KOFM and 4TO the latest heritage brands to go… but what does it mean for regional radio?
KOFM will become Triple M Newcastle on Friday, November 9 while 4TOFM launches as Triple M Townsville on Monday, September 3.
The two stations are the latest to be affected by a sweeping announcement in 2016 by SCA to rebrand 45 regional stations to Hit and 30 stations to Triple M.
But looking at Triple M specifically, we can see that two years on, Triple M’s national network looks a little something like this (with 2GO Gosford, mix94.5 Perth and 92.5 GOLD FM Gold Coast the only stations holding their old branding).
For those playing along at home, this is what the ‘old hierarchy’ used to look like:
In most cases, the content across the heritage stations hasn’t changed much, or at all, with the rebrand, but the latest move for KOFM and 4TO has again been met with apprehension from listeners and supporters on social media.
So what sorts of considerations are made by SCA when it chooses the next station to rebrand?
SCA’s head of media & marketing Nikki Clarkson and head of regional content Mickey Maher tell Radio Today the following key points are at the front of the decision-making process:
- “How will the rebrand impact the local communities in terms of the station they know and love?”
- “How will the rebrand consolidate, simplify and add value to SCA’s primary audio brands Triple M and Hit?”
- “How do we successfully implement this rebrand locally in a way that will be meaningful and relevant to our teams, listeners and clients?”
“The addition of Townsville and Newcastle to the Triple M group of stations will add significant strength the Triple M brand nationally,” add Clarkson and Maher.
“We know, 18 months on, that we can rebrand a station successfully by really focusing on localism every time.
“With all our rebrands, our aim is to deliver a great listening experience with the best local and national content possible.”
So if, as SCA suggests, the only meaningful change is in the name, why are such moves met with opposition?
Clarkson and Maher suggest the main response from listeners is usually one of curiosity.
“They are concerned it may mean we will move away from what they love most about the station(s), that is the familiar voice of a morning show, to the music they love across the day and all the relevant local news and information they need and want to know.
“Obviously, these are the key aspects that we are equally committed to keeping.
“It is really about our actions not our words, so the biggest test is once we rebrand and they hear it, as we have found in every other market the change is quickly embraced or at least well received.”
It’s clear though, that this doesn’t address the ongoing discontent on Facebook, Twitter and other forums.
He suggested in no uncertain terms that the sentiment among station listeners was one of anger and confusion.
“So, the obvious question is … what’s the point?” he asked.
“You could argue that the Triple M brand has stood the test of time and that it can mean different things to different people so what’s the harm, however to me, it’s confusing and lazy.
“It lumps every town in with the other and dilutes 80 years of broadcasting history in these regional centres just so every station can share the same livery.
“What it saves on the cost of signwriting and stationery it loses on credibility.”
Many agreed with Steven’s sentiments on the article, adding several comments that generally expressed dissatisfaction at a decision made by executives in big cities, who couldn’t understand the intangible aspects of what a station’s name means to a regional town whose histories are so intertwined.
As for the future of the final three stations, 2GM, Mix94.5 and GoldFM? SCA say there are “no imminent plans at this stage to rebrand,” but there is a distinct feeling that it’s only a matter of time.
What other implications may the loss of heritage brands have for radio, regional or otherwise? Let us know in the comments.