The curse of the AFR, and radio changes in Sydney

Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck's exit will shake up Sydney's radio market, and who'd want to anger the gods by topping an AFR Power List?

Welcome to Unmade, written at Sisters Beach, Tasmania on Saturday morning.

Happy Frugal Fun Day.

Three things today. I’m asking you to help me track how you think Unmade is going so far. Dr Spin has been in touch again. Before we get to those, a quick thought on the Sydney radio market...

Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck bow out

Yesterday’s news that Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck will be leaving their breakfast slot on ABC Sydney creates some interesting dynamics.

In the short term, programs often get a lift in audience when listeners tune in to hear departures. With the duo on air until December, I wonder whether they’ll finally get to top the ratings.

At the moment, the pair are breathing down the neck of Ben Fordham on 2GB. In the 5.30am to 9am slot, Fordham had a 16.8 per cent share in the most recent set of ratings, while Buck and Harmer were on 14 per cent. That was nearly two share points ahead of the Kyle & Jackie O Show, which is the top rating FM program.

The announcement on their departure was noticeably vague about their reasons. Buck talked about travelling, and Harmer alluded to helping her son with a startup.

I wonder whether Harmer would contemplate a return to commercial radio or some other audio venture. From 1993, she spent 11 years successfully co-hosting 2Day FM’s The Morning Crew.

The major question about that though would be where she would fit. With the exception of right-leaning (which Harmer is not) talk station 2GB, Sydney commercial radio mainly targets younger audiences. If Wikipedia is correct, Harmer is 65. Yet it seems crazy to think that somebody of her talent and experience would not have a broadcasting (or maybe streaming?) gig somewhere if she wanted one.

I suspect there’s more afoot than anybody is letting on at present.

The change also has the potential to alter the dynamic among the commercial stations. Some of Harmer and Buck’s audience will be up for grabs.

Checking in

A while back, I was thinking about things I wished I’d done in the early days of Mumbrella.

That included relatively trivial things like setting up a seperate newsdesk email address from the beginning, so that when colleagues joined and I stepped back from the day-to-day agenda, I wasn’t constantly needing to forward things to them

And I also wished I’d started tracking what our audience thought of us from the start. It wasn’t quite net promoter score that I had in mind. For me, the key attribute was whether readers believed that Mumbrella “tells it like it is”.

That captured the key characteristic - of being both well informed, and also willing to say it - that I wanted for Mumbrella.

But NPS has its place, particularly when building an audience by word of mouth, which is what I am to do with Unmade this time round.

So I’ve decided to attempt to track that, to hopefully chart how Unmade’s reputation evolves. I plan to do so once a quarter.

I suspect the platforms I use to ask the question will evolve. As you’ll see from the link I’m about to ask you to click, I landed on Qualtrics in my half an hour of research into survey tools this morning. First of all, I played with Survey Monkey, before giving up in annoyance at the various asshole design bait-and-switch tactics to nudge a user from a basic to paid account.

So I am asking that traditional, simple NPS question of how likely you would be to recommend Unmade to a colleague.

Please do so via this link.

It’s just the one question. Please and thank you.

Dr Spin: The curse of the AFR

Dr Spin writes:

There’s a long-running celebrity gossip magazine in the UK called Hello. It specialises in soft, paid for photoshoots with famous folk, showing off their homes and proclaiming their love for their partners.

Thanks to the long lead times of those magazines, almost like clockwork, as soon as those happy couples appear in Hello, they break up. So frequently does it happen, that it’s known as the Curse of Hello.

Australia’s political set must be starting to wonder whether there’s a similar curse of the Australian Financial Review, particularly when it comes to the publication’s annual Power List.

Back in 2015, the AFR Power List became an embarrassment for the paper when Malcolm Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott 12 days before the pullout hit the streets. Unfortunately, Fairfax’s management was too tight to reprint the mag, so it arrived with readers as Abbott still at number one, and the then political editor Laura Tingle predicting that Abbott would survive until the next election.

There is also simply the AFR feature that fails to stand the test of time.

Barely a day goes past on Twitter without somebody sharing the AFR Magazine’s hagiographic cover profile of NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, which hit the streets shortly before NSW lost control of the Covid Delta outbreak that put much of the country back into lockdown.

And yesterday, the Curse of the AFR struck again.

This time, it only took a few hours.

The AFR’s 2021 power list featured a QR code on the print edition of the magazine, which then brought up a virtual cover, depending on which state the reader was located in. IN NSW, number one on the power list was Berejikilian.

And of course, it hit the streets on the day she resigned over a corruption investigation.

Still, Dr Spin is sure that the AFR team must have been mighty grateful that Berejikian didn’t depart a day earlier.

Time to let you go about your weekend.

Before you do, a reminder that this week, I launched a paid tier of Unmade. Thank you to everybody who has already signed up.

Get 20% off for 1 year

It’s an opportunity for you to support my efforts to provide independent analysis and commentary on the media and marketing industry.

Paid subscribers will also get additional content, including the forthcoming audio version of my book, Media Unmade when I launch the Unmade podcast. (You can still buy the written book format of course)

These supporters will also be the people with whom I share insights into Unmade’s publishing adventures. That will include subscriber numbers and that NPS score I asked you to participate in above.

And the best time to subscribe is, I’d contend, now.

The low annual price of $180 per year will go up soon enough. And until November, there’s a 20 per cent off on top of that, taking down the price to just $144 per year. That’s less than 40 cents per day.

Please do click on the bargain button below…

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As ever, I welcome your thoughts to, or via the comment button.

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For those in states with Monday off, have a great long weekend. For everyone else, have a great couple of days.


Tim Burrowes

Proprietor - Unmade