“Eight yearly radio ratings just can’t be the sole metric any more,” Michael Mason.

At first glance, the results of Survey 2 looked like the aftermath of a natural disaster for the triple j network.

The ABC’s youth network was down significantly in most markets, experiencing huge drops in Brisbane (-2.2) and Adelaide (-2.6). The network’s best result was in Sydney where its share fell by only -0.4.

A drop in ratings is kind of expected this time of year after the boost that the Hottest 100 brings. But perhaps it was the magnitude of the fall this time around that prompted a written statement from triple j Content Director, Ollie Wards who said, “While some of the results today are down, they’re not surprising.

“We’re coming off the back of triple j’s highest ratings ever at the start of 2017 in terms of the amount of people listening. With triple j being all over Australia, this survey shows we’re quite steady with 1.926 million people listening per week in the 5 surveyed cities, where 2016’s average was 1.937 million per week.”

Be that as it may, the huge drop in share suggests that Time Spent Listening (TSL) has plummeted. It suggests that triple j’s listeners haven’t deserted the station, they’re just spending more of their time elsewhere.

Could it be that they’re going to Pandora or YouTube?

Although there’s no definitive metrics that can specifically isolate the migration patterns of triple j listeners, ABC Head of Radio Michael Mason agrees that in all likelihood those are the kind of platforms where a significant subset is going. Yet he’s not at all fussed. 

“We don’t have any research available to show how many of our listeners tune into Spotify. But they’re tuning into Spotify to get our playlists. There is a lot of that happening and we just need to be where they (the listeners) are, whether they’re getting triple j content by watching a YouTube video or by them getting a playlist on Spotify.”

Given that triple j seems to have driven its own listeners to other outlets, one could say that the network is a victim of it’s own success. And if one did say that, like I did, one would be swiftly contradicted by Mr Mason. “We kind of think that we’re cashing in on our own success. If we weren’t there on Youtube and if we weren’t there on Spotify and they wanted to go there, they’d go to Spotify regardless of us or not. This way, when they go to Spotify or they go to Youtube, there’s our content. That great brand that they recognise and they engage with is there, front and centre.

The benefit that we see is that we gain audience and engage with a sector of the population we wouldn’t reach otherwise.”

All that’s fine but none of that success is counted in a survey book.

“No, not in the ratings book,” Mr Mason agrees,  “But through our own internal measures we watch those numbers and when we build our own internal dashboards we see it. When you add up the triple j cities you measure its linear success, its streaming success, its video success and you measure its media engagement, which is absolutely critical, … and you measure it against streams on other platforms. So, the eight yearly radio ratings just can’t be the sole metric any more… particularly for a network like triple j.”

Peter Saxon

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