Live & Local: How Hobart’s first commercial station 7HO is still ticking all the right boxes

Former Assistant Editor

7HO FM is the #1 FM station in Hobart. The station retained its mantle in the last ratings survey for the region with 19.0% of People 10+ (+1.3) indicating they listened to 7HO most.

It was a strong result too for Breakfast team Sarah, Mick and Matt, who overtook their closest rivals on Hit100.9 to take the top spot in their daypart.

The Grant Broadcasters-owned legacy station is deeply ingrained in Australian media history. It was the first commercial radio station in Hobart, launching in 1930 as 890 AM, before converting to FM in 1990.

The years since have been characterised by strong performance in the radio ratings, but 7HO general manager Colin ‘Col’ Taylor tells Radio Today that nothing is ever taken for granted.

“We never go into it with the thought that we’ll win,” he says. “We always go into it thinking that we’re one of the underdogs and we’ve got a big challenge in front of us, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when you get a tick in the box.”

Col refuses to comment on his competitors, some of whom are backed by some of the biggest networks in the country but admits strong competition spurs his team to strive for bigger and better.

“I think we run our own race. They run a really good ship and do a grand job and they’re fiercely competitive. It just spurs us on even more I think.”

The success of Breakfast team Sarah, Mick and Matt is particularly pleasing for 7HO and Col. They are a unique offering, and are ticking plenty of the right boxes.

“They just gel as a team,” chuffs Col. “It’s really something new to be fair, but a father-son team is kinda unique and we timed it right to throw Sarah in there.

“What are they doing right? Lots of things. Most things I guess. They’re just human. They’re just real people having a bit of fun every morning and engaging with their audience.”

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A strong sense of localism is a common factor in the success of radio stations in smaller markets. Being part of the fabric of Hobart for the best part of a century can’t have hurt 7HO’s cause in that regard, and Col says localism is “critical”.

“I’ve always thought it was critical from a localism perspective, and I think we’re very fortunate to work for a company that allows us the latitude of being absolutely uber-local,” he says.

“One of the things I think we try to do is really own the marketplace. It sounds a bit marketing-ish, but when your listeners tell you they tune into you because you know what’s going on in the marketplace, or in Hobart, apart from making us all feel good it kinda keeps us honest.

“We continue to seek any opportunity to support the local community. If you do good, you’ll get good. Give to get is a motto that we strive by, and… I was gonna launch into my bloody vision statement there for a second. I’m not.”

“Localism is king, it always has been, and if you get that right I think the listeners will fall into line.

“Any number of radio statistics or research will show that the things that people actually tune in for are the music, the personalities, and the fact that it’s live and/or local.”

Localism isn’t just something that happens on its own. Col explains that it’s something the team at 7HO is constantly striving to achieve and improve upon.

“We introduce a word each year that we try to follow, and we use as a test if you like, and our word three years ago was real, which to us meant relatable, engaging, authentic, live and local,” he says.

“The next year it was human, so we need to be human. We need to be humble and we need to be good and real people. More helpful, understanding, measured action now.

“This year’s word that helped get us to where we were is imagine, which is about making trying to make a genuine impact nearly every day.”

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Like all good leaders, Col refers the praise onto his “dedicated” and “passionate” team.

“We’re all very focused on the end game. That is not winning a survey, not necessarily making budget, but those things are the byproduct of that successful trait. The passion of the team and their enthusiasm is for delivering the best quality metro-style product that they possibly can, and I think they do that in spades. I’m enormously proud of them”

So how does Col measure success at 7HO? One word: “fun”.

“Whatever you do, you need to have some fun. I often mention to the team here that whenever people visit our radio station, to come and see me, for an appointment, almost without exception every single person says to me ‘wow, your place seems like such a fun place to work.’

“Not every day is a diamond day, it never is in anything I think, but for the vast majority of days we leave our families at home and we come to our family at work, and we have fun.”

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