing by 6.3% in ten years).

Secondly, these numbers aren’t AM/FM figures. They’re multiplatform. Something like 35% of all listening in the capital cities happens over DAB+ in Australia, and I gather internet listening is quite high - something like 15%, though the CRA doesn’t publish much data on this. Radio here is thriving because it’s multiplatform, not just FM/AM. The CRA don’t publish any platform split for the main AM/FM stations; I’m unsure why, and hope that the new CEO fixes that. (Just to underline that - in the car, I listen to a station on an AM frequency, but I listen using DAB+; at home, I exclusively listen to radio on smart speakers streamed over the internet. I’m listening to the radio, but not to AM/FM).

Thirdly, what the CRA doesn’t publish is time spent listening: and I suspect that is showing decline just like other countries (including the UK). It’s not all bright news.

Is it the new hybrid measurement in Australia? I’ve not seen any big changes from that. The changes are still rolling out, as I understand it, and while 60,000 people make up the annual radio sample size, only a panel of 2,000 people (3%) are feeding in streaming data. The main “hybrid” element referred to in the release last year was changing most of the 60,000 from a paper diary to an online one - a change already done in the UK.

Aussie radio is doing well in terms of revenue, though - undeniably, given the 11.2% year-on-year growth. Part of that is, of course, the apparent end of the pandemic. Melbourne, for example, went into another lockdown towards the end of May 2021; and spent almost all of August, September and October in lockdown. Interestingly, it saw a 9.8% year-on-year rise; Brisbane, Sydney and Perth seeing greater increases.

I also think Aussie radio is doing well revenue-wise because Commercial Radio Australia doing a good job with promoting the medium (similarly, the UK’s Radiocentre is having similar results). A strong industry lobbying group is good for the business, and those countries who don’t have one, and who don’t work together, don’t seem to do well. Another example is Finland’s RadioMedia which does a great job of getting advertisers interested in radio as a whole.

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Much change in the Brisbane radio scene tomorrow, when ratings restart. 4KQ disappeared at the end of June 30 - here’s some audio - after the regulator required the sale of one of ARN’s stations following its purchase of Grant Broadcasters. Last year, I pointed out that the age of 4KQ listeners was an issue - 75% over 55.

BBQ Bob Gallagher - formerly of the 97.3 breakfast show, though 4KQ’s Program Director in the 1990s and early 2000s - has been signed as the first (and only) local voice on 4BH, the only remaining music station on AM. The rest of the station is voicetracked from Melbourne, though no longer shares a music log with it, having switched to a more classic hit format over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, 4KQ breakfast show hosts Laurel, Gary and Mark have been signed by 4BC. 4BC is a news talk station, so it’s a little confusing to read in the release that they’re bringing their “Good Times and Great Hits” show to 4BC. Will they be playing songs? Hmm. It’s a great signing though. Neil “Breenie” Breen, the current breakfast host, moves to afternoon drive.

The replacement to 4KQ is now on-air, SENQ, which joins SENTrack on the AM band here in Brisbane, though it’s been on DAB+ for a while here. As you can see from the top of this newsletter, they’re marketing themselves well, though their Twitter account appears to be retweeting SEN 1116, which is messy and confusing (that’s where 4BH is here).


Change, too, in the UK, where Steve Wright, 67, comes off BBC Radio 2, to be replaced by Scott Mills, 49, who himself comes off BBC Radio 1.

Wright has been doing BBC Radio 2 afternoons since 1999. I listened for a bit, before the announcement, last week. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t the fun, exciting show that I remember from my youth; but Wright’s staying power is quite something. Everyone in the industry has a Steve Wright story, it seems - he’s been a daily voice for many people almost forever. (Between Radio 1, where I once listened, and Radio 2, he also broadcast on Talk Radio UK).


Also, since I was in the UK, I was able to listen to James O’Brien on LBC for a little while, on the day before Boris Johnson resigned. Sadly, I couldn’t listen on the actual day itself - YouTube to the rescue, though. He’s a class act.

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