Measurement is radio’s greatest challenge: Grant Blackley

Former Editor & Content Director

The CEO of Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) and chairman of industry body Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), Grant Blackley, has flagged measurement as the medium’s greatest challenge heading into next year.

He selected measurement as the biggest looming threat despite the industry’s revenue pressures and having flagged earlier this week that regional media will be in “dire” shape in the coming years should Government not intervene and help the sector with long-term planning.

“What we’ve got is the consumer has changed the way they associate and consume audio and radio, and it’s livestreaming, it is FM, DAB, it is AM, it is catch-up radio, it is premium on-demand content. All of that has changed,” he said in a chat with CRA CEO Joan Warner as part of the ABU General Assembly.

“So we have to measure each of those attributes because if we don’t measure it, we can’t sell it.”

Measurement is not just a 2021 problem, it also loomed large in 2020, he said.

“We had to effectively suspend surveys because of the way in which we measure. We had to then comfort the market and educate the market as to what could supplement a normal data stream to ensure that there was a considered reporting model that we could rely upon which would provide consistent updates on the way through,” he said.

“We also needed to understand exactly how our constituents were wanting to work with us, and everyone was slightly different. So we had to manufacture nearly a bespoke model as to how we would talk to our community, and fundamentally how we would talk to our advertisers.”

After this suspension of surveys, Blackley said he and SCA had to contend with all sorts of false narratives.

“The unfortunate advent with radio was that there was a misconception in the marketplace. And the misconception was if you’re not in your car listening to radio, you actually can’t get radio. And in actual fact, that’s not true, because radio has many facets. Part of the ecosystem is yes one-to-many with AM and FM. It is also livestreaming across multiple devices from mobiles, desktop, smart speakers and related. So unfortunately a lot of agencies and clients assumed a position that if we weren’t in our cars we couldn’t connect with radio, and that was fundamentally wrong,” he said.

“In fact on a weekly basis, listening went up by one hour and 46 minutes on average, and therefore it changed. Breakfast changed as well. People slept in. It’s a human behaviour. People slept in, but their breakfast was extended. So we started to extend our formats to meet that growing need. Daytime went up. So Daytime went up because they were working from home, they were effectively lonely, disconnected and they needed information. There was also a growing thirst for information and updates.”

Beyond measurement, Blackley said the other challenge for the industry is properly exploiting digital platforms, and understanding who is friend and who is foe.

“The second thing is that we actually have to embrace digital platforms and in embracing digital platforms we are embracing smart speakers, and you know through Google or Amazon we’re creating partnerships as an industry and we’re becoming more prolific in what we do, and I think that’s an accolade as well. We have to continue to actually look at technology as a friend more broadly. We have to lean into that to make ourselves more effective and efficient, whilst at the same time investing more in content to meet the consumer needs so that the audio pot grows.

“So if you look at those three things, if we can do that in unison, I think we’re going to have a very healthy state for audio, a growing state for audio, and I think the participants that lean into that, organise that content and really bring it into nearly a single ecosystem for the consumer in a scaled and simplistic manner will win.”

Blackley also flagged the need to be more “effective and efficient” at another event this week, and said SCA had done all that it could to streamline and shrink its operations.

At an AdNews live event, Blackley said the organisation had run now out of fat to cut across both TV and radio. SCA has found the efficiencies that there are to find, and now it needs to be allowed to be more innovative and collaborative, he said.

“We’ve cut our cloth in a whole range of ways in our front-of-house investment and our back-of-house investment. We’ve tried to become more effective and efficient,” he said, noting its sale of its television broadcast towers.

Blackley at the AdNews Live event earlier this week 

“We have laid off some people, but we’ve laid off people in fairness in both metro and regions… So what we’ve said is we’ve said ‘What are we good at? What are we competent at? And what aren’t we competent at? And what’s going to make a difference to local communities?’ And we have therefore looked at everything back of house that doesn’t affect the consumer, and we’ve tried to make that more efficient, but we’ve done that, and there’s nothing left.

“So all we do now, is we connect with content and we sell content into that stream and all the things that happen in the background that have happened for the last 60 years in TV or radio, effectively has been outsourced. So we can’t go any further.”

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A fish rots from the head down
4 Dec 2020 - 12:23 pm

It’s easy to cry about how the rating system fails you, when you’re main Sydney station does so poorly in the ratings and burns through the breakfast teams.

Grant, the problem is YOU, the problem is SCA, the problem is NOT radio or the measurement system.

What happened at Network 10 and the last couple of companies you managed?

When a company has to sack staff and has no more fat to trim, time to sell up so hopefully at least the radio stations can be run by local business consortiums again.

On their on, business units such as Newcastle, Townsville, Canberra, Wagga Wagga etc make more than enough profit and are in no trouble at all.

But they’re hamstrung by a badly set up organisation that has clearly failed.

The problem is SCA.

I'm no accountant.
4 Dec 2020 - 12:30 pm

Yeah… so, I am going to say part of the problem with your current state is… you can’t count past 80%, Grant.

20% couldn’t spend
40% spent less
20% spent more

What happened to the other 20%?

Jack Turd
4 Dec 2020 - 3:00 pm

Killing off the TSL in regional books killed ya. Killing off Nielson to be honest ! But don’t look back or anything …

A fish rots from the head down.
5 Dec 2020 - 11:24 pm

So it appears Radio Today is not posting comments critical of SCA on this article, after readers pointed out the facts of this corporate failure in previous articles.

SCA is a cancer on the radio industry. The sooner we have a conversation, the sooner the Government can legislate to break up this failed corporate experiment that destroys jobs and destroys once great hertiage hyper local regional radio stations.

Radio Today, your censorship makes you part of the problem too. Or you being threatened?

Post the comments.

If Grant Blackley and others threaten to not talk to you, this should be treated as further evidence of the poor culture at SCA.

Let us have the conversation.

    7 Dec 2020 - 9:37 am


    Settle. We’re not being censored and neither are you. We simply had our Christmas drinks, and moderating comments was not on the agenda.

    Your critical comments have now been posted.

    Vivienne – Radio Today

If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.
7 Dec 2020 - 12:24 pm

Part of the issue radio has is everything is ruled by a committee. CRA are the biggest advocates for it, regional committee, brand committee, research committee, automation, and programmatic committee and so on and so on and so on.

What do we get? A watered-down, toothless outcome that doesn’t rock the boat and puts in place protections for incumbents.

Boomtown, another committee ruled by committees that are run by working parties. Good concept that was poorly planned, poorly researched, poorly executed… and i dare say not pulling the results everyone had promised their boards some 18 months ago when seeking funding.

Time to let market forces do what they do best, force innovation and speed up change, drop the committees, and embrace new businesses into the fold that can help our industry wether the storm of tech disruption. At the moment, all we are doing is making a few people rich while we pretending we are ready for a digital disruption…. that is already here.

7 Dec 2020 - 4:23 pm

This is a tired argument – and especially in a regional setting, means nothing.

Boots on the ground is where the battle is won.

Make compelling local content & know how to market your product. Engage people who are passionate and support them.

SCA runs the network like its Triple M Melbourne in 1995, then blames something thats not them when everything fails to work…again.


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