Russel Howcroft on his ratings success and why he’s ‘not going anywhere soon’

3AW’s newly installed Breakfast co-host Russel Howcroft has said he expected there to be a shift in radio listening in Melbourne towards conversation and talk-based stations, however the extent of his success in the most recent survey “was definitely a surprise”.

The combination of the pandemic, Melbourne’s lockdowns and the potential for new listeners to explore the show due to Howcroft’s profile on ABC TV’s Gruen gave him hope that it would be a good result. He said those new listeners may have come to the show to hear him, but would have stuck around because co-host Ross Stevenson “is a deadset radio genius”.

Howcroft told the Mumbrellacast podcast that making the show is a joy, and its appeal lies in its friendly, inviting approach to listeners – “it doesn’t take itself too seriously”.

“Certainly right now it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve got no intention of going anywhere soon,” Howcroft told Mumbrella’s Brittney Rigby when prompted on whether he’d be behind the mic for decades to come.

Despite the joys, and the audience growth, Howcroft – ever the adman – told the podcast that radio has room for improvement when it comes to selling itself.

“One of the things generally that I think media could do better, is case studies around advertisers,” he said. “So, yes, TV Show X had one million people watching. What’s actually interesting for the advertiser, the advertiser within that show, is how many chickens did they sell?

“I do think that as a general statement, I think all media could do a better job at demonstrating the client case studies – rather than just doing your reach numbers, your audience numbers. What about the sales numbers of the advertisers that are investing in your platform? There is an opportunity there for sure.”

Talk radio, he contended, has an advantage over other types of programs.

“The other really good thing about talk radio is that the advertising, the advertisers, they do become a part of the program,” he explained. “People don’t use the ads to switch, they become a part of the total package.

“Actually it’s a very powerful medium for advertisers, and a lot of direct advertisers of course get involved with talk radio. And direct advertisers, often radio will be the only mainstream, the only traditional media that they’ll use – they obviously are on digital platforms – but they simply will use radio, so they have a very strong handle on the ROI of their advertising. They’re not dealing with the media mix that a big corporate advertiser who’s got a media agency advising [them]. They’re not dealing with that. They have a direct response to their work, and obviously they love it as a result.”

Much like his employer Nine Radio, which has been on a campaign for marketers and media agencies to give a larger portion of their budget to its high-rating stations, Howcroft said more money should be coming to talkback.

“There really is a good opportunity.”

You can listen to the full chat, which begins at 34:17, below.

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