Commercial Radio takes three giant steps forward

Comment from Peter Saxon.

In the past week or so, there have been three significant announcements, two from Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and one from Nine Entertainment that will help cement Radio’s future – though, no doubt, some will argue that the moves will do no more than catapult radio into the present as it plays catchup with the online tech giants.

Nonetheless, these announcements offer significant improvement on lagging behind.


Portable People Meters to be introduced into surveys.

In a plan to transition away from the old diary system, from next year radio surveys conducted by GfK will include a panel of 2,000 consumers who will be asked to wear an electronic watch meter that will detect when the wearer is in listening range of a radio broadcast.

PPM’s were first offered by Arbitron (since bought out by Nielsen) to Australian broadcasters as early as 2002. Radio Hall of Fame member, Graham Mott who was head of CRA’s Research Committee at the time recalls, “It was still in development stage and we were in no position to make a judgment to change our ‘currency’ when we didn’t know enough about it.”

Today, PPM’s have been operating in U.S. markets for more than 14 years where they’ve been less than a runaway success as famed American radio consultant Fred Jacobs outlined on the occasion of PPM’s 10th anniversary in 2017.

Of course, that was then and this is now. With radio now on so many platforms and advertisers flocking to those that provide the most accurate and detailed consumer statistics it is vital that radio has a reliable measurement tool that can compete with the tech and social giants.

As Mr Mott says, “One of radio’s greatest strengths is its flexibility in where and how you can listen. One of its greatest weaknesses is trying to measure that audience due to that mobility.”


Commercial networks can band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook.

It’s not every day that the ACCC grants permission for some of the most powerful operators in an industry to be able to collude with each other in a way that would normally risk being illegal.

But due to the local industry’s relative David size compared to the Goliath proportions of the global tech giants, ACCC Chair Rod Sims, has declared, “This authorisation gives CRA the opportunity to seek payment from Facebook and Google for its members’ news content and for its members to engage in discussions with each other about those negotiations.”

This result is a great credit to the work of CRA chief executive officer Joan Warner and her team. Ms Warner welcomed the ACCC’s decision saying, “Negotiated outcomes providing compensation from Google and Facebook will help to sustain commercial radio stations in Australia, many of whom provide small and local communities with regional news and information.”


Nine reveals the method behind the madness

Just last Friday afternoon Nine Entertainment treated a group of media buyers and any other media who’d care to watch, to an online extravaganza while sipping on a Four Pillars gin and Capri tonic along with specially selected dried orange slices as garnish. All this was delivered without contact to those of us in lockdown with the online presentation preceded by a short piece from Hamish Blake demonstrating how to mix a cocktail.

After that, the 45-minute presentation flew by.

Nine is now arguably Australia’s largest media conglomerate and it’s easy to see why they were so keen to add a radio network to strengthen their offering and how the old Macquarie Network will benefit from the scale of their new owners in ways that the previous owners had never been able to achieve.

True, with the enormous long-term success enjoyed by 2GB and 3AW, in particular, it was hard to make an argument for change. But Macquarie lagged far behind the other major commercial networks in the development of its digital and online inventory and its integration of all things audio.

With the media world changing rapidly around them, generational change was inevitable.

“The era of radio being defined by a dial with AM or FM is long gone,” said Nine Radio CEO, Tom Malone in his part of the presentation. “The way we listen to radio is changing and Nine Radio is at the forefront with a unique product which is at the heart of each city our stations serve. Our broadcasters are now available anywhere, anytime, anyhow – through apps and smart speakers. The ubiquity and mobility of radio has never been stronger.”

Hear, hear!

Peter Saxon