With the latest results now in, the trends are clear for the 18 months of covid affected surveys in Australia.
During Covid outbreaks people turn to talk for more information. When the outbreaks subside then audiences resume their normal listening patterns, mixing more music back into their radio consumption habits.
The trends are particularly evident in the breakfast and morning timeslots. If you are in lockdown you spend more time over your weetbix and your radio without the need to rush to catch the bus to work. You probably take a morning tea break, leaving the spare bedroom office conversion to stroll down the hall to your kitchen just in time to make a coffee and listen to the Premier’s morning media conference. In lockdown time spent listening to talk increases.
In Melbourne over the past 18 months, where there have been prolonged periods of lockdown and regular mid-morning media conferences about infection numbers, news talk stations have increased audience in breakfast and mornings.
In Sydney, where covid infections tapered off earlier in the year, talk stations eased back and music stations returned to their usual ratings patterns, most notably with Kyle and Jackie at KIIS grabbing top position last survey. But the Sydney lockdowns have grown tougher every week since survey 4 as the Premier progressively tightened restrictions to try, so far unsuccessfully, to bring the infection numbers down.
Speaking to Nine Radio’s Greg Byrnes just after the results were released, radioinfo asked him: What part do you think the latest lockdowns in those two cities play in the results today?
“Probably different in both cities… 3AW remains very strong and steady. 2GB is again strong number one, breakfast is a strong number one, Hadley’s a strong number one… It’s a wonderful position for Nine Radio to be in, in the toughest markets in the country.
“Lockdowns have had a different effect in all of our stations… in Sydney it is 70 odd days of lockdown. Melbourne is 220. It’s different again in Brisbane… 4BC had a nice rise.
“That gets back to our live and local station focus. Each station sounds different because each city is different.”
Nova’s Paul Jackson says that people locked down at home are “hanging on every word” of press conferences to find out what is happening and are “going back to talkback radio” at this time of lockdowns. He thinks music formats will re-emerge when covid vaccinations increase and infection numbers go down.
There have been some lockdowns in Perth during the past 18 months, including during this survey, but they have been short and infection numbers have remained low. Restrictions on movements and gatherings have been relatively minor compared with other Australian cities, so there has been less need for audiences to follow the moving daily numbers and track the latest rules and restrictions. Their commute and their listening habits are relatively normal.
While eastern state audiences are faced with empty stadiums in the lead up to footy finals season, western staters are enjoying a day at the footy without masks. While Sydney and Melbourne audiences are locked in and working from home, listening to the radio while they do so, Perth audiences are still out and about with little change to their media consumption habits. Adelaide and Brisbane sit somewhere in between.
ARN’s Duncan Campbell says we’re seeing a big ratings difference this time around, compared with last time in Melbourne. “We’re obviously seeing an impact of the pandemic… 2GB and the ABC in Sydney benefited quite nicely… The pandemic, which is not a normal event, has disrupted listening patterns.
“You can see the effects of the pandemic to varying degrees as you work through the markets. Less impact in Perth and Brisbane, a little bit of an impact in Adelaide… that will all wash out once we farewell lockdowns at some point.”
Our exclusive radioinfo breakfast graphs below tell the story for the past 18 months. In the months when Covid was less threatening talk stations dipped, but when outbreaks occured, then station breakfast numbers went up. You can see the whole overall station graphs in our earlier report on the raw data.
We use the designated GfK/CRA breakfast time period (0530-0900), some stations’ breakfast shifts do not exactly coincide with the official breakfast survey timeslot. Note: some surveys were cancelled in 2020.
Our main graphic shows a masked Pure digital radio. When scanning the stations for the best graphics on digital radio we have awarded the prize to 2GB for excellent graphics which change appropriately for the content, especially during news bulletins where the graphics match the stories.
Our second prize for great digital radio graphics goes to the ABC stations Jazz and Country, which show album art that syncs to the song playing. Text graphics for both 2GB and ABC are in sync with the content.
Cumes: Kyle & Jackie O still have the numbers, but Sammy J is just behind
Digital: Coles radio retains its position on the top shelf
Marketing & PR: Spin Cycle
Previous survey results here.