The moment TNS New Zealand releases its radio survey results, the media industry generally buzzes in competitive chaos as everyone vies to get the often confusing statistics published as quickly as possible. Given that we all know that the storm is coming, this one of the few times when interviews are scheduled weeks in advance, questions are emailed pre-emptively and past results are collated in an anticipatory move. This year did not disappoint, and we were again given a fair dose of chaos. So without further ado, here's a breakdown of some of the key trends recorded in the latest results.
To attain the results, TNS surveyed 3,207 people older than ten over a six-week period. And when all the statistics were collated, the results showed that every week, on a national level, commercial radio reaches 74.5 percent of people aged 10 years and over, 70.0 percent of those aged 18-34 years and 78.5 percent of those between 25 and 54 years.
The survey found The Edge, which has the ears of about 454,400 New Zealanders each week, to be the most popular commercial radio station in New Zealand, while Newstalk ZB came in second place with 376,200 listeners, followed by the ZM network with 346,900 listeners, The Breeze with 315,000 and The Rock with 302,100.
When compared to the cumulative reach statistics recorded at the same time last year, the top five look much the same, with the exception of Classic Hits, which has been replaced in fourth place by The Breeze, which enjoyed an impressive year-on-year jump from 277,900 to 315,300.
Andrew Szusterman, the group programme director for MediaWorks Radio, felt that overall the results indicated that "radio continues to thrive, remain agile and deliver new solutions and effective results to [advertisers]," and he was optimistic about MediaWorks Radio's performance across the board.
"We have a swag of 'best ever' stories – from The Edge’s new Drive Show, The Edge breakfast, The Rock’s continued dominance over the format, the growth of Ali Mau and Willie Jackson on RadioLIVE, The Sound’s continued stronghold on its format along with The Breeze that experienced record cumulative audience in this result." he says.
"The introduction of Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick into a number of More FM markets demonstrated they continue to be one of the best teams in the business, driving a national increase in audience, while James Daniel’s introduction into the Christchurch markets saw their share nearly doubled. George FM cracked the lucrative all males 18 – 39 market in Auckland, coming in at number one, and Mai has blown us all away with record growth in breakfast and drive results."
This optimism was also shared on the other side of the radio divide at The Radio Network, where chief executive Jane Hastings applauded the network's brands for continuing to hold onto key demographics that are attractive to advertisers.
"From a comparative perspective, Newstalk ZB still has more than double the listeners of [MediaWork's] RadioLive, and the station is particularly dominant in the morning slots where Rachel Smalley and Mike Hosking have both grown strong audiences in a segment that is particularly attractive to advertisers," she says.
Here, Hastings is referring to the highly competitive breakfast slot (Monday to Friday between 6am and 9am), which was dominated by Hosking, whose show pulled in 19.7 percent of the commercial radio market. The Edge came in a distant second with 8.5 percent, while Coast (7.2 percent), Mai FM (6.5 percent) and ZM (5.9 percent) completed the top five.
After this, Hastings shifted the discussion to another key station-on-station battle.
"When we compare Classic Hits and More FM, we still have a good lead of about 25,000 listeners in terms of total listeners."
Hastings concedes that ZM has been "pretty flat," in the sense that the station has not managed to increase its 346,000-strong listenership from the previous year.
"The Edge has capitalised on Fletch and Vaughn not being on-air, but we'll see how things go when they return," she says.
This sentiment was mirrored in a MediaWorks release, which placed empahsis on the impact that certain key changes had made to the Edge.
"The Edge is the number one radio network in New Zealand with 454,400 people tuning in each week, and has recorded its biggest results ever in Drive, [and] the new line-up of Guy Williams, Sharyn Casey and Clint Roberts (replacing Fletch and Vaughan) is the number Drive show in the country with 227,300 listeners each week," said the release.
When the statistics are collated for the radio survey, they are usually compartmentalised into sections in terms of age demographics, time slots and time spent listening. Given that these categories can be quite specific, it makes it possible for each of the major networks to cherry-pick positive results for each station in specific sections of the market.
And in this sense, both Mediaworks Radio and TRN have found positive take-aways from the latest results. Hastings, for instance, finds consolation in ZM's stagnation by focusing on the station's numbers in specific segment.
"It [ZM] is the number one breakfast station for 25-54 females in share and audience, [and] this is the core audience for advertisers," she says.
Similarly, MediaWorks Radio sees positives in The Rock's performance despite the fact that the station suffered a year-on-year cumulative loss of over 5,000 listeners as its numbers dropped from about 307,700 to roughly 302,100.
"The Rock continues to dominate the rock music format, with 302,100 listeners each week, and has the number one market share in the 25-44 demographic," said the MediaWorks Radio release.
On a broader basis, segmentation also occurs on a regional basis as statistics are also provided for each of New Zealand's major hubs.
TNS provided StopPress with the latest results for Auckland, but the organisation refused to share any further information with us, saying that "this information is confidential to the subscribers only."
MediaWorks Radio spokesperson Rachel Lorimer was also asked for additional data, but she reiterated the confidentiality agreement that the network had with TNS.
Hastings says that TRN's regional results in Auckland were particularly strong, especially since MediaWorks has three more stations broadcasting in the city.
"Given Mediaworks have 11 stations in Auckland and TRN has only eight, the fact we dominate share 44.3 percent compared to 39.9 percent is something to celebrate and the TRN team can feel proud about," she says.
Hastings and her team have also noticed a similar trend in Wellington, where TRN has managed to increase its share of the audience over the last few quarters.
Hastings did however concede that MediaWorks continued to dominate ratings in Christchurch, and that TRN would have to work hard in the region increase its listenership.
Not only about audience numbers
Hastings says that it's also essential not to over-emphasise the importance of numbers. "It's not just about cumulative share," she says. "It's also about engagement, and this makes the time spent listening also very important."
In furthering this insight, she refers to the fact that younger listeners are more likely to change the channel, while older demographics tend to listen all the way through. For advertisers, this might mean that a commercial has to be repeated more often when it is targeting a younger audience.
Rise of digital
Given that the TNS results do not take the digital consideration into account, it's also worth noting that most modern radio brands also engage with listeners via channels other than radio.
Yesterday, we reported that The Edge was being extended onto television, and moves such as these indicate that radio brands are looking to occupy different media spaces.
This trend has also been noticeable on iHeartRadio, where various radio brands now stream their shows in the online format.
And as these divisions between the various channels become increasingly obscured, it will eventually become necessary to re-evaluate the methodologies used to collate the data.