Published in The Music Network
In the wake of big management and programming shake-ups last year, Australian Radio Network’s National Content Director Duncan Campbell discusses ARN’s strategy to leapfrog Austereo and Nova in 2011.
Let’s start with last year. It was a dramatic one for ARN. Mix’s ratings didn’t fare well in most cities and ARN underwent a major management shift. What were your immediate thoughts on arrival?
I didn’t think they had the strategy right, certainly on the Mix stations in Sydney and Melbourne. That was the greatest concern. There was a lot of frustration with Mix Sydney and the direction it was taking; it wasn’t reaping the rewards. It was fairly obvious the strategy wasn’t right. The goal was to reposition both those stations by the end of the year and to find ourselves a new breakfast host for Sydney, which we’ve done. It was quite an eventful last quarter.
ARN is regarded as No. 3 behind Austereo and Nova. Is the ambition to move up? How do you plan to do that?
Absolutely. We’re not content with being where we are. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us culturally, to change the way we work inside ARN. Our clear objective in 2011 is to be more competitive. We want to challenge the other major players.
Is there a timeline on leapfrogging the other two?
As soon as we can (laughs). We aren’t sitting back satisfied with where we are at the moment.
ARN axed four state GMs late last year. Are you seeing the results of the new system?
It was really a structural shift. It was designed to set-up ARN to be a much more competitive. I worked under a functional management structure when I was in the U.K. [with Bauer Radio]. During that time we probably had our greatest success. It allows for a much more dynamic organisation, which ARN definitely needs to be, and allows for much quicker decision-making.
What are the first steps to recovery for Mix?
Consistency would be the big one. We’re very clear on where we want to go, and we have to be very consistent in that direction. Also, to attract new listeners we have to be creative with the execution strategy. That’s going to be the challenge. Sydney and Melbourne are two very competitive markets. Sydney has two very strong music stations in WSFM for over-40s and 2DayFM for under-40s. We researched the market and found our position – 30-39 year old females. Certainly the key for Sydney is the Mix breakfast show. So far, we’re fairly happy with what we’re hearing.
Last year Sydney Mix experimented with a younger, poppier sound with Jess Mauboy appearing in commercials. Will that continue?
No. It’ll move back toward a solid, adult-sounding radio station. The decision to go younger was flawed. We were up against a really strong radio station in 2DayFM. But that was the decision taken at the time. Our focus now is on a new adult contemporary path – the best mix of the ‘80s, ‘90s and now. It’s by no means a return to the soft AC of previous years, but it’s certainly more adult in its presentation and feel.
I don’t get a sense that ARN’s websites have really explored what they can do. Is there an online plan in place?
A whole new web strategy will be unveiled in 2011. The foundations of that are being worked upon as we speak. Austereo are very good at what they do online. And to some degree so is DMG. People inside ARN have not been terribly proud of the web presence, so we need to make sure we get that right.
Which quarter will we see some activity?
It’s too early to tell. We’re not taking our time; we’ve got to make sure we get the strategy right first.
How important is social networking now to modern-day radio?
It’s an avenue which, while it’s used a lot, isn’t necessarily used as effectively as it could. The challenge for all radio stations in terms of social networking is to create communities that are large enough to mobilise in a way that will impact listening. That’s what we’re looking to do. No stations are really doing that yet. They’re doing it as a source of content for shows and a source of feedback into the radio stations.
What are your tips on radio-programming trends this year?
It’ll be back-to basics. We’re going to see a very interesting, competitive environment. The dominant player Austereo will be challenged by DMG and also by ARN. Everyone will lift their game and ultimately it’ll offer better radio for listeners.