An accountable 2014: Rod Brice

No one who has faith in their product should be afraid of accountability…

Rod Brice recently left Southern Cross Austereo, and is now a consultant, with specialties in regional radio, programming and research. He previews the changes ahead for regional radio, in this article written for radioinfo.



2014 is set to be an exciting year for regional Australian Radio. At last a tried and tested, pragmatically and reasonably priced regional research system has been approved by the CRA Research Committee. 

I will declare that, yes, I was on the committee and part of the team of people seeking a solution to a problem that has plagued smaller regional markets, but the sense of purpose in finding a simple easy to use and understandable system is a credit to the joint committee members and also to the major players in regional radio including the ACE Network, Grant Broadcasters, ABC and SCA.

Many smaller regional markets (this new research system will not include Canberra, Newcastle or Gold Coast which are part of the new CRA – GFK national contract) have never had a survey in their long history, for many others like Townsville the last Commercial Radio Survey was over 12 years ago in the fiercely competitive days of DMG Regional and RG Capital Radio.

It should be remembered that, while content staff see survey results as a great score card, they are meant primarily as a sales tool.  So why hasn’t there been surveys since, well… forever in so many Australian regional service areas? Simply the maths of regional radio markets.

Unlike capital city radio stations which can generate up to 80% of revenue from “National Agency” buys, regional radio is almost the direct opposite, often generating 80% plus of revenue from local clients. Those buys are frequently based on personal relationships and the simple, honest test of “did I get a result?”.  The very high cost of the only official research system simply made it unprofitable.  

But times are changing and we are in an accountable world. While local clients may be happy, many of the larger national clients are not, they often have no relationship with the market except their local staff and they mostly don’t allow them to make the buying decisions. Without accountability the threat is that the national advertising cream will slowly dissolve, with accountability it can grow and competition will lift regional radio standards even higher than they have in past 15 years.

CRA has announced not just a single choice, but in fact four approved providers to choose from, each will run the same cost-effective measurement system as approved by the CRA Research Committee. The four new providers are Xtra Research, who did the initial trials in Canberra and Launceston to prove the system, DBM Consultants, IRIS Research and EMRS.  Each has passed a rigorous assessment process by Dr Rob Hall of Environmetrics who is the well-respected CRA Industry Survey Auditor.  This means a competitive approach to pricing for regional market surveys that will be able to be booked as required.

So what’s different? 

The results will have Cume as a publishable result, but it will not have the same Capital City “Share” result that is based on the percentage of quarter hours you win, of all the quarter hours listened to in a particular time period. Instead regional markets will have a “Station Listened to Most” percentage score along with “Breakfast Listened to Most” etc. 
This means the whole concept of “driving TSL” becomes “driving brand recognition and recall.” It’s nice to get a spike in a breakfast show, but the audience will be called to make a choice “which Breakfast show have you listened to MOST in the past week,” not who did you listen to each quarter hour today. 

Stations which think a sudden rush of marketing two weeks out from survey or a $1000 giveaway across a week will do the trick will be sadly disappointed.  Consistency of product will drive the results as it should. What’s exciting is from my experience, using a similar system to track markets that did full surveys as well, are that the results are often incredibly close to the published results. 

No one who has faith in their product should be afraid of accountability, results drive profits, yes, but they also drive improvement.

More great news, suddenly the view point about what the market is saying by everyone from the Breakfast personality to the Sales Manager or the Managers partner will pale into insignificance, the final judge will be the listeners. 

No matter what Content Directors, Managers or Owners say, listeners have the ultimate approval for anything we do and now they have a chance to have their say.

Rod Brice is contactable at [email protected]


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