How much influence does Alan Jones really have?

Comment from Peter Saxon

If we go by the numbers, Alan Jones influence on radio is only fraction of  the noise he generates in the wider community.

As I pointed out last week, in our article on Share versus Cume, while he attracts a whopping 498,000 listeners (cumulative audience) to his 2GB breakfast show each week that figure is eclipsed by 2GB’s upstairs neighbours Nova 969’s Fitzy &Wippa with 522k and Kyle &Jackie O at KIIS106.5 with 521k. 
Of course, by the accepted measure of audience size, “Share,” Jones is far and away number one with 19.0% of the measured audience, which is almost as much as the next two breakfast shows combined: Kyle & Jack on 10.2 followed by WSFM’s Jonesy and Amanda on 9.3.
Little wonder then, that Adam Lang, CEO at MacRadio and Chairman of CRA as well as its Research Committee, is a committed Share man. Much like monarchists, he believes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
He may have a point. While beating Jones’ total listener numbers may look impressive for Fitzy and Wippa, it would be difficult to argue that they are close to being the household name that Alan Jones is or that they wield anywhere near his influence – certainly not beyond their own listeners. 
As prodigious as a 19.0 share is, it is often dismissed or downplayed by detractors who point to the fact that 81% of people don’t listen to him. Not only that, Jones audience is predominantly in the 65+ demographic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I, myself – against my will, it must be said – have recently been inducted into that club which offers few member benefits and no way to opt-out – at least not voluntarily.
Those who back audience Share over Cumes as the genuine measure of station supremacy would argue that Jones’ listeners are true fans or, as they say, “rusted on.” Older listeners, many of whom are retired, have more time to listen and on talk stations are more engaged, loyal and receptive to Jones’ every word including those of his advertisers who are happy to pay a whopping premium for his live reads. Clients have told me that they are the most effective radio ads money can buy.
Fitzy & Wippa may have more listeners that sample their show each week but Jones can get his audience fired up on all sorts of issues which often leads to headlines way out of proportion to his audience share.
During the recent Opera House/Horse race advertising incident, the Alan Jones “brand” outranked even the Prime Minister’s in most media outlets. He was miffed, along with his equine loving buddies, that the Opera House had turned down their application to show a video projection on its sails promoting the World’s Richest Race, the Everest with its $13 million prize.
Now, I’m not about to go into righteous indignation one way or another regarding the use of a national icon as a giant billboard other than to say that until Jones got involved it was a low grade issue that would have come and gone… and if by chance, anyone had’ve noticed it, some discussion may have followed about whether it had been a good idea at the time and whether to either ban or encourage such campaigns in the future. Without Jones whipping up controversy, there would never have been the furore that even made international headlines.
The Opera House people reportedly tried to accommodate Jones and the Everest consortium with a compromise light show that wasn’t quite as commercial in nature as they’d hoped. But that offer was rejected. 
At this stage, most organisations would have either accepted the compromise or taken “no” for an answer and gone on to find an alternative way to promote the big race. Or, if they were very well connected, they might have called their mates in high places to have a quiet word in the ear of Opera House General Manager, Louise Herron.
Such a discussion may or may not have included a reminder as to which side her bread was buttered on and that chat may or may not have resulted in her being sacked by whomever is authorised to do so. But she’d be spared the public humiliation that Jones subjected her to on his breakfast show during which he called for her to be sacked – for which he apologised the next day. 
While Jones has stated that he is not a journalist but an entertainer, he used an old journalists’ trick of asking his own question or statement while claiming that it was something “many out there”were saying. “Out there, I’ll tell you what they’re saying,”he thundered down the phone to the hapless Herron, “They’re saying that you should go today.”
If Ms Herron had been able to get a word in edgeways and was possessed of razor-sharp media skills she may have hit back at Jones in the way that the former British PM, the late Margaret Thatcher demolished George Negus when in a 1981 interview for 60 Minutes, he told her, ‘People stop us in the street, almost, and tell us… the Prime Minister is a little pig headed…’
Cool as -, Thatcher replies, ‘Would you tell me who has stopped you in the street and said that – when, where?’
It becomes clear in the video below that, at best, a few like-minded friends of Negus’ may have expressed that view at a dinner party but it was nothing like the opinion of the ‘average man in the street’ that was implied by both the Negus and the Jones statements. 


In the end, the favourite, Alan Jones, won on many fronts. A horse owner and racing tragic himself, he got what he and his pals wanted from the Opera House as politicians of every stripe bowed to his wishes not wanting to fight a battle not worth winning.
There was, of course, a backlash. Petitions on garnered around 360,000 signatures. And a small group of protesters tried to disrupt the Everest video display on the sails. 
There was, however, no counter protest from those in favour. It is hard to imagine a rabid mob chanting:
What do we want? Ads for Horse Racing!
Where do we want ‘em?: On the Opera House sails!
When do we want ‘em?: Now!!!!
The worst of it was that the Chaser, in using the opportunity to promote their own brand, reportedly divulged Jones’ personal mobile number which, in my opinion, is a despicable act.
As for the Everest, the favourite, Redzel, won that too and all the publicity, good and bad, helped fill Royal Randwick to capacity.
As an aside: I’m told that Jones, Ray Hadley and others at 2GB missed out on seeing the race live as they had a prior engagement, attending the wedding of one of the station’s producers.
At the end of the day, Alan Jones had his name all over the media for around two weeks and his listeners felt like winners too. He’d won another round for them and for Struggle Street, sending the elites packing. 
How’s that for influence?

Peter Saxon