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Leon Wratt on the state of radio, the importance of local voices and the emergence of new talent

The radio survey period always arrives as a massive explosion of excitement across the industry. Everyone is declared a winner and cold beverages are handed out like promotional freebies. And as MediaWorks group content director Leon Wratt sits down for a chat, he confirms the radio industry is still as enthusiastic as ever.

By StopPress Team | November 11, 2016 | Sponsored content

MediaWorks group content director Leon Wratt tends to smile broadly and frequently during radio reason season—and for good reason. Over the last few years, MediaWorks has had a very good story to tell advertisers about the performance of the radio brands during every survey.

Speaking to Wratt in the lead up to the latest results, he says his enthusiasm about the radio brands isn’t limited to a few good stories here and there but rather about the overall performance across the portfolio.

“For MediaWorks, it's obviously about our total market share,” he says. “There are always individual gains for brands, but the reach is definitely what advertisers are after. And my role is to make sure that that can stay as high as it possibly can and we can reach as many people as possible.”

He certainly seems to be doing a good job in this regard, with MediaWorks now reaching over 2.2 million listeners across all its brands, giving it a much greater share of overall audience than its competitor.

What's more is that MediaWorks brands have performed particularly well in the 25-54 demographic, claiming the top five slots in terms station share among music stations (The Rock, More FM, The Edge, The Sound and The Breeze).

  

At a time when audiences are being sliced and diced into increasingly tiny segments online, the traditional channels, which still serve up bulk audiences, seem somewhat antiquated by comparison. But Wratt warns against writing off the traditional channels so quickly, given that they still command enormous scale.

“Radio, TV and the internet are the top three things that people go to,” he says. “Radio reaches 3.2 million people, the internet is at 3.3 million, and TV is at around 3.4 million.”

These numbers are often quoted as a retort to those proclaiming the death of TV or radio in the face of competition from online alternatives, but Wratt says there’s more to the numbers than just their size.

“You know, where the 3.2 million and the 3.4 million are going in terms of radio and TV, because you have relatively defined choices,” he says.

“But the internet is infinite. Those people are everywhere, which makes it a real struggle from an advertiser's perspective to actually try and corral them into one mass. If you try and do that you have to think of spending a gazillion dollars on segmentation.”  

Wratt isn’t alone in this assertion. ANZ marketing director Astrud Burgess recently touched on a similar theme in an interview with NZ Marketing, advising marketers to always keep an eye on their reach numbers.

“When you read the offshore literature, there’s always a real focus on segmentation and targeting, and we just need to be careful in New Zealand,” Burgess says.

“I guess for me, the biggest watchout is to keep your focus on making sure you’re reaching enough people. You can do good campaigns on digital or social, but you’ve got to watch that reach number. Maybe if you’re a niche player it doesn’t matter as much, but I’m not a niche player.”

Wratt elaborates further on the strength of radio as a medium, saying that its influence also extends deep into the regions.

MediaWorks has radio broadcasters sitting all over the country, delivering shows that are geared specifically at their audiences. And this is particularly important at a time when local papers are coming under increasing pressure.    

“I don't know if you've picked up a local paper lately, but they’re just getting smaller and smaller,” Wratt says.

“To have MediaWorks right across the country is a real strength for us. We feel it's important to give local communities, for them to keep their voice, and obviously for advertisers a chance to connect in a way that no other channels can offer.”

MediaWorks’ ability to connect with these local audiences is, however, entirely dependent on the voices speaking into the microphones on a daily basis.

“This business is all about talent,” says Wratt. “It's about great talent on and off air, driving comecial success on the radio and online.”

MediaWorks’ Radio personalities are becoming better and better at carrying their shows from the radio into the online space, garnering tens of thousands of followers and offering brands added reach with every post, tweet and share.

But, as is the case in any industry, talent does tend to move from time to time. And this again became apparent in recent news reports on the impending departure of Paul Henry from MediaWorks.

However, Wratt accepts the departure of talent as part of the business and doesn’t always see it as a bad thing.

“It's a positive thing for the industry to be turning over a certain amount of talent every year because it allows for the new ones to come through and that keeps people interested,” Wratt says. 

“I think, there are some really good people out there and we're trying to bring them through the ranks. We're lucky we've got great radio schools that also play an important role in  developing talent.”

And there’s no doubt that MediaWorks will continue giving the newcomers a platform to share their talents with the masses. 

This article was published as part of a content partnership with MediaWorks

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