Want Ratings Success? The Older Alternative
August 18, 2015
Interesting times in Australia, where ratings for their digital-only stations have been released for the very first time. (Just so we're clear: 'Digital' in this context is digital broadcasting received through an antenna, using the DAB+ system.)
The number one digital commercial service in most capital cities in Australia is Triple M Classic Rock - an older-skewed version of the main Triple M Rock/Sport service. I understand that of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's digital radio services in Australia, Double J is the most popular - an older-skewed version of the main Triple J Top40/Alternative service.
In Norway, NRK P1+ is the digital market leader - an older-skewed version of the P1 music station. In the UK, the commercial digital market leader is Absolute 80s - an older-skewed version of the Absolute Radio rock/pop service.
I think I can see a pattern. To quote an Australian light entertainer's catchphrase: "Can you tell what it is yet?"
It would seem relatively simple to add an older-skewed service that maintains the main station branding and ethos. Clearly it can be kick-started musically by a simple segmentation of a station's music log based on release date. You don't need a new rosta of presenters either, since you can share them between brands (sparingly voicetracking on the older-skew channel).
This also helps, clearly, with keeping a younger station fresh. If there's a clear migration path for older, out-of-demo listeners to stay with the brand and personalities they know, you'll not lose them, and there's less concern about alienating them with change on the main service.
If you do a mix of sport and music, as Triple M does, it's now easier not to lose those who just wanted some music, by cross-promoting the Classic Rock service before a block of sports programming, too.
Commercially, too, these services make sense. Certainly in the UK's case, Absolute Radio is sold as a network sell, with Absolute 80s being included. Commercially, it doesn't matter whether a listener is with the main service, or with the 80s offshoot. Australia's DAB+ services have grown to an extent that they're now being sold alongside the FM stations too.
In terms of growing radio station brands, additional, older-skewed, brand extensions appear to make a ton of sense. And now that more research is in, it's clear that they're ratings successes too.
That said, the very strange - to me - thing about the Australian DAB+ figures is that they also show a surprising #2 in the charts: Coles Radio. That's an instore radio station (Coles is a large supermarket similar to Walmart or Tesco), and it's produced for them by Australia's Nova Entertainment, and broadcast over DAB+ and online. It promises "a contemporary music mix with some great favorites." An in-store radio station so good that people keep listening at home and in the car? Wow. Bloody amazing, Australia!