The bush loves a story…

Resonate Director Rex Morris tells the story of Rural Queensland Today

The Resonate Broadcasting acquisition of the former Macquarie Regional Radio Network occurred just over twelve months ago. A lot has happened in that time, and over time, we’ll tell you more about what we’ve learnt, and there is a lot. Especially when you consider we tripled our size as a company, basically overnight.

One of the key areas Sally Dobson and I looked at straight away was local content, and beyond local breakfast shows and local news, we were adamant that we needed to create specialist programming that spoke to the entire footprint of our broadcast area. That is just a tiny bit under 40% of the state of Queensland if you “stitch” all of the station LAPs together. In reality, it’s probably a bit more, given signals don’t have a habit of stopping at the line on an LAP map. This massive broadcast area is concentrated on the vast inland area of the state, meaning that issues that primarily effect the south east corner, and the coastal areas of the state, aren’t especially relevant. The issues that the south east of the state create for our broadcast area is another story entirely, and sadly, a reoccurring theme politically. 

The vision for Resonate Broadcasting’s “Rural Queensland Today,” started roughly two years earlier, when Resonate began to pursue the deal to buy from Macquarie. Because of the number of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) we’ve signed over time, that’s about as much as I can say about the “pursuit” of the deal. The vision. A different story.

I was lucky enough to run into Ben Dobbin, when Richard Barker and I hired him to Dead Set Legends (DSL) on Triple M Brisbane, in my previous life as Content Director there. Ben had just decided after living in the bush, he’d have a stab at radio. It was a successful all or nothing move, and I don’t know if it was his unbridled enthusiasm for sport, his authenticity, non-PC approach, boy from the bush charm, or that Richard and I went a bit mad, at exactly the same time, on the same day. Richard, I’m sure would vouch for the latter. 

On that day, and to this day, “Dobbo” (yep, that got really very, very confusing in our company for a while) is the same enthusiastic, authentic, non-PC bloke who’ll tell it as it is. Sure he’s a keen student of his craft, and while he’s learning radio, he will never sound like a radio bloke. Just a bloke.

From his time in the bush, Ben Dobbin knew there was an absolute demand for what we wanted to create, and knowing you have that, is one of the most exciting aspects of being in this business. The bush, rural Queensland, hadn’t had its own voice, in anyone’s living memory. Sure it had access to Queensland-based talkback before, but that was created for, and tailored to Brisbane, and networked to the bush.

As a host, you won’t get any more authentic. He’s done something in just about every area we broadcast to, from playing rugby for the Condamine Cods, working as a stock and station agent up through the interior of Queensland, to coming second in a “station buckjump” event at the legendary Mt Isa rodeo. Oddly enough, he’s the only one who can verify the Mt Isa story. 

“Rural Queensland Today” has racked up just about a year across the Resonate Regional Radio Network in Queensland. It’s heard on 4SB Kingaroy, 4ZR Roma, 4VL Charleville, 4LG Longreach, 4HI Emerald, 4LM Mt Isa, 4GC Charters Towers, and on the Hot Country Network in Goondiwindi and Dalby, weekday mornings from 9am to 10am.

From politicians, to bush poets, the show is unashamedly rural Queensland, it name checks the personalities and dots on the map that would otherwise go unmentioned. 

Listener feedback was pretty much instantaneous, results for clients who’ve partnered with the show have been very impressive.

For our podcasts, we’ve partnered with Whooshkaa, because it’s an Australian outfit, founded by former Macquarie CEO Rob Loewenthal. From this partnership, we now have access to some analytics around the show, and given analytics are thin on the ground in regional radio pretty much everywhere, my curiosity as a programmer just had to know what is connecting with audiences in the bush. 

Although we’re working on modest numbers, just over 20 000 content downloads, it’s a reasonable number for our service areas, and for the sake of the exercise.

70% of our downloads are accessed through Facebook, as that is where we host the most relevant content post broadcast. 14% have been accessed straight from Whooshkaa.

I’ll be the first to tell you that this data is indicative and might not be perfect, given that 42% of our downloads are from areas outside our broadcast area, and 2% of our downloads are from overseas. Hi to our Ugandan listener. No seriously, “Hi!” 

62% of listeners are accessing this content from their phones, which looks like a low number, but can be partially explained by the variable of mobile coverage/internet access that is a reality in any area of rural Australia. In any case the sample is “tainted” somewhat by the out of area downloads. Meaning mobile use could actually be a smaller number across our radio service area, and probably is.

23% of our downloads have been via desktop, which almost seems “quaint,” but could be indicative of the sun up, to sun down work life of many of our listeners, and how many points of contact they have to the internet in their own homes. Clearly an older demographic would influence this number as well.

The number that jumped off the page for me was that nearly 40% of our downloaded content is stories. Just yarns, and not necessarily happy ones. They are stories that connect, and importantly beyond the radio, the streaming and downloading, stories that listeners have clearly shared. Creating content that listeners want to share has moved from a mantra, to a KPI some time ago, and perhaps in the bush, where stories are concerned, that may be magnified. 

We are fiercely proud of the burning issues, politics, and news Ben Dobbin breaks for rural Queensland across the Resonate network, but at the heart of it all, he’s a storyteller. A good one who’s only getting better. 

It’s a great reminder that along with topical issues, breaking news, and the other things that clamour for our attention daily, storytelling has to remain part of your content plan.

Our stories may be different. 

Storytelling is universal. 

About the Author

Rex Morris has a broadcasting career that has spanned over 30 years.

23 of those years were spent with Australia’s leading radio group, Southern Cross Austereo. The last 17 as a senior executive.

In 2000 while in charge of Brisbane’s B105  Rex was named Australian commercial radio’s Program Director of the year.

From 2003 to 2005 he ran the Brisbane duopoly for SCA, was the group program director for the Triple M network from 2006 to 2008, 

During his time at SCA Rex also consulted to the Astro radio group in Malaysia for four years, initially, on the English language  music formats, and eventually to all the company’s “vernacular” formats in Malay, Mandarin,Cantonese, Tamil and Hindi.

In 2008 Rex stepped into radio ownership with business partner Guy Dobson, their company, Resonate Broadcasting, purchased three radio stations in Australia, the AM/FM combo, in Charters  Towers Qld, and and an AM station in Warragul.

In 2012 Resonate Broadcasting added 4LG and West FM in Longreach, Queensland to the network.

2013 saw Resonate move off shore and create a new entity, Resonate Hawaii. This company, again, owned by the Dobson and Morris families, owns four licences on the Big Island of Hawaii, KHBC, KHWI, KTBH and KIPA. Prior to the purchase, all these stations were dark.

In December 2015, “The Wave @92FM” became the most listened to station on the Big Island according to the Eastlan Radio Ratings.

In October of 2015 Resonate Broadcasting added 4ZR Roma, 4VL & West FM Charleville, 4SB Kingaroy, 4HI Emerald, 4LM Mt Isa, and 4BD/4EM to the existing Queensland network.

Currently Rex is a director of Resonate Broadcasting, Resonate Hawaii, and the Resonate Project Group.


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