Radio survey results: The Edge and Newstalk ZB retain top spots, while Mai FM continues its upward trajectory

When GFK took over the radio survey, it promised more frequent reporting over the course of the year, and the researcher has delivered in this regard, releasing the latest figures just over two months after the first round of results were made public in May.

While the latest round of results was again typified with a partisan analysis of the results, representatives from NZME and MediaWorks agreed on the fact that updating the ratings methodology has been an important step in providing a more accurate cross-section of how the nation’s stations are performing.

This is the second survey released by GFK, but it is the first that takes the entire nation into account.  

Overall, the nationwide survey showed that approximately 3.1 million New Zealanders (78 percent of the population) listen to a commercial radio station every week.

This shows there’s relative stability in the percentage of people tuning in, but there may be some future concerns about the fact that listenership was lower among younger audiences, with only 72 percent aged 10 to 17 listening to commercial radio on a weekly basis.

Here’s a full breakdown:

  • People 10-17: 72.4 percent
  • People 18-34: 77.5 percent
  • People 25-44: 82.7 percent
  • People 25-54: 82.8 percent
  • People 45-64: 81.4 percent
  • People 55-74: 78 percent
  • Grocery Buyers: 80.8 percent

The nationwide radio results will for the first time also include RNZ’s figures, but these will only be released one week after the commercial results as part of an agreement between the parties. When released, these figures will make for some interesting comparison between the commercial and non-commercial stations—something that has until now not been possible.

Across all demographics groups, MediaWorks stations attracted an accumulated 2.15 million listeners while NZME pulled in 1.82 million.

MediaWorks again took the opportunity to point out the gulf in reach between its stations and those of its competitor by distributing a graph showing it commanded 56.4 percent of the audience in the 25-54 category to 32.8 percent on the NZME side.

While the 25-54 age group remains an important trading demographic for advertising, NZME chief commercial officer Laura Maxwell says marketers are increasingly looking to use radio stations to target specific groups.

She says that NZME is often briefed by advertisers to come up with campaigns that target very specific groups, which often fall outside the 25-54 demographic.

She points across the ditch, saying part of the reason why Australian radio brands have been so effective at generating revenue is because they are using stations to target their brand messages at increasingly specific segments of society.

This reference to the Australian radio market is, of course, made at a time when APN has signalled its intention to focus its commercial effort on its radio and outdoor businesses, because it sees the most potential in these two media channels.

Whether in Australia or locally, this strategy can, however, only work if the network has strong radio brands, pulling in swathes of listeners every week.       

GFK’s first round of results in May showed an almost-uniform lift in listenership across the board, which of course suggested that it would perhaps take a few surveys before we would have a truly accurate indication of how the brands were doing.

When looking at the year-on-year change in the 10+ category (comparing GFK’s current data to that provided by TNS last year), there is again a uniform lift in listenership across all brands.

However, when the latest survey data is compared to that released by GFK in May, there have been drops for Coast (-24,000), George (-13,000), ZM (-7,000) Radio Sport (-2,000), Rhema (-12,000) and The Rock (-1,000).

As has been the case for many years now, The Edge again retained its position as the radio station with the highest number of listeners, attracting a mammoth 510,000 listeners (up 29,000 from the previous survey).

It was also a case of the usual suspects in station share, with NZME’s Newstalk ZB remaining top of the pile with a 10.9 percent share.

Hip-hop rising

Another success story from this survey lies in the rapid growth of hip-hop stations Mai FM and Flava.

Mai FM added another 21,000 listeners form the previous GFK survey, meaning the station now has an accumulated year-on-year growth of 75,900 listeners.

Flava’s growth wasn’t quite as strong, but it also did well, adding 16,000 listeners, amounting to a total year-on-year growth of 42,500.

MediaWorks group content director Leon Wratt says the growth in this category is attributable to the fact that urban music has become very popular, resulting in a migration of audiences toward stations that play this type of music.

He points to Drake as an example, saying there simply aren’t many artists quite as big as him at the moment.

While the urban scene has benefitted from changing music tastes, rock music isn’t enjoying the transition quite as much.

Wratt admits The Rock has been battling in recent years on account of a stagnating playlist.

“Rock is going through a rough patch,” he says. “We are literally struggling to find new music to add to the playlist.”

He says throughout history The Rock has always relied on big artists to reset people’s tastes, and there simply hasn’t been any suitable artists to do that in recent years.

Guns & Roses, Def Leppard and Linkin Park are listed by Wratt as examples of bands that successfully brought listeners back to The Rock in the past, but he says there aren’t many modern rock acts with such broad appeal.

“There are some who are even questioning whether The Rock can come back,” Wratt says.

Asked about the impact of the decline of rock music on Hauraki, NZME group director of entertainment Dean Buchanan says he no longer sees Hauraki as only a rock station.

He says it has become a brand driven by the personalities of presenters, such as Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells, who are evolving what the brand represents.

He elaborates on this point by saying the presenters are now active across the Herald, WatchMe and iHeartRadio, and that this helps to broaden the appeal of the station.

Newstalk ZB vs Radio Live

Over the last few surveys, the talkback battle has held the most intrigue. It comes with the drama of pitting two of New Zealand’s most controversial media personalities against each other and it happens in the context of MediaWorks investing heavily in revamping its offering.

As things stand, NZME will no doubt be happy with the way the tussle is going. While RadioLive has grown slightly, it still hasn’t really closed the enormous gap that separates it from Newstalk ZB.

While Hosking’s continued dominance of Henry is particularly sweet, Buchanan points to presenters across the day, saying that Leighton Smith, Kerre McIvor and Larry Williams also added to a good result for the station.

Wratt admits it will still take a while for RadioLive to break down Newstalk ZB’s well established lead, but he says the station now has a strong backbone in Henry and Duncan Garner.

He also says it was proving very difficult to coax longtime ZB listeners to change the habit of listening to the station.

“We sometimes wonder if the knob on the radio hasn’t broken off, and they literally can’t change the channel,” he jokes.

Wratt does, however, take a positive out of the fact that Newstalk ZB isn’t as dominant when it comes to younger audiences.

“Newstalk ZB only has a 4.8 percent share in the 25-54 demographic Radio Live has 3.4 percent, so there isn’t much in it,” he says.

Talkback is only one battle among many when it comes to radio. And while MediaWorks might have lost out in this one, it will definitely walk away the happier of the two commercial players as it claimed number one network in both share and total audience in all key commercial demographics: 10+, 18-39, 25-54 and household shoppers.

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