Triple J in 2020: New lineups, a more positive audience and Hottest 100 of the Decade

Triple J achieved its highest ever reach in the final radio ratings survey of 2019, hitting 2.087m metro listeners per week. Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston speaks with Triple J content director Ollie Wards to find out how the radio station is preparing for the first survey of 2020 and what its new lineup will mean for ratings.

2019 was a good year for Triple J. The radio station achieved its highest ever reach, beating a figure previously set in 2017, its highest reach in Sydney and Brisbane and great results for some of its lineup, including outgoing breakfast duo Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton.

The pair, who moved into the slot from community radio in 2017, ended on a high, beating the ratings of previous breakfast duo Matt Okine and Alex Dyson.

But now Harvey and Stapleton are back on their home soil of Adelaide, in the breakfast slot for Nova 91.9, and Sally Coleman and Erica Mallett are filling the airwaves from 6am to 9am.

Triple J content director Ollie Wards is incredibly happy with how the station performed in 2019

Coming off the back of a big 2019 puts the station in a great position, content director Ollie Wards tells me, because traditionally the first survey of the year is Triple J’s biggest. Survey one covers the end of January through February, a big time for Triple J thanks to the Hottest 100 ranking that the station runs every year.

“We’re really stoked with the end of a massive year for us. They aren’t just the highest numbers that we’ve had, they’re also quite unusual for this time of year for us, traditionally our biggest survey of the year is the first, around the Hottest 100 and coming out of summer, so to see it at the end of the year rather than the start is pretty exciting,” Wards tells me.

“Everyone knows we’ve had a few changes, we’ve lost some long-serving staff, there were a lot of people chatting about our presenters that were leaving, but there’s also a lot of excitement around our incoming team and these numbers give them a really good start for the new tenure of our Triple J hosts.”

There was a big changing of the guards at Triple J towards the end of 2019. Harvey and Stapleton went first, followed by long-serving talent Linda Marigliano, Gen Fricker and Tom Tilley. Early in 2020, Veronica Milsom also announced she would be leaving the station. While Stapleton and Harvey had been very public faces of the brand for just two years, Marigliano and Tilley have both been with the station since 2007 and Fricker first appeared on the station in 2012. Talent changeovers can be tough, especially in radio, presenting either a big opportunity or becoming very detrimental for the brand.

The new breakfast presenters, Coleman and Mallett, however, aren’t new to the Triple J audience. They’ve filled in across the board over the past three years, taking on Breakfast, Drive, Good Nights, The Hip Hop Show, House Party and Summer Arvos, before moving into Weekend Arvos in 2018. The pair also aren’t comedians, they’re musicians who perform under the name Coda Conduct. It’s the first time musicians have been in the breakfast slot since 2009 and it might be the point of difference the audience needs to embrace the duo. They’re also the first female duo to fill the slot.

Triple J audiences are welcoming Sally and Erica says Wards

The Triple J audience has been incredibly receptive so far, says Wards, something he thinks they’ve learnt since the change from Okine and Dyson to Stapleton and Harvey.

“We’ve seen an interesting shift in the audience commentary on Facebook, when we announced the change. It used to be ‘Oh no we can’t believe this, I’m not going to like these new people’, but it’s shifted to a place of ‘It was great to see you guys and thanks for all your work, we’re looking forward to getting to know the new team’.

“I really think our audience has had a shift, they learned from the last breakfast change. It’s been amazing to see that the audience understands now what we’re talking about, it’s about giving it time, it takes a while to become friends with somebody and you just have to lean into that.”

The other incoming hosts also aren’t new to Triple J, having filled in in various spots across the lineup. Michael Hing, who will be replacing Milsom in the Drive slot alongside Lewis Hobba is also a regular fill-in. These changes are just the way radio works, Wards tells me, and you have to roll with the punches.

He also stresses that nobody knows the audience like the people in the Triple J offices. No matter what the chatter on social media or in the comments section might be, what actually matters is what’s reflected by the conversations Triple J is having day to day.

“We’re talking to the audience every day, we measure what people are thinking, we get anecdotal evidence, we have various ways of telling if someone is connecting with the audience. It’s pretty normal that there’s a period where people are getting to know the presenters, we’ve seen that in recent years, that’s just reflective of the intimacy of radio as a medium.

“The presenters can feel like mates sometimes and when they leave it can be hard. Reading the messages for Tom, Gen and Linda when they left, it was clear they’ve become a part of people’s lives. Especially in drive or breakfast, people listen for a specific period when they’re going to work, school or uni, and they become friends with the people on the radio.

“But the new presenters, they’ve been given such a good springboard going into the new year, and we’re already seeing great results for them. It’s a lot of new faces, but they’re familiar at the same time.”

The new Triple J is aimed at broadening the station’s commitment to reflecting its audience

Alongside pleasing the Triple J audience, there’s also the importance of diversity, something the new lineup has clearly considered. But there’s always more work to be done, says Wards, and it’s something the station is very aware of.

“There’s a huge diversity in our audience and a huge diversity in Australia, so it’s a responsibility we have to reflect that, and to reflect young Australians and the issues and the culture back to them. We can only do that with a diverse presenting lineup that matches our audience. We’re proud to be in the place we are, but there’s always more work to do. At the end of the day we’re looking for people who can connect with young Australians and reflect them back to themselves.”

With the January Hottest 100 bringing in the most votes of a Hottest 100 to date and the Hottest 100 of the Decade on the horizon, March’s survey one will be a telling one for Triple J. The initial signs have been good for the station and Wards says the team are getting a lot of good feedback for the new lineup, but the proof will be in the numbers.

“The start of the year is normally our biggest survey, so hopefully there are big things to come.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.