How has Triple M found its place ?

In last weeks post survey 3 chat with SCA's Head of Content Craig Bruce (here), he was pumped for the results Triple M had around the country.

"The Triple M strategy is really exciting for all of us, it’s a hard format to work but we feel it’s starting to find its place in the game."

I caught up with Triple M Operations Manager / Triple M Melbourne CD, Mike 'Fitzy' Fitzpatrick, to find out what has been driving their growth and if he believes Triple M can return to being an icon.

Fitzy: Good thing is it’s not a spike. The most disappointing thing with these results sometimes is when you see those spikes, when you go from a 5 share to a 7 and you go ‘great !’ and then you go down in two surveys. It’s a long, steady, consistent, upward trend over the last 2 or 3 years which is very, very comforting.

Mark: What has been key to Triple M's upward trend do you think ?

Fitzy: Good product, unique product. I remember Jeff Allis saying to me years ago ‘better doesn’t win, different wins’ and if you look around the marketplaces there’s nothing like Triple M in any of them. We own our own spot on the hill. We’re not playing in oldies territory, we’re not playing in hit music territory, we’re playing in a real music, comedy, sport environment and it’s also not demographically focussed, it’s a scattergun approach to anyone that enjoys those 3 aspects of life.

It’s easy to take credit for the growth of Triple M and go ‘we’re great programmers we’ve done it’ but it would be ridiculous because the ratings could disappear in 3 or 4 surveys, like they’ve done in the past, and you go from being the greatest to the worst bunch of programmers in the world.

The best programmers are the listeners.

This whole resurgence of Triple M has been driven by them. We’ve got one of the most active and passionate fan communities in a radio station, or for a brand, in Australia. We’re getting phenomenal response rates and sign ups to our station communities on 2, 3 and 4MMM and we’re genuinely listening to the listeners.

You can make small adjustments as you go if you listen to every single comment but you find out the most about your product, and the most about your fans, when you start listening to their complaints. So when they say ‘you gotta kill this folk thing’ (i.e Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men), they’re all great songs but when you have them all running around all of a sudden your radio station is perceived to be Folk Rock FM. That was one example of how we’ve adjusted to listening to complaints. And we get those comments / complaints for breakfast, football, drive, music, and it really is about listening to them.

Mark: Did Triple M do much marketing in Sydney / Melbourne / Brisbane in survey 3 ?

Fitzy: No. Maybe we had a couple of billboards. We’re lucky, we get a lot of marketing by default in Melbourne because Eddie breaks stories and people like to write about him. It’s not your traditional marketing. Our community and our fan engagement I see as a variation on traditional marketing. In Brisbane you can’t go to an NRL game without seeing Triple M everywhere. So, we’ve been visible but we haven’t spent any money on marketing.

Mark: The Triple M Adelaide brand has been chopped and changed over the past 10-15 years, even taking on Nova when it first launched in 2004. How do you see that station fitting into the Triple M network these days ?

Fitzy: The theory and the format is exactly the same. The music maybe slightly different because it’s an older target in Adelaide but it is connected to Adelaide with sport in our DNA and a station that plays real music. No different. They’ve had consistent growth this year and there’s more to come by the looks of things.

Mark: Last week in my post survey chat with Craig Bruce he said "I guess the next step is what do we do to return it to iconic status and that’s our next challenge on Triple M.". Is that possible do you think ?

Fitzy: Two things on that. Triple M’s original iconic status didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t happen until the late 80s. In Sydney, Doug Mulray (right) was on for 3 or 4 years before anyone listened to Triple M, it wasn’t an overnight success. The same with EON-FM. Lee Simon tells the story about how they’d built this great radio format and they switched on the transmitter and their first few surveys, in fact their first couple of years, they thought ‘oh no, we’ve made a mistake here, no-one’s listening to us’. That iconic status grew over a period of years, Doug was at his strongest in the late 80s, Triple M Melbourne was at its strongest in the early 90s with the D-Generation. They were of their time. You had three or four radio stations, it wasn’t as competitive, media wasn’t as fractured.

That’s not to say Triple M can’t be iconic again, I think we can be iconic in a different way. I think we can stand for something, and I think we do.

We’ve probably been the radio station that’s been the most inconsistent over the last 10-15 years. Triple M Sydney had 5 breakfast shows in 5 years, Triple M Melbourne had 4 breakfast shows in 5 years, we’ve had 3 or 4 drive shows, we’ve had 3 or 4 music formats, it’s only really the last 4 years that we’ve been consistent with our offering.

For the last 4 years Triple M Melbourne has stood for : a breakfast show that’s relevant and keeps you connected to people in town with the biggest name in town (Eddie McGuire) and one of Melbourne’s best loved comedians (Mick Molloy), it's about rock music / real musicians singing real songs not made by kids with computers like the other stations and not slow and dreary like the older stations. Then there's a football offering that exists 6 months of the year but also courses through our veins.

We’re not a sport station, we’re a relevant, topical, information, comedy station with sport in our DNA. If we can deliver that consistently enough, and successfully enough, yeah it will return to iconic status and the icon will stand for that.

It will stand for the station for men to go to, the place to go to feel like you’re listening to your mates or to be in touch with what real new music is being made or to hear the latest breaking football story or to be connected to the movers and shakers in the market.

That’s what Triple M will stand for as an icon, hopefully, in years to come.

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