Summer Series: Joan Warner to step down as CEO of Commercial Radio Australia

regional radio ratings

• Mediaweek looks back at the most notable stories of 2021

In September, Commercial Radio Australia announced that its chief executive officer Joan Warner had advised the CRA board that she intends to step down early next year. The search for a replacement CEO will commence immediately with the aim of a new CEO taking up the position during the first quarter of 2022.

At the time, Joan Warner said: “While I informed the CRA Board some time ago of my intention to step down at 31 December 2021, the Board requested, and I agreed, to remain as CEO to 31 March 2022 to allow the company to undertake a comprehensive and far-reaching search for a replacement.”

Nov 22: Joan Warner: Departing CRA boss on final tasks and finding her replacement

By James Manning

As Mediaweek publishes our inaugural Mediaweek 100 ranking, we profile just a handful of those people this week.

One group of media executives who deserve their spots are those entrusted by their sectors to manage their member group, keep the sector profile high and untarnished, and lobby on behalf of the members.

Looking after the interests of the audio sector, now including radio and a bulging podcast arena, is Joan Warner, chief executive officer of Commercial Radio Australia.

Warner has been in the role for 20 years but recently announced she will be stepping down in March 2022.

Speaking to Mediaweek, Warner started talking about how her members are coping in the marketplace and latest industry initiatives.

Marketplace recovery

“The members are saying the market is coming back strongly. The Covid financial impact seems to be almost over. Our members are pretty happy with the way things are going and the way clients and agencies are coming back.

Joan Warner

Audience measurement: Radio 360

One major item on Warner’s final to-do list is overseeing the initial stages of the Radio 360 audience measurement overhaul.

“Some of the things we have announced like Radio 360 have really piqued a lot of interest back in radio. We are going to track ratings in future with a revolutionary hybrid approach for measurement which will give much more targeted audience data. It showed the market that behind the scenes during the pandemic we have been working hard to get something that will benefit our commercial stakeholders.”

CRA held a board meeting last week with ratings provider GfK where it was confirmed the industry is aiming to have the paper diary and e-diary split 20/80 by Survey 5, 2022. “We are also aiming to have the live streaming data integrated as part of the currency by Survey 4, 2022.” Warner noted these will be big milestones for the industry.

“The good thing about what we are doing now is the decision not to only have diaries, or only have electronic meters, or only have streaming data. We are hopefully going to have it all.”

When asked if the station rankings might be impacted by a change in the measurement method, Warner said it was too early to tell. “It is anticipated that agencies and clients will be able to see what the addressable audience is via streaming. The figures will be based on server logs and SDKs. It won’t be recall streaming which we have now.

“We will also have the watch panel set up to validate the streaming data that we are getting. Who knows what we might also be able to do in the future with those watch meter panels. Maybe special event surveys for things like football finals or maybe a summer ratings survey. It’s a bit of a brave new world.”

There have never been more radio stations being surveyed. There are 31 in Sydney and Melbourne alone (including ABC stations), around 30 DAB+ stations and close to 30 regional surveys.

Cancellation of Radio Awards

“We would have liked to be able to do the ACRAS live this year, but that wasn’t possible in this calendar year,” explained Warner. “We will be announcing the winners on December 1 and we expect quite a bit of interest in who wins during what has been a tough couple of years.

While there will only be one set of award winners, the period covered is 24 months.

Karl Stefanovic interviewed Kyle Sandilands at the last Radio Alive conference in October 2019

Radio Alive in 2022

While there has been no Radio Alive conference for a second successive year, Commercial Radio Australia is looking at the possibility of staging an event early in 2022. “We are looking at the possibility of an event we could use to reinvigorate interest in what we have been doing,” said Warner. “By then we will be able to report on where we are up to with the new measurement system. We would also like to talk about our automated trading platform and which modules will be launching early next year. We are also looking at doing a piece of research on audio which we are exploring.

If we do something it could be mid-March which would ideally attract senior radio people, but also an agency and client crowd. Sort of a radio upfront about what we will be doing for the next 12 months.

Grant Broadcasters sale

While Warner said the sale of Grant Broadcasters to ARN had major significance for the sector, she has seen a number of major transactions in her two decades running the industry body.

“DMG offloaded their regional stations to RG Capital and then they were taken over by Macquarie Bank. That was a big shake-up.

“There was also the Macquarie takeover of Southern Cross which was also a big move. Other major ownership changes included Nine taking over Macquarie Radio.”

She also noted the move by Lachlan Murdoch to gain 100% control of Nova Entertainment was significant. “We certainly haven’t been a static industry,” said Warner.

Replacing an industry chief executive

“My contract ended on December 31 this year and I told the board some time ago I would be leaving. There is a search underway now for my replacement. I will be around for little projects next year, but I certainly don’t want to work as much as 60 hours a week again.

Blenheim Partners is the search firm looking for a new CEO. Warner said she believes there are no internal candidates.

“It takes an interesting set of skills from running the office, all our events, but also keeping our members happy and keeping the industry united.”

While Warner is prepared to do a comprehensive handover to her replacement, she doesn’t foresee working alongside them for a time. “That might be a bit creepy,” she suggested.

See where Joan Warner ranks in the Mediaweek 100 and which other media industry sector leaders made the list. We publish 20 industry profiles each day this week.

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