MEDIAWATCH: Today FM vs ZB – has the experiment worked?


I did some talkback shows when Radio Live first started under the legendary Larry Somerville, was a guest on a few panel shows back then, co-hosted MagicTalks 2020 election night coverage, was a guest panelist on MagicTalk where we started The Working Group, and I was a panelist on Today FM with Graeme Hill, so I have a lot of interest in the Today FM experiment and the latest ratings battle with ZB because I am a broadcasting geek.

Ratings came out last week and it’s produced the lowest Talkback ratings in NZ radio history.

Today FM went from 1.9 market share to a record ratings low of 1.7 and cumulative audience plummeted from 136 000 to 115 000.

I don’t think Tova interviewing Zelensky is enough to lift Today FMs ratings, I think she’ll have to actually fight the entire war by herself and only once she has single handedly pushed the entire Russian army out of all occupied Ukrainian territory, then, and only then, might Today FMs ratings lift.

MagicTalk finished its ratings run on 2.4 share with an audience of 165 000 after David Farrier published an incredibly defamatory character assassination of Sean Plunket where a millennial female staff member felt triggered that she had to work in a building with a man like Sean who had different opinions from her.

The funniest bit about Farrier’s character assassination was the bit where the millennial female staff member raced to the toilet to sob that Sean was in the building ONLY TO FIND OUT that MagicTalk was being played in the toilets!

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You can’t write satire like that.

Sean was cancelled and MagicTalk rebranded into Today FM at a cost of $9million.

$9million dollars spent and all you get is 1.7 share while Sean’s new Platform has twice that audience?


When you go woke, you go broke.

There are two problems with Today FMs shocking ratings collapse.

The first is that it holds them hostage to the woke cancellation Lynch mob who can target advertisers (as was done with Sean) and because Today FM has so few advertisers, they will always capitulate to the woke Lynch mob.

In comparison, ZB has a 14.7 share  and 700200 listeners.

You think ZB gives a fuck when the woke attack Hosking and call for cancellations?

Of course they don’t because they have so many advertisers!

And that’s the second problem, the total dominance of ZB in the radio market is one of the reasons for Wayne Brown’s lead in the Auckland Mayoralty.

ZB is so dominant, you can saturate advertising on that network and have enormous response.

National should just empty its pockets on ZB advertising next year for the election, the bang for buck is insanely huge BECAUSE Today FM is so weak.



One of the intimate successes of Talkback radio is that you have hosts that people have a relationship with. Take Graeme Hill who was dumped from Today FM recently.

Some listeners will have a multi decade relationship with Hill, he’s a friend of theirs, cutting him for hosts people don’t have a relationship with, like Tova, Duncan and the other guy at drive, makes it almost impossible to win them back.

The Today FM experiment is a response spawned by a panicked media company who got spooked by the woke, the only focus now must be at stopping the audience from haemorrhaging any further.

To that end, Today FM must forget about the ‘Balanced Mic’ branding and think that’s enough to win an audience in such politically polarised times.

They have to actually create a reason WHY people would listen.

Luckily for Today FM, there is a moment like that they can capture, the election next year!

Today FM must be politics, politics, politics all year in the lead up to the election.

There is a multi-party MMP spectrum splintering going on out there…

…Today FM could interview Political Leaders of the fringes all day long, play to the balanced mic branding by the Host being the balance between two extremes.

It needs producers with political intelligence and broadcasting insight to build those panels, but it can absolutely happen.

Today FM has to be talking head CNN radio and produce news about an event NZers still engage with at a higher level than a lot of other countries when it comes to voting in elections.

By creating a reason to listen with political news in an election year, Today FM would have chance of becoming a media product that sets the agenda while producing a justification to tune in.

Without an urgent change of focus and content creation, there must be a point where the financial owners of Mediaworks will demand results from this experiment.


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  1. Has there ever been a filthier NZ line up than Mi Cockskin and his bunch of paid tory mouths for hire at ZB? (that was a rhetorical question…)

    • There there Tiger speak nicely like the Human Rights Commission says – unless you are Kelvin Davis or Willie Jackson in which case crickets.

    • I hear your frustrations, but can you imagine how frustrating it is to be on the right and knowing your tax dollars is going into the propaganda that is Red Radio?

      At least you’re not paying for Mike.

      • The RNZ Board looks rather tory middle class to me. There is a real thing among younger Māori journalists at the moment–“we are professional and neutral”–yeah, nah.

        Not personally paying for Mi Cockskin, but business interests and reactionaries are, and the working class is paying for it in a wider sense with the division he helps create.

  2. I didn’t even know Magic radio had rebranded. For 9 million Today FM could have hired Hosking. Prefer Red radio, no ads.

  3. A firewall of greedy freaks keeping the flames of neoliberalism burning darkly on the side of the soulless and well monied.
    Mike hoskings is a short wee fellow so he must be standing on hungry kids. He’ll be happy that we might think he’s finally found a use for them.
    Jesus! Just look at the pouting snakes with the Hollywood hair.
    I see simon barnett finally gets that joke he was told five years ago. He’s still standing and he’s not smouldering so there is no God. At least not one that’s on our side.
    Kate Hawksby. She looks like a sneering, mad staring, middle aged snow tussock. Is she inching her hand towards mike’s pocket? She’s not holding a magnifying glass so she’s not after his penis.
    NewstalkZB’s denizens. They’re popular and many people listen to them. What does that tell you?

  4. Here’s the problem with Tova. She has always been a teenage Hello magazine “Gotcha” journalist. I listened to the Zelesnky interview and she was shocking. Always goading him to say Jacinda didn’t support him enough. Always looking for that Gotcha moment. Just like she did back on TV…Gotcha! Zelenskybwould had thought “What a tosser”. She’s a lightweight breakfast host. No match for Hosking. I don’t think she will last long.

    • I think Tova convinced herself she was an extraordinarily brilliant journalist with her brash Im better than you attitude.
      Trouble is no one else agreed.

  5. Heeeello….yoooouuhooo…ZB and Plunkett will get even more listeners. Just look at the latest Roy Mogan poll. It’s all happening.

  6. There is another problem with Today FM. Neither I nor anyone I have spoken to have the faintest idea on which frequency it broadcasts. In my case I cannot be bothered looking for it.

  7. I remember that Magic Talk’s predecessor – Radio Live – was rating, on average about 4-5% nationally although it differed regionally. That was considered a ratings failure and so was replaced by Magic Talk. I think though that some of Radio Live’s hosts connected with the listeners in a way that the new line up is struggling to do. Grame Hill had a couple of great shows on Saturday and Sunday nights for example. Now he has been dumped?

    I agree with Martyn that one of the characteristics of successful talkback is the hosts build a relationship with the audience. The Today FM lineup seem remote – better suited to be news journalists than talkback hosts. The ratings now are truly disastrous.

  8. I find Sean Plunket a sharp and witty talk back host.
    Much of which I fear goes over the heads of many listeners.

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