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On commercial radio Money Talks...

Monday 26 August, 2019

Comment from Peter Saxon

Radio used to be a simple business. You created content to attract a significant segment of the available audience and sold their metrics to advertisers. The bigger the audience, the easier you could sell the airtime and the more you could charge. 
 
Now, with the advent of social media, all that has been turned upside down. Now the biggest, most influential star of Australian radio, Alan Jones could have his recently inked, two year, $8 million contract torn up, despite having a lock on the #1 spot in Breakfast in Sydney.

All of a sudden, the 100 year old business model: Audience = Advertisers = Revenue, is broken and in need of repair. And it’s not because listeners are deserting Jones, his listeners are as loyal as ever. It’s because his advertisers, as if from the Mafia boss in The Godfather, have been made “an offer they couldn’t refuse” by thousands of people who don’t even listen to his show.

The offer? 'Either you stop advertising on the Alan Jones show or we'll ruin your business.'
 
Following his well-publicised comments about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, an orchestrated campaign by his detractors, spearheaded by activist group, Sleeping Giants, have targeted 2GB’s advertisers and told them they’d be boycotted if they continued to advertise on the the Alan Jones Breakfast Show.
 
Imagine, if you will, the prospect of a breakfast show that has the largest audience in Sydney but is boycotted by advertisers and is thus starved of revenue.
 
At time of writing, no less than 52 of around 108 advertisers have cancelled their schedules on the Alan Jones Breakfast Show. Some, according to reports, have cancelled their advertising on all of 2GB, others have cancelled on the entire Macquarie network. See the latest list on the Sleeping Giants’ website.
  
Before the advent of social media, rarely would advertisers receive such complaints from listeners. And if they did, it would be a trickle of mail which could easily be dismissed as the work of a few cranks. But faced with a petition on sites like Change.org that can garner 30,000 or more signatures overnight as well as a tsunami of adverse comments on their facebook page and twitter account, corporations take the threats very seriously. They go into damage control with the immediate objective to staunch the wound and limit the fallout. Seeing an opportunity to signal some virtue for their brand, they pull their advertising and send out a media release stating that what Jones said doesn’t reflect their company’s values, etc, etc.
 
For his part Jones did what he’s done in the past. Once it became apparent that advertisers were quitting his show. At first, he makes a backhanded apology suggesting that he’s sorry if people were offended, but really, it’s their fault for misinterpreting what he was saying.
 
Later, when management had made it abundantly clear that there was huge money at stake as well as Jones’ own livelihood, he put in a special appearance on Ben Fordham’s Drive Show to make a much humbler public apology. But it was too little late. The outbound flow of advertisers had reached critical mass where almost half of his entire advertising roster had gone including Volkswagen, Chemist Warehouse, Subaru, Mercedes Benz, ComBank, Big W, Flight Centre and IGA.
 
In the past, though, once the kerfuffle has died down, the advertisers returned. But not before it cost the station serious revenue that can never be recovered. This time, it could easily top $20 million. And many of the advertisers will want huge discounts to entice them back. Those in the sales department who rely on commissions to make ends meet are unlikely to be impressed with having to pay for the indiscretions of a colleague who makes as much in two or three weeks as they earn in a year.
 
However, that may be the best case scenario. The worst case scenario might be that this Sleeping Giants group, who seem well aware of how advertisers react in such situations, keep the pressure on all those clients who, in turn, may eventually find it more prudent to spend their advertising dollars on less controversial outlets.
 
Jones, of course, along with his fanbase, and fellow conservative commentators including Andrew Bolt and Prue MacSween have hit back, casting Jones as the victim of a vicious social media campaign out to get the master broadcaster. Callers to Jones show have stuck by him and, in a kind of counter-boycott, have sworn never to deal with those brands again.
 
The problem Jones has is that he has built a show based on an idea that he is the champion of hard working, right minded conservative people, many of them living on Struggle Street. The left and their operatives, including the ABC and the Labor Party and LINOs (Liberals In Name Only) like Malcolm Turnbull and anyone that believes in climate change, are the enemy.
 
I have no problem with that per se. If the “left” have the ABC, the “right” should be entitled to their 2GB - even if it seems as silly as having separate ice cream shops that sell either chocolate or vanilla. In the case of radio talk shows, it has little to do with management's own political bias, it's just a fact that the most successful talk stations are those that take a partisan approach. 
 
Jones might argue that it is unfair that a cyber lynch mob who never listens to him should have more sway over his program than his own audience. It’s a low act then, for this Sleeping Giants mob to approach his advertisers and threaten his livelihood by warning them off his show. Who are they to decide what his audience can hear and what they can’t? “The language used about me is just extraordinary,” said Jones. “It seems to be okay that you can, in social media, about Alan Jones, say that we should kill him.” 

For the most part I can’t disagree with him but it’s all irrelevant. There’s no point shaking one’s fist at social media or sleeping giants or those haters of the left. They’re not going away. It’s the reality in which we live in the 21stcentury. This has nothing to do with what’s fair and what isn’t. It’s about dollars, pure and simple.
 
This point was eloquently made in the highly acclaimed 1976 movie “Network” by Ned Beaty playing the role of Arthur Jensen, the Head of the fictional Network (not dissimilar to, say, Hugh Marks position at Nine). In the hot seat is the network’s star news anchor played by Peter Finch – you can draw your own conclusions.
 

Arthur Jensen: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immense, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and You Will Atone!

 
You can watch the whole 5:11 minute scene on YouTube.
 
If Jones ceases to be MacRadio's rainmaker because advertisers believe they’ll lose more sales by being boycotted than they’ll make through his show, then the show will make little or no money regardless of how big his audience is and some pretty drastic changes will have to be made. Replacing the revenue from 52 of the biggest advertisers on radio will be about as painstaking as rebuilding Notre Dame cathedral.
 
From where I sit, it seems to me that unless 2GB and Alan Jones can convince his accusers and the departed advertisers that he’s  cleaned up his act, it's going to be difficut to keep paying him $80,000 per week.  

Here's the thing...
 
Arguably the most successful comedian today is Jerry Seinfeld. What has set him apart in his career as a stand-up is that he doesn’t swear. Seeing how many times he can cram the word “fuck” into his routine is superfluous to his needs as far as being funny goes.
 
So, what would happen if Alan Jones swore off the need to demoralise and humiliate people with whom he disagrees? 
 
There is nothing wrong with calling out Jacinda Ardern for making statements at an international forum against the Australian Government’s attitude to climate change. Whether people agree or not, it’s a fair point for discussion and it was reasonable of Jones to bring it up. But is it absolutely necessary to call the elected Prime Minister of New Zealand “A joke, a clown an absolute and utter lightweight,” just because she has a different opinion (and that’s all it is) to yours?
 
Does it somehow strengthen your argument by suggesting that our Prime Minister give your “opponent” a few back handers and shove a sock down her throat? 
 
If you were playing any code of football, the ref would penalise you for playing the man (or woman) and not the ball. Make that a feature of your game and you’ll be given a slew of lengthy suspensions. As a player, how often would you expect to be able to do that before your club tears up your contract?


Peter Saxon

 

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4 Comments

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Anthony The Koala
26 August 2019 - 7:01am
It is not the first time that social media conducted a campaign against Alan Jones' program. The "Destroy The Joint"/"Sack Alan Jones" were social media campaigns conducted against the Alan Jones program in 2012. It was reported then that 2GB lost $80000 in revenue as a result of the social media campaign:
Source: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/only-rationality-will-destroy-alan-jones--joint#
Source: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/revealed-the-faces-behind-the-alan-jones-pursuit/news-story/31b8cb3c8e55f0335cf1a4337e72fa1e?

After a few weeks of 'ad-free' programming, the advertisers returned to 2GB. The current social media campaign appears to have more bite with half the advertisers withdrawing their custom from 2GB. The advertisers may well resume their sponsorship in a few weeks. Time will tell.

These advertisers are not there for charity. They're out there to attract customers to their business against others in the same category of product or service. If for example Mercedes Benz ('MB') withdraw their advertising, does that mean people will buy an Audi or BMW because of the absence of MB's advertising? MB or any advertiser will want to tout for business by advertising somewhere else. Or it could resume advertising on 2GB.

It is not what you say, rather how you say it. This includes behaviours within the employ, "...put the person in a chaff bag", "....Juliar" outside the employ but identifying with the employer, "....her father died of shame..."

The behaviours are like the school behaviour discussion I made elsewhere on this site. It was where I said that student's behaviour of a (private) may well affect the reputation of the school within and outside school hours. It follows that an employee's behaviour affects the reputation and turnover of a business entity within and outside working hours.

Thus I agree with the author that if a particular politician or policy maker is WRONG, you can still say that the person is wrong without inflammatory remarks. If a commentator disagrees with a leader by saying "....sock...it...down her throat" or by hounding and humiliating a CEO for not publicising a horse race on a public building then the commentator deserves a rap on the knuckles and deserves a loss of advertising revenue.

Instead, the above examples could have been dealt with the commentator saying "....the NZ Prime Minister was wrong in this policy.....and other explanations" and ".....what is the policy of projecting a commercial event such as a horse race on the Opera House....who is responsible for this policy not projecting a horse race....." respectively.

However it is inconsistent of management of wanting to dismiss Alan Jones in for further 'transgressions' of tact in 2019 when it was not dismissing Alan Jones for the same conduct in 2012. It is management policy on the fly. I mentioned that in another posting the inconsistent attitudes towards Arch Tambakis (RIP) for calling the Opposition Leader Mr John Howard a liar and Alan Jones calling the Prime Minister Julia Gillard "..Juliar". The former lost his job, the latter kept his.

On the other hand, should the whim of the crowd of social media be the 'high moral ground' of what goes to air and what does not go to air. The current 2019 social media campaign by the "Sleeping Giants" of 2019 as well as "Destroy The Joint" of 2012 may well be valid.

BUT just because opinions of social media does not accord with the political views of the commentator, should the radio station and/or commentator be boycotted because the commentator does not agree with global warming/climate change/climate emergency or any social or moral issue decided by the social media activists?

The result is that the social media activists could just as well be guilty of bullying as the commentator.


Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belield
Jason
27 August 2019 - 9:07am
Jones has made an art form of ensuring his listeners understand his point of view by using frustration and passion to get his point across. This triggers an emotive response.

Those who like him call it passion, those who don’t call it offensive.

In the past, those who don’t were the minority, social media made them stronger. Now they are being heard loud and clear.

However, if Jones was to tone down his comments, would those who love him still do so? They are rusted on because they like what they hear.
Anthony The Koala
27 August 2019 - 12:07pm
I fully agree with Jason that Alan Jones "...made an art form of ensuring his listeners understand his point of view by using frustration and passion to get his point across....".

The device Alan Jones uses is called "rhetoric", a communication method that aims to persuade the listener. Alan is not the first person in the world to use that technique. It's a technique that is over 2500 years old and comes from Ancient Greece and is used by "...training orators, lawyers, counsellors, historians, statesmen, and poets..." including radio commentators.

source: https://rhetoric.sdsu.edu/resources/what_is_rhetoric.htm
source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric

Justin Gleeson, SC, former Solicitor General to the Commonwealth wrote a book about rhetoric. In the blurb for his book, rhetoric the art of "...persuasion is also a professional technique that must be perfected properly ..."

source: https://www.federationpress.com.au/bookstore/book.asp?isbn=9781862877054

In the context of broadcasting, applies research with the technique of persuasion. One need not agree with his narrative, but it has been consistent. For example the current issues on his program are climate change and the supply of base-load power. It is a very reality that coal-fired power stations are closing down, but are not replaced with the like-equivalent power capacity of a reliable source of energy. I don't want to debate climate change and coal-fired power stations, suffice to say that Alan Jones rightly speaks in the language of urgency. What Alan says is very valid.

While Alan Jones does not have to completely reduce his tone of 'urgency' and how wrong a politician or decision maker is he does need to reduce rather insulting language such as "...put a sock down her/his throat...." Since insults are a very small proportion of the 'rhetoric', they can be deleted from the discourse.

Thank you,
Anthony from the exciting town of Belfield, home to Australia's first Pizza Hut in 1970 and Belinda Green, Miss World 1972.


SammyLea
27 August 2019 - 2:15pm
Peter your article would have been better in my opinion if you'd just started at "Here's the thing." That's the six pertinent paragraphs at the end.

Your article is factually inaccurate and to be honest, feels a bit like you're sitting on the fence and don't know which side you really want to take. Either that or you're just trying to present a balanced view on a subject you don't truly understand.

I'm unsure if it was deliberate on your part naming Sleeping Giants Oz as the group who spearheaded the campaign instead of the actual group that did, the Mad Fucking Witches.

For a balanced article, I suggest you try to keep things simpler. Example, "an orchestrated campaign by his detractors" instead of 'an orchestrated campaign by consumers using their free speech.'

I have to add that this comment worries me a bit, "All of a sudden, the 100 year old business model: Audience = Advertisers = Revenue, is broken and in need of repair." So many questions. Is that in more need of repair than a country losing at least one woman to domestic violence at least each week?

Do you even understand that Alan suggesting that our Prime Minister backhand a powerful leader of another country who also happens to be a woman, affects how men think about women and domestic violence?

It's not broken really, isn't it in fact working perfectly fine, or are consumers not allowed to use their free speech like a radio announcer is?

"Imagine, if you will, the prospect of a breakfast show that has the largest audience in Sydney but is boycotted by advertisers and is thus starved of revenue."

At the time of writing, no less than 68 of an alleged 108 advertisers have agreed to remove their advertising from Alan Jones' program. A lot of them were in fact unaware they were being advertised on his show. All of them agree to something along the lines of 'Our company doe not support the views expressed by Mr Jones and will no longer support his show.' Yes I can safely say I can imagine Alan's show being starved of revenue and it doesn't worry me. Not in the slightest. Starved LOL Great word, but it's Alan starving himself.

You flop back after this, "Jones did what he's done in the past, backhand apology and suddenly you appear to be on the side of the 'detractors'.

You and Alan himself can't seem to grasp that Alan Jones did this to Alan Jones. It is fair, democratic. There are groups opposing the campaign also, they can use their free speech too.

People need to stop thinking free speech means you're free from any consequences, this is not what 'free speech' entitles you to. If you speak and there's a consequence, free speech laws do not protect anyone from this. Not even in the USA where they actually have entrenched free speech into their constitution.

Alan clearly has issues when it comes to women, mostly powerful women who don't have the same opinions as he does and he's not above making comments supporting physical violence against them. Quite simply Alan is a toxic person and is trying to blame others for the situation he has found him in when it's his own dumb fault. It's a joke that anyone thinks HIS rights are being impinged on. Not laughing though!

Most of your article didn't match the last six paragraphs. Yup, should have just kept them in my opinion.

#enoughisenough
#SackAlanJones
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