What five years’ worth of radio data tells us about the industry: Adelaide

Mumbrella has been crunching five years’ worth of cumulative and average audience data from radio stations across the five metro cities. So what do the results show? In a fourth piece as part of this series, Zoe Samios investigates the Adelaide market.

Eight times a year, Mumbrella, other news outlets, and the radio industry, sit down in front of a series of numbers, which define the success of a respective station or program.

The results are dependent on respondents who complete a paper or online diary for GfK.

This week, Mumbrella is breaking down some of the GfK’s findings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth between the years of 2014 and 2018.

In each graph sits a breakdown of five years’ worth of total average audience, average audience in the breakfast time slot and average audience in the drive time slot. The graphs also break down five years’ worth of cumulative data.

Today, we look at Adelaide, a market known to some as a talent incubator. It’s the city with a community station, Fresh FM, birthing stars like Triple J’s Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton, and a strong grass-roots, community feel.

Until 2013, the Adelaide radio market had been fairly consistent and straightforward, led predominantly by Nova’s talk station, Fiveaa. But in 2013, after hosts breakfast host Keith Conlon, drive show co-host Graham Cornes and night announcer Bob Francis all left the station or retired, the industry changed completely.

From that point on Fiveaa entered its rebuild phase, which left room for ARN’s Mix 102.3 to take the lead. To an extent, FIVEaa is still recovering.

But in 2014 at ARN’s Mix, it was a different story. There hasn’t been much change to the station’s breakfast show in five years, which was run by Mark ‘Soda’ Soderstrom, Jason ‘Snowy’ Carter and Jodie Oddy. Carter is no longer on the show, but Soderstrom and Oddy continue to run the breakfast slot. Mix is often perceived as a safe buy for a media agency or client, thanks to its consistent ratings.

The five years’ worth of data shows a lot of fluctuation with cumulative audience and average audience, but the figures are more or less the same.

It’s worth noting once again, average audience takes into account ‘how much’ listening I did, whereas cumulative audience takes into account ‘whether I listened at least once or not’. This means cumulative audience will always be bigger than average audience.

With that in mind, cumulative audience for the station has sat between 300,000 and 350,000 across the five years. Average audience has fallen between 24,000 and 16,000 across the five years.

Most of the fluctuation came in 2016, with a number of listeners falling off in the middle of the year.

But overall, the station has remained healthy, a sign that a consistent breakfast show can pay off. The arrival of the Kiis network’s drive show hosts, Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw, appear to be well received in the market.

The pair delivered a spike in drive cumulative audience upon arrival, climbed from 149,000 at the end 2017 to 173,000 in survey one. Similarly, average audience climbed as high as 24,000 in 2018, before falling off to 18,000 by survey eight. The growth in average audience for drive was the highest result since 2015.

One of the highest performing stations in terms of cumulative audience is Nova 91.9. Since 2012, Nova’s airwaves have been filled with the voices of Dylan Lewis and Shane Lowe and in 2016, the pair were joined by Hayley Pearson. In the last five years, it has kept its cumulative audience above 300,000, despite a slight fall off in average audience. The result is a combination of the efforts of the Adelaide team, with a consistent breakfast show and drive show hosts Kate Ritchie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold.

In 2019, a lot could change, given Lowe announced his departure from the station in October last year, and rival Hit 107, is focusing on an older and more mature audience in breakfast.

Hit 107, previously known as SA FM, has been less consistent. The station, which rebranded at the end of 2014, has just made its third change to breakfast in five years, and is weathering a tweak to music format, which it made last year.

When Hit107 breakfast show was first established in 2014, the show kicked off with Amos Gill and Dani Pola. Cat Lynch joined the station in mid 2015 and Angus O’Loughlin – who was previously a night time Hit hosts with Emma Freedman – came on board in 2016. But all three were axed at the end of the last year, with Hit Network’s head of content, Gemma Fordham, citing a change in audience shift.

Rebecca Morse and Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello are hosting the show this year, a move that could pay off for Nova in the long-run, given the change in music format puts Hit Network’s music more in line with Mix’s. For both Morse and Costello, it’s a return to the station. But it also marks a move away from Hit Network’s focus on a younger audience, leaving Nova as one of the only station’s focusing on the under 35s.

Despite the changes to breakfast, cumulative and average audience has shown little fluctuation in five years. The worst numbers of five years came at the end of 2014 and early 2015, with cumulative audience – which usually sits around 230,000 – falling to 202,000 in survey two of 2015 for the station. Cumulative audience for breakfast specifically fell as low as 104,000 in survey one of 2015. Average audience similarly suffered. But by the back end of 2015, things started to recover, and a lot of growth came in drive.

This year will prove testing for the station with a new breakfast show and an adjustment to the change in audience. It could also impact on Mix’s solid audience.

Over at Southern Cross Austereo’s other station, Triple M, there have been no talent changes in breakfast for five years, and there won’t be for at least another three. Last year, breakfast hosts Mark Ricciuto and Chris Dittmar renewed their contracts. The pair moved to breakfast in June 2014 as part of the station’s attempt to move off the bottom of Adelaide’s commercial radio ratings.

Breakfast stars over at Triple M have been consistent over the last five years

While the station does not have the high cumulative audiences of a Mix or Nova, the decision by Triple M to move the pair appears to have paid off. When ‘Roo’ and ‘Ditz’ first joined Triple M breakfast, cumulative audience was 80,000 and average audience was at 10,000. At the end of 2018, those numbers are 107,000 and 13,000 respectively. A part of that growth could be attributed to the fact the pair were previously on drive in Adelaide, meaning an audience followed them to breakfast.

The numbers for Triple M breakfast suggest sport is still a very important component of breakfast for Adelaide listeners. Ricciuto, a previous AFL star, and Dittmar, a sports commentator, have had a heavy focus on the AFL, just like Triple M Melbourne. However in the last few months, Triple M has moved its focus to comedy in other markets, like Sydney.

One of Triple M’s other big moves in 2018, as outlined in the last year, was the decision to run a national drive show with Mick Molloy and Jane Kennedy does not appear to have heavily affected the ratings in the last year. But overall, the station is up significantly from early 2014, based on both average audience and cumulative audience figures.

Like other markets, ABC 891 has gradually slipped.

Data shows that the number of people ‘trialling’ the station has significantly reduced. In survey one of 2014, cumulative audience was at 236,000. That same number, as of survey eight 2018, is 169,000 – a five year low. Average audience has not dropped as significantly, suggesting most of the listeners who did listen five years ago have stayed. It does not look as though there is one particular cause for the decline of ABC numbers. Rather, it a steady decline year on year suggesting the audience is shifting little by little.

But the exit of long-standing breakfast radio host, Matthew Abraham, does not appear to have significantly affected breakfast ratings in the last year. Abraham and Bevan spent more than 15 years together on air, before Abraham left the show in mid 2017. Weeks later it was announced Bevan would work with Ali Clarke as part of a joint breakfast and mornings broadcast.

The last year of decline has been no different to 2017, when the audience fell from 135,000 in survey one to 111,000. In fact, ABC breakfast ended the year with a cumulative audience of 114,000, and average audience was up from 27,000 at the end of 2017 to 31,000 in survey eight of 2018, suggesting listeners may have adjusted to the new breakfast show. Another year of Clarke and Bevan will provide more insight as to whether the lineup works.

But what about Triple J?

The station’s two-year-old breakfast show with Harvey and Stapleton has a certain level of significance in the Adelaide market. Harvey and Stapleton are Adelaide locals, starting out on community radio station Fresh FM. When they replaced Matt Okine and Alex Dyson, there was a significant spike in Triple J’s breakfast cumulative audience, jumping from 75,000 at survey eight of 2016, to 110,000 by survey one of 2017. Similarly, average audience rose from 12,000 to 18,000. Since then the numbers have come off a bit, but from a cumulative audience, the numbers are some of the highest in five years. Average audience has come off a bit, suggesting the average time per quarter hour spent listening in less than in previous years.

Looking at the station as a whole, cumulative audience has fluctuated greatly over the last five years, but the station’s results are much more consistent from 2017. Average audience has remained fairly stagnant.

This is the fourth feature as part of this series. Tomorrow, Mumbrella will be looking at five years’ worth of radio data on the Perth market. 

See the other markets so far:


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