Dave Cameron on persisting with the lineups and SCA’s content creation mindset

Ahead of a new year in radio, Southern Cross Austereo's chief content officer, Dave Cameron speaks to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan about consistency being the key to success, why 2021 might not have been the year for new shows, converting podcast audiences back to radio and how the network is building for the future with its cross-platform approach.

After a whirlwind year for radio in 2021, Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) chief content officer, Dave Cameron is staying patient and committed to the existing radio lineup.

“To be honest, it probably wasn’t a year for the launch of new shows in hindsight, but we could never have had that foresight to know what a bumpy year it would’ve been through lockdowns.”

While the network continues to grow last year’s new shows, it will also be nurturing new line ups and formats this year, Triple M in particular dealing with changes from the departed Mick Molloy and Lawrence Mooney, the latter being under clouded circumstances.

In 2022, with commutes back on the cards, kids back at school and audiences back on the roads, this year will be a more accurate test, rather than the year that was not so kind to some of SCA’s newer line ups.

He says the network is treating last year’s new shows as still being in their first as a result.

“The main benefactors of last year were news stations, and also stations that had their lineups consistent for a long period of time.”

The 2Day FM breakfast team are “still in their first year”

Cameron told Mumbrella early last year that changing the line ups again was “no longer an option”, and this year he is doubling down on that notion, saying that success only comes through consistency.

“You’ve got two decisions to make at the end of every year. Do you persist with a show and feel like it’s had its greatest opportunity to build an audience. Or has it not had its greatest opportunity to build an audience, which is where I sat last year.”

2Day FM’s breakfast line up of Hughsey, Ed and Erin finished with a less-than-ideal 2.7% share in ratings eight for the year in 2021, but Cameron says that it was pretty clear last year that there is “no new show that’s coming in that would’ve had its greatest chance of establishing an audience in a market that was missing for half the year”.

“You have to have a look at the success of our competitors and kudos to them, but they’re successful because been in the market for a long time, doing the same thing for a long time and are consistent,” he says. “And that is the nature of radio building loyalty to brands over a long period of time.”

“So what I take out of that is if you want us to be successful, be consistent.”

Cameron says for now the strategy of the still-new breakfast line-up is “not putting ourselves in the way” of shows like the established Kyle and Jackie O, and trying to shift an audience that is “loyally bolted on”.

The target is not to compete with the likes of Kyle and Jackie O

Though he says that “in fairness, 2Day probably cops a fair bit, in terms of industry attention, rightly or wrongly. It’s just what happens”.

“I think when you have a look at every company, every one has kind of got a version of that. KIIS Melbourne has probably had as many breakfast shows as 2Day in Sydney has over the last six or seven years.”

He says that the result of this means the chopping and changing has stopped, and that for all these reasons, both the Triple M and Hit Networks are committed to building audiences across the year.

The local approach

Cameron implemented a local line up across each of the main markets on Triple M for 2022, replacing the recently departed national drive show host Mick Molloy.

He believes that all local programming “from dawn to dusk” provides a unique opportunity for the network, and even what he sees as a “competitive advantage” going forward.

The approach “sets us apart from everyone else, including our other network”, he says, taking learnings from last year again, “where almost every state was its own country”.

“We looked at that and thought what could we do that is different from everyone else?”

So far, he says while it is hard to know how things are tracking, only three to four weeks into survey one, there have been some “good steps” taken.

On surveys, heavy emphasis was placed on the performance of SCA’s programming last year, as mentioned, in a year that benefitted talkback.

Triple M has taken things local in replacing Mick Molloy

Cameron says that while surveys are an important measure for linear consumption, because it is the metric agencies are trading on, “it’s not the be-all and end-all of the success of a show, brand or piece of content”.

“We look at a whole bunch of success measures now, in terms of downloads, in terms of unique audience, in terms of shareable content out of a show, and then radio ratings as well is obviously a part of that. But all of those form the overall view of the success or otherwise of a show.”

He is however “pleased that the measurement is being tweaked” to integrate some digital data, passive listening and e-diaries, but says it is certainly not the only measure of success “for us, by any stretch”.

Measuring total audience and the future of SCA

2021 was a big year for podcasts, with SCA’s Listnr having 2.3 million listeners across the month of December to close out a strong year.

Cameron says that podcasting “took off” last year, but what he and his team found interesting was the popularity of radio content on demand “really flying”.

“While we’re still growing Marty Sheargold’s radio ratings audience, it was actually one of the biggest podcasts that we launched now last year. Ironically, we didn’t aim for it to be our biggest podcast of the year, but it almost was.”

He says the “interesting challenge” at hand now is having to re-convert the podcast audience Sheargold has built “back to the radio at breakfast time”.

This plays into the larger strategy at SCA, where Cameron says the company is moving towards a “content creation” focus.

“When we talk about Carrie and Tommy we’re talking about the three to six audience, but we’re also talking about the on-demand audience, the social audience, and the volume of content they put up on TikTok and Instagram. All of the content we’re creating every day to put up on different platforms.”

“We see the future of all of our big shows as more 24/7 brands that are being consumed in all different ways, shapes, and sizes.”

Chatfield, an example of SCA’s total audience approach

He says it is “absolutely our intention” when SCA launches shows, to have a cross-platform audience that is engaging with the content in their own way. He points to Abbie Chatfield as an example, with an already big podcast fan base, now coming to the Hit Network with her new show “Hot Nights”. 

He says the podcast audience finding out about the radio show, and vice versa means “you’re kind of taking the audience on a bit of a journey”.

“At the moment, our ambition is to become a market-leading audio destination for Australians.”

When asked about Listnr’s role in becoming that market-leading destination, he says the platform is “pivotal” in being part of the transformation, putting digital right at the centre.

“It is very different to other platforms, that to some degree are a bit of a vending machine for other people’s content.”

“That’s not our strategy,” he says. “We pride ourselves on working on building the best content, co-producing content or forming great partnerships with content creators.”

Finally, Cameron says the Steve Price venture on Listnr has been “a really interesting dabble” so far, in trying to see if it can appeal to a different audience segmentation to what the main broadcast networks can appeal to.

“We don’t have a view either way,” he says in terms of its success to far. “Except to say its a great test and learning for us, putting a foot in the news and opinion camp from a digital platform point of view.”


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