Not a normal radio ratings day

Locked down radio listeners stayed in bed in Sydney and Melbourne

Welcome to Unmade, written on a cold and overcast Friday morning at Sisters Beach, Tasmania, just before sunrise.

I’m glad to see the end of the week approaching. This week’s experiment of daily dawn starts to write the day’s newsletter has been more gruelling the I expected. With so much to do while still in startup mode, I simply ended up at my desk from dawn til dusk every day. Time to dial that back slightly, I reckon.

Still, it’s another experiment in the bag, as I begin to shape what this thing is. Next week you may just see (well, hear) my first podcast.

Today’s writing soundtrack: DJ Shadow - Endtroducing… I have flashbacks of being alone in the office in the early days of Mumbrella working late at night with DJ Shadow playing.

And happy World Egg Day. I hope you celebrate it in whatever way your belief system allows.

Welcome to yesterday’s new Unmade signups. Lots of fresh faces from Mamamia based on yesterday’s Unmade piece, and from the team and clients at Speed agency too. Yesterday I presented a Speed School session with Speed’s boss Ian Perrin on some of the key media trends I wrote about in my book Media Unmade.

I’m doing similar sessions with Streem next week (register here), and with Independent Media Agencies of Australia later in the month.

Time’s beginning to get away from me a bit, so I’m planning to pause the lunch and learns for a while, but if you’d like to get one in the diary for your agency or marketing team before I do (I don’t charge, by the way - I just want to make sure the messages of the book get out there), then please drop me a line at before the weekend.

And just as important, please do encourage a colleague to sign up to the newsletter. Word of mouth is the main way that Unmade is growing. And audience size is what will make this sustainable.

Breakfast listeners tune out

Yesterday saw the release of the sixth of the year’s eight radio ratings surveys. It was a week late because of difficulties collecting listener diaries during Sydney and Melbourne’s lockdowns.

One of the signals of the end of the ratings year approaching is thoughts turning to next year’s presenter lineups. That kicked off this week.

This morning, ABC Sydney revealed the replacement for Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck in their lengthy 6 to 10am breakfast slot. Afternoons host James Valentine will now host 6-9am, while Cassie McCullagh will now start an hour earlier and run from 9-11am. Josh Szeps will take Valentine’s old afternoon slot.

And yesterday’s Radio Today Tonight podcast included intriguing speculation about Australian Radio Network’s plans for next year, including the possibility of bringing talent from its iHeart podcasts stable onto mainstream radio; whether Dave Hughes might leave the struggling 2Day FM breakfast show to reunite with Kate Langbroek at ARN, and the possibility of the Kyle & Jackie O Show going live nationally. One of the three guesses may be true.

But first to the ratings, which covered July 11 to September 18.

One of the habits I’ve been getting into this year is to look more closely at the cumulative audience numbers. Unlike the percentage audience share, the numbers can move about more when listening habits are changed by things like lockdowns. The cumulative audience is how many people listened for at least eight minutes during a given week.

I’d suggest that changes in cume numbers explains a lot of the movement in Sydney and Melbourne this time.

Put simply, a lot of people stopped listening to music based breakfast radio.

In Sydney, the survey suggested that the market’s cumulative breakfast audience fell by 167,000 listeners, from 3.171m to 3.004m.

And in Melbourne the fall was even more drastic, with 264,000 fewer listeners to 3.081m between 5.30am and 9am.

With Sydney’s lockdown kicking off at the end of June and Melbourne’s at the start of August (which covered roughly half of the survey period), commuting habits reverted to those of much 2020.

It’s a fair assumption more people were staying in bed longer when they didn’t need to travel for work. And if they were turning on the radio at that time, it was purposefully, for information, rather than entertainment.

There were falls in evening drivetime too. Sydney saw its cumulative audience in the 4-7pm slot fall by 189,000 to 2.56m, while Melbourne’s fell by 155,000 to 2.94m.

Yet in overall audience terms across all time slots, Monday to Sunday, the audience barely moved, with cumes in Sydney stable on 4.5m, and in Melbourne steady on 4.6m. But the audience redistributed into daytime hours.

The result of these changes were jumps in the share of listening audiences for the talk stations, even if their actual number of listeners was only about the same.

So although 2GB’s Ben Fordham only improved his average audience fractionally by 11,000 listeners to an average listening audience of 146,000, his share leapt by two ratings points, to 18.8 per cent.

Similarly, Buck and Harmer, who were boasting to listeners this morning about their share of 15.7 per cent (up from 14 per cent) being the biggest anyone could remember, actually only saw their average audience increase by 9,000 listeners, to 122,000.

The biggest losers in the entertainment switchoff were Ryan Fitzgerald and Michael Wipfli on Nova Sydney who saw their average audience fall by 37 per cent, from 49,000 to just 31,000. They’re now on just a four per cent share.

It was a bad day all around for Nova Entertainment in the city. The Smooth FM breakfast slot with Bogart Torelli and Glenn Daniel also lost out, falling by 30 per cent from 50,000 listeners to 35,000.

It was a remarkably similar rout for Smooth FM in Melbourne, where Mike Perso and Jennifer Hansen experienced a fall from 51,000 average listeners to 35,000.

And yet, outside of the biggest two cities, it was a good day for Nova Entertainment.

Brisbane remains a Nova city, with the station moving ahead of 4KQ to lead the pack with a Monday to Sunday share of 11.7 per cent.

And in Perth - if that still counts itself as part of Australia - Nova overtook Mix 94.5 as top station with a Monday to Sunday share of 13.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, the best anecdote of radio ratings day came from Nine Radio’s content boss Greg Byrne. As Callum Jaspan revealed when we chatted in yesterday’s Mumbrellacast, in the hour after the Melbourne earthquake 30,000 people rang 3AW to ask what had happened. That’s one busy switchboard.

Dr Spin: You love to see it

Dr Spin writes:

Dr Spin has been watching with interest as comedian - or, investigative satirist, as he prefers to be known - Dan Ilic becomes a player in outdoor media.

His crowd funding project, to hire billboards apologising to delegates in Glasgow for Australia’s climate inaction, quickly exceeded his target of $12,500 and currently sits on more than $137,000. It’s now been expanded to campaigning billboards across Australia.

Based on the speed the funds have been coming in since the launch less than a fortnight ago, Ilic currently accounts for something approaching 1 per cent of Australia’s out of home advertising budget. That’s more than some media agencies.

The first billboard has now been posted. As Ilic put it last night on Twitter: “You love to see it”.

Still, there’s a way to go before Ilic overtakes Clive Palmer.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts to

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Have a great weekend.


Tim Burrowes

Proprietor - Unmade