Building new radio shows: ARN’s audio advocate Emma-Jayne Owens

“People feel uplifted when they come to radio and that is a big reason why radio is still growing and is still healthy.”

So far this year Mediaweek has profiled sales executives from Southern Cross Austereo (Brian Gallagher) and Nova Entertainment (Andrew Will).

This week, on the eve of GfK’s second survey of 2018, we meet ARN chief commercial officer Emma-Jayne Owens. It is just over 12 months since Owens returned to radio after earlier in her career spending 15 years with Austereo. In between the two radio roles she led sales at Mi9 and later ran the sales teams across the Asia Pacific for Big Mobile.

Her diverse background has seen Owens working across several media sectors. She told Mediaweek that career path has been ideal for what she is doing with ARN: “The more you can understand the broader media market the better. During my time at what was then Mi9 I had the connection to the global business which was Microsoft and also everything that Nine Entertainment Co offered with all its wonderful content.”

It was close to eight years that Owens was out of radio, leaving her role at what was then Austereo back in 2009. As to whether the sector had changed much in that time, she said: “Some bits of it had. It was good coming to a network with people I had worked with before like Kyle and Jackie O and Jonesy and Amanda. It was good be familiar with how a breakfast show runs. The changes were the digital assets that ARN has in iHeartRadio. When I left Austereo it was the early days of digital as far as being of interest to advertisers.

ARN veterans still delivering – Jonesy and Amanda

One of the things that impressed me straight away was how dynamic and current radio still was. You can forget that when you are out of it.”

Being close to the content on radio is critical, said Owens. “That is a fun bit. Overall it is a serious business and ARN is part of a publicly listed company, and our job is to make a return to shareholders.

“For the listeners it is about creating content every day. That is the fun bit – being connected to passionate people who love what they do and who love radio.”

She noted that audio in general has been undergoing a renaissance with the addition of players like Spotify and iHeartRadio into Australia. “Radio is still over two-thirds of audio listening and there is a reason for that. The radio audiences continue to grow, one of the few media sectors that can boast that. Audiences continue to love what they get from live radio.”

Breakfast challenges

While ARN dominates commercial FM breakfast in Sydney with Kyle and Jackie and Jonesy and Amanda, ARN is bedding in two new breakfast shows in Australia’s second-biggest market this year.

Part of our radio strategy is never being satisfied and always striving to do better, which is part of the reason behind the changes in Melbourne. We have new shows in Melbourne we believe will engage with listeners and the challenge is to build familiarity with those programs.

Jase and PJ sound fantastic as a breakfast show, as do Will and Woody in drive, and they all bring new energy and new dynamic to our business.”

ARN the next generation – Jase and PJ

As to whether ARN brings on clients who are early adopters of the new programs, or just waits until the numbers are right before commercialising the content, Owens said sharing the vision with clients is important.

“The more we can be open and transparent with our advertisers and agency partners about where we are heading is critical. We need to build confidence in the market about what we are doing because the numbers won’t be there immediately.

Owens said having a big national show in drive is attractive to national advertisers. “What Will and Woody have is chemistry and we are betting on them to deliver us a new energy and a fresh way to drive home. Having a national show works very well on integrated solutions that can run for a national advertiser – one idea on one show on the one national network.

“However, there are also advertisers who like to run individual tactics for breakfast shows in every market.”

iHeartRadio opportunities

Owens: “iHeartRadio is critical for us in achieving our overall vision for the organisation for what we are trying deliver around music streaming, podcasting and custom radio. Part of what we are about is creating the future of audio entertainment and having that platform helps to support on delivering that.

“We have had some success and we have to acknowledge that Pandora pulling out of Australia helped.

“Our offering is very different from something like Spotify. iHeartRadio is now up to 1m downloads and we regularly have around 400,000 regular monthly users. It is not about how many people have downloaded the app, it is about how many are regularly using it every month and how they are engaging with it. That is how brands are buying it – they want to know if people are actually listening to their ad on the platform.”

Owens said much of the listening on iHeartRadio is people streaming ARN stations with much of that listening happening on desktop as people listen in the workplace.

“In the evening custom radio does quite well as people choose a genre that isn’t broadcast.

“We want to give our audience access to our brands across additional platforms. It is very important for us to do that.

“iHeartRadio is integrated into to a number of smart speakers, which is a key part of our distribution strategy making it available for free in a multitude of different places.”

Radio ratings: Survey days

“From a broadcast point of view survey day is the judge and jury. Every survey day we hold our breath to see what the results will be.

“For our new shows we won’t know until at least survey three how they are tracking.”

After survey day the sales teams then take those results to market.

“One of the biggest responsibilities we have – whether it is ARN or one of the other commercial networks – is what are we doing to ensure that audio as a medium and the offerings we have are relevant and interesting and on the radar of our agency and client partners.

“Our agency partners have a lot of choice and a lot of options as consumers themselves. What are we doing to ensure the relevancy of radio and our brands at those levels within an agency?

“We are excited and passionate, that is why we work in this industry, but how well are we doing at getting that across to those that are responsible for spending their clients’ budgets?

“Our ambition at ARN is to make sure we are able to articulate how radio is relevant and why it is relevant and what it means for individual brands.”

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