Laura O’Callaghan: From Fresh FM to Adelaide’s top Breakfast show

Laura O’Callaghan

“It blows us away sometimes when we get those good results”

In 2021, Laura O’Callaghan made the leap from Adelaide’s Fresh FM to Triple M – first on Weekend Breakfast before moving to weekday Breakfast last year, joining Mark ‘Roo’ Ricciuto and Chris ‘Ditts’ Dittmar

In the most recent radio ratings survey, the breakfast team of Roo, Ditts, and Loz increased by 1.3 points, coming to a total of 14.2% – making them the top breakfast show in the Adelaide market. 

Mediaweek spoke to O’Callaghan about what life has been like since joining Triple M, and what makes the show resonate with audiences.

Speaking about moving from community to commercial radio, O’Callaghan says “that transition was pretty mental.”

“Fresh is an amazing institution in South Australia, and one of the best places on the planet where you can learn how to do radio. One of the reasons why it’s amazing is because everyone wears so many hats there – it’s community radio, so there are less resources and less staff. Often you’re not just on air, you’re writing copy, you’re doing digital, some people work in sales and on air. You’re utilised very thoroughly there. 

Moving into a commercial environment was insane, because suddenly I was able to just focus on doing my job on air. Really channelling all of my energy into that, I felt myself improve a lot.”

Roo and Ditts are the longest running FM radio duo in Adelaide, a fact that wasn’t lost on O’Callaghan when she joined them. Reflecting on when she first joined the show, O’Callaghan says that the first few months were a blur.

“I can’t remember a lot of those first few months, because I was just so scared the whole time – and that has nothing to do with them. They were so wonderful to me, they were truly so welcoming in a way that I didn’t necessarily know they would be, because it’s not always easy having to bring someone new in. They were so gracious and really awesome with me. 

“I knew ultimately, the only way I was ever going to be any good was if I could just relax and be myself, and that’s a really hard thing to do when you’re terrified. So it’s a bit of a blur, but after about four months, I started to feel really comfortable. Now it just feels completely old hat, really, really comfortable.”

When asked if there was a particular moment that she realised she had everything under control in her new role, or whether it was a gradual thing, O’Callaghan says that “it was definitely gradual.”

“With any job when you first start, you feel yourself making decisions and thinking things through all the time in a really operational way. After a while, one day, you just go, oh, I can do this now! 

“That’s not to say that I’ve figured radio out or anything, but just in terms of our lineup, I feel like I’ve really settled into that groove.”

Historically, Triple M has been a station that attracts a male-skewed audience. It’s not a fact that O’Callaghan and the team keep front of mind, however.

“You have your demographics and obviously Triple M has been male-skewed for years – but we’ve seen a bit of an increase in female listenership, which thrills me,” says O’Callaghan. “I don’t go on air and actively go, ‘I’m going to talk to women today’ or whatever. I think inevitably, when you employ a woman, that point of view comes through, but we’re not sitting in a room going ‘alright, today we’re targeting the chicks’.

“I think that the assumption that women just want to talk about stereotypical female shit, that’s just crap – and I also think it’s crap that boys just want to talk about sport. We’re such nuanced, complicated creatures, and I think that if the people on air are funny, honest, caring, and good at radio, then you can listen to pretty much anything.”

It can be very easy to analyse every little detail of radio ratings surveys as they roll in. As the top-rating breakfast show in the market, O’Callaghan says that the team try not to focus on the numbers too intently, and admits “we aren’t 100% sure” why the show performs so well.

“We’re not obsessed with ratings, we don’t overthink things too much, and ultimately what we really, really want is just to have a good time every morning. It’s such a visceral, tense industry, that if you’re not having fun then I really don’t know what the fucking point is – I look at some people and their slog, how hard they’ve worked for years, and I don’t know that I would want to do it forever if it wasn’t fun.

“I think the reason why it sounds good is that there’s genuine joy in the room, we’re so comfortable with each other that people can listen and know that we’re having real, honest conversations. 

“We all bring something so different to the table. We’ve got such unique personalities, so a lot of people in the market are represented in that room. To be honest, I’m mystified a little bit, because you just go in and you hope for the best. If the results are good, you’re just really grateful that they’re good. They won’t always be good, that’s just how it is, but it blows us away sometimes when we get those good results.”

Top Image: Laura O’Callaghan

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