Radio Survey 2017 part two: RNZ stays strong as the news champion

When the GfK radio results for commercial stations were released last week, the platform showed no sign of slowing down, with 3.35 million New Zealanders tuning into commercial radio each week. And now, the RNZ survey results have reiterated that point, with the cumulative reach of RNZ and the commercial stations extending to 3.6 million or 87 percent of the population.

The latest round was a particularly good result for both RNZ National and Concert, which both saw their audiences increase to reach a total of 687,000 New Zealanders a week.  

“These live-listening results show the continuing relevance of radio as a medium in New Zealand. RNZ is delighted to be a successful part of a thriving New Zealand radio industry,” says chief executive Paul Thompson.

Of the two, RNZ National has shown the biggest growth, with its 619,100 weekly cumulative listeners up 39,700 from the previous survey’s 579,400 listeners. It puts the station in number two space when compared to the commercial stations, behind The Edge’s 647,200 and ahead of The Breeze’s 521,600 listeners.

Meanwhile, RNZ Concert’s weekly cumulative audience of 173,700 listeners is up from 151,400 in the previous survey.

The increase in RNZ’s audience comes at a time when it’s reaching them in more ways than ever, with investment in online, on-demand and sharing partnerships with Fairfax, NZME, MSN, TVNZ and Bauer. Thompson says the strategy is working and it’s getting RNZ’s news and current affairs to more people than before.

He also credits RNZ National’s result to its refreshed programming and commitment to providing credible news and current affairs.

That refreshed programming can be seen in the new lineup, which has been rolled out in the last couple of years with Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson joining Morning Report, Jesse Mulligan joining the afternoons and Wallace Chapman taking over Sunday mornings.

RNZ National radio manager David Allan says it takes a while for the impact of lineup changes to be seen and these results are a sign that the audience has accepted what it’s done and is now offering.

All time slots for RNZ National showed growth in this survey, and the Morning Report show reported the biggest. Its cumulative audience is 467,000 a week, compared to 430,300 in the previous survey.

The result keeps the show in top spot compared to its competing news breakfast shows, The Mike Hosking Breakfast (339,600) on Newstalk ZB and The AM Show (135,300) on RadioLive.

It’s important to note both the Mike Hosking Breakfast and The AM Show run from 6am to 8.30am, while Morning Report runs from 6am to 9am.

When looking at the stations as a whole, it’s also RNZ National in the top spot.

As well as a new lineup, Allan says there’s been a change of tone, with hosts presenting topics in a less formal and more conversational way.

“We have a traditional reputation of having hard news and current affairs but we have audience feedback about what other stories and topics they like, and the one-on-one engagement with the host is really important to them, so we’ve been trying to develop that and I think it’s coming together well.”

He adds as a result of research over the last three years, its reporters have a handle on the stories their audiences like and how they want to be engaged with, and the reporters now breaking down barriers by sharing individual stories on social media.

It’s just one of the many ways RNZ is expanding digitally and for the month of June, it’s reporting 1.7 million users of rnz.co.nz, which is an 18 percent increase on the year before.

While the numbers are important measurement of RNZ’s success, Allan says the rapid response of the team to major events, such as the Kaikoura earthquake, should also be taken into account.    

“It reinforced to RNZ National how critical its role is to be there for the audience and the people of New Zealand,” he says, adding that while it’s always done events with rolling coverage well, digital expansion has improved it further.

“The standard and quality of our news and current affairs stories is higher than it’s ever been and digital as well as live radio is driving that. They’re feeding off each other.”

Correction: The above numbers comparing the cumulative audiences of the Mike Hosking Breakfast, The AM Show and Morning Report represent different times. The Mike Hosking Breakfast and The AM Show run from 6am to 8.30am, while Morning Report runs from 6am to 9am, making its audience bigger in comparison.

When comparing all stations across the 6am to 9am (Monday to Friday) time slot, RadioLive achieves 142,100, Newstalk ZB 355,900 and RNZ National 467,000.

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