Missed it by ‘that’ much…

Jonesy and Amanda talk to Peter Saxon about the one that got away – and why Mrs Jones listens to 2Day.

A couple of months ago I committed the cardinal sin of recording interviews. I spent 25 minutes with WSFM’s Jonesy and Amanda only to come away with dead air. It was at one of those lunches that ARN hosts from time to time for people in the media they like. They invited me anyway.

I was chatting to someone from The Australian when Jonesy and Amanda sat down opposite and joined the conversation.

Seizing the moment, I whipped out the iPhone and activated the recorder app. Instantly, the image of a professional looking mic and a big VU meter appeared on screen and the red band at the top throbbed. The affect of this virtual open mic on J & A was immediate, spurring them to heightened levels of animation.

Then the phone rang. It was my wife. I rejected her (and paid for that later) and carried on, VU meter bouncing away merrily.

By the time the duo had to pull the plug to attend other engagements, I felt I had more than enough to satisfy our readers at radioinfo – until I realised that the bouncing VU meter had lied. There was no actual recording going on.

Lesson: Always activate Airplane Mode before recording. And if you do get a call,  when its over, press the record button again and make sure the red band on top is throbbing and showing the time lapse.

After sheepish apologies and much grovelling it took me over two months to re-schedule an interview. Much had changed in that time.

Back in July at that lunch, held soon after Survey Four, J & A had posted their best ever survey result in breakfast – an 8.7, just 0.8 behind 2Day-FM’s Kyle and Jackie O. At the time Amanda Keller was laid back and philosophical about the results, saying of Brendan Jones, He’s terribly terribly competitive.” Jonesy, with nostrils flared, had seen the whites of their eyes and was ready for battle. He smelled blood. Turned out to be his own.

Now, two surveys down the track, J & A have dropped back to a 7.4 share while K & J have kicked away to a 12.7, opening up a massive lead of 5.3.

So close two months ago and so far now. I wondered how best to gently broach what I thought would be a touchy subject.

I needn’t have worried, though. I’d barely sat down before Jonesy started into a fishermans’ lament about the one that got away. Oh you should have heard the swearing. I said to anyone who cared to listen, ‘we need to market this show in survey 6,” he says.

“Speaking freely”…  Amanda chimes in as she looks over to Jonesy, “should we?” He nods and she continues, “We’re only bosses of what we do on air, so we can’t control this (marketing) stuff, but we should have capitalised on being so close. We should have put billboards out then because we were getting some media people saying, ‘look how close they are to Kyle and Jackie O. It’s not just a two horse race.’ We were getting a lot of press. And that’s when we should have gone BAM. But it didn’t happen. We’ve got a billboard campaign now, just started a couple of weeks ago.”

Jonesy says, “We haven’t been on TV as far as the radio show’s concerned for a long time. Of course, I understand marketing is expensive. It is quite easy for us to sit here and say if we had marketing we would have done well. But it would have been quite a big gamble as well because it’s not cheap, it’s a couple of hundred thousand dollars that you’ve got to pay.”

Historically, survey six has always produced a poor result for J & A, “We took a two point tanking last year as well,” says Amanda.

In fact, last year’s survey six yielded a 5.8 for the pair.

Jonesy: So this time last year if you said to me you’ll be on 7.4 next year, I would have gone ‘Yes, I’ll take that!’  because on 5.8, Triple M were beating us. I remember that book last year was really bad. But we’ll come back in the next book, unfortunately the gap between us and Kyle and Jackie O now is insurmountable.

Amanda: It’s like when you lose an election you lose so many seats you have to have three elections to get it back.

Jonesy: Their marketing campaign in the last two books was huge. And they thought we were going to get them so they did what typical Austereo does, they just threw everything behind keeping their show #1.

For them to get to a 12…God those figures haven’t been seen since Wendy Harmer was there. So, it’s a pretty good result for them.

I guess you could look at it like: this time last year we were a 5.8, now we’re a 7.4. And you start to believe that you can actually do it. That was the thing. I just feel like we lost a bit of momentum.

Amanda: The show is no different to how it was when we were rating better, the show was the same.

Jonesy: What people forget with radio ratings, because everyone goes ‘oooh, you lost 60 thousand listeners. We didn’t actually lose 60 thousand, it was 60 thousand listeners that they didn’t have.

Amanda: You make a good point. If the books went to the same people each time and they say ‘I don’t like them anymore’, that’s when you say you’ve lost 60 thousand. But that’s not how the ratings work. The books go to different people each time and so it is a very strange way to compare surveys.

When you’re doing well you go ‘what a great rating system’ when you drop off you say ‘what a flawed rating system’

And to be honest we’re more concerned about the 10 plus, which is the overall rating. We’re still #1 in our target demographic (12.8 share of 40-54’s) so that’s what our sales people and our bosses want.

Jonesy: See, 2Day is quite broad, it plays a lot of contemporary hit radio – got a good breakfast show. My wife listens to Kyle and Jackie O because she likes new music. She doesn’t like old music and she’s like 44. You look at their 10-17 figures, They’re amazing, they’re huge figures.

And sure as Alan Jones has huge figures in 60+, we don’t really have huge figures in anything. Our target demo 40-54. we do well in, but like we’re only I think 2Day’s only a point behind us or something. It’s not that far away in our target demographic when if you compare say 10-17’s we’re they’re rating 40 and we’re rating about a six, you know what I mean and that’s their target demographic. We’re doing, I dont know, i’m trying to look at a demographic where why can’t we have in 40-54 have, say, a 40 share?

Amanda: Because our audience is also split between more stations. That’s why we have a big news service, people want information as they get older. So we’re trying to give them music, personality driven shows, a breakfast show plus a new service. But that’s what AM’s doing. We have more competition I think in our age group than maybe they (2Day) do.

radioinfo: As I understand it, smoothfm is also vying for that 40-54 audience.

Amanda: If they only ever want to be 3 points, seems that that brand will only ever be 3 or 4 ratings points, those points have got to come from somewhere. Let’s just hope they don’t all come from us.

radioinfo: Will you bounce back?

Jonesy: We had the wind knocked out of our sails with that dip but I don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. It’s one of those things, we were just so close, I could feel it.

Tomorrow, in Part Two, Jonsey talks about the imbalance between he and Amanda and pays out on the former Austereo PD that cut him out of the picture. Amanda tells about her embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in Townsville.





Peter Saxon