Triple J's youth audience has fled. And no, it's (mostly) not the internet's fault - they've switched to commercial radio
Welcome to a Thursday morning edition of Unmade. Today we examine the way that over the last decade, Triple J’s target audience has drained away, and commercial radio has been the winner.
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When the Guardian published an in-depth feature on Monday morning exploring the question of whether the ABC’s youth station Triple J was losing its audience, the answer seemed obvious: Heard about a little thing called the internet? The kids are streaming everything these days.
Turns out, that’s not the problem. The kids are, in fact, giving up on the ABC and turning to commercial radio instead.
Whichever way one slices the data from the last decade, Triple J’s share of its target audience has collapsed. Let’s dig into the numbers.
First it’s worth making the point that the ABC’s stated target audience for Triple J is 18 to 24-year-olds. Along with the ABC’s local radio stations, its other networks Radio National, Classic FM and ABC NewsRadio all target over-40s.
Back in 2014 - which is the oldest ratings data available on the Commercial Radio Australia website - Triple J was doing a better job at serving that demographic.
According to the ratings survey for 2014, on average across the five metro capitals, about 137,000 18 to 24-year old were listening to radio stations in any given 15 minutes across the day.
That number has gone down since then. Even with the ability to listen to radio stations via streaming, the most recent survey, the fourth of 2022, suggests that only 113,000 18 to 24-year-olds are listening to the radio in the five metro capitals at any given time. That’s a drop of 17.5% which is itself a worry for the radio industry.
However, the fall for average listening to Triple J is much worse. Now, a much bigger proportion of that young listening audience is choosing commercial radio. In 2014, there were an average of 22,000 members of Triple J’s target audience listening at any given time. In the most recent survey in 2022, that had fallen to 10,000 - a fall of 55%.
As you can see from the graph we’ve created, there’s been no moment since the modern radio ratings survey began when fewer 18-to-24 year olds have been listening to Triple J.
In Adelaide, that light blue bar represents just 1,000 listeners - the lowest number in the ratings without recording a zero. Even in Sydney, just 2,000 18-to-24-years olds are estimated to be listening to Triple J at any given time - that’s a third of the number of 2014.
Back in 2014, 16.1% of 18 to 24 year olds listening to the radio across the five metro capitals were tuned to Triple J. Now the number is 8.8%
Another problem Triple J faces is that its actual audience has always skewed older than its target. Even in 2014, only 22% of the audience were aged 18-24.
That proportion has fallen by a third in the years since. Now only 14% of the triple J audience is in that age group.
Meanwhile, the proportion of listeners aged 25 to 39 has grown in the years since, to the point where it represents almost half of the listeners.
Last year’s infamous tweet from Triple J suggesting some of the audience had moved on after getting too old turns out not to be true.
It’s worth also being clear that the station is not closing the gap on other stations when we go outside the demographic either. There’s a not a single capital city where the network has improved its share.
In Sydney, Triple J’s overall audience share has slumped from 6% in 2014 to 4.3% in 2022. In Melbourne the fall has been from 4.2% to 3.9%. In Brisbane it’s dropped from 7.2% to 6.1%. In Adelaide the fall was from 8.1% to 5.1%. And in Perth the drop was from 9.7% to 6.3%.
From the outside at least, the management seems to be somewhat complacent. There seems to be no acknowledgement that there might just be a problem. The Guardian noted in its article that Triple J declined to comment for its article. I also invited the ABC to comment yesterday. It acknowledged my email but did not come back with a comment.
There’s another parallel. As I wrote back in June, audiences for the ABC’s flagship network Radio National are also collapsing.
Behind the scenes, I had a big response to that post from ABC staffers, frustrated that their bosses did not seem to recognise they had a problem, let along tackle it. Each time ratings come out, emails are sent out by the management cherrypicking whatever good news they can find and ignoring the rest - or that’s the perception of some of the staff anyway.
One issue for Radio National is that different parts of the organisation are allocated airtime, according to their specialty. The view is that this allocation is as-of-right, and quality doesn’t come into it. Some shows are good, and others are stale and boring. Because there’s no one person with the mandate to set standards for the station, nobody within the organisation has the power to get thing back on track, I was told. One of the questions the ABC didn’t respond to yesterday was whether this is an accurate summary of the management structure.
One level up, there’s similarly no controller of all of the ABC’s audio output who might begin to put the hard questions that are not currently not being asked, or to make changes needed to get the networks back on track.
Triple J is hugely important part of Australian culture. Hottest 100 is part of the fabric of summer, and across the year, new Australian music gets exposure that otherwise would not. And yet, there’s a sense that the innovation being showed by the musicians is not being reflected behind the scenes.
When it comes to listening habits, the world is moving faster than the ABC.
A mixed Wednesday on the Unmade Index
It was a mixed day on The Unmade Index of Australia’s ASX-listed media and marketing stocks.
Four companies were in positive territory, and three fell back, with the overall index slumping by 1.43% to just over 700.
Research player Pureprofile saw the biggest growth, up by 2.13%, while the Nine-aligned real estate platform Domain fell by nearly 3%, giving back some of the 9% gains it made the day before.
New media kit, who dat?
And finally, you get on with your Thursday, a reminder that Unmade will be taking advertising from the beginning of October. That’s why we’ve got the ad at the top of our page for a head of sales.
Inventory will initially be limited (and in some weeks limited to a single brand), so trade marketers looking to get a jump on their rivals might want to pounce now. If you’d like to see our media kit, please email my colleague Damian Francis at email@example.com
Have a great Thursday