February 1, 2019

Last year I went on a cruise with my family. The Pacific Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, all that. Magnificent.

The day I boarded I was sitting at the bar (no time to waste) and there was a bloke sitting next to me, who looked like he was a former roadie for ACDC. Never judge a book by its cover.

He was wearing a blue workers singlet, a pair of stubbies, thongs and covered from head to toe in tatts. His face was like leather from thousands of hours in the sun. Skin-head haircut, earring, and a goatee that would have made Merv Hughes proud.

I didn’t say hello, to be honest the guy scared the crap out of me.

Then a soft voiced mumbled across the table, “What do you think of the ship?”

I paused for a moment and replied, “Not bad so far!”.

His name was Glen. We got talking and after a while I realised the bloke was doing pretty well for himself. He was from Batemans Bay on the South Coast of NSW. He’d been on several cruises before and he was on-board with his wife and her sister. This was their annual holiday.

While listening to Glen talk about his amazing life on the South Coast, I was dying to find out what he does for work?

Glen and I became mates for 14 days. I’d made a new friend. He was always at the bar. First one there when it opened each morning and from the stories, I’d hear the next day, the last to leave at 3am when it shut. I don’t make it past 11pm even when I’m on holidays. I hear the late-night parties on the ships can get pretty wild.

Glen would sit at the same table each day like the King of the Castle. In a humble way though. He wasn’t loud or rude. He was a gentle man. He would sit and drink his cans of VB one after the other, his mood would never change. Always happy. His words would slur as the day and evening rolled on, but he was friends with everyone. It seemed the whole ship knew, “that’s Glen’s chair, don’t sit there”.

I wonder what he does for a living?

Glen was a wearing a pretty chunky gold chain around his neck. Denis Lillee would be proud of that. Glen’s wife would drop by the bar every day to show Glen what she’d bought at the Duty-Free shop. When the ship stopped at each port, Glen wasn’t that keen to get off. “There’s nothing to see. I just want to relax.” Glen’s wife would return from her day out at port with bags and bags of gifts, clothes, souvenirs. Then she’d be off to the Beauty Spa while Glen would continue to hold court at the bar.

How does he afford all this?

When he found out I’d been working in radio, Glen told me how he loves Power FM. I drilled him about why he liked the station so much? “Fitzy and Wippa in the arvo. They’re un-real”. As the days rolled on Glen told me more about his life in Batemans Bay. He has a five- bedroom house a few minutes from the beach with a new kitchen he just put in. If he takes a break during the year it might be for a couple of nights camping with the 4WD at one of the nearby National Parks. He takes the boat or the jet-ski’s out on a weekend when the weather is fine.

In the evenings he kicks back and watches Netflix or Stan. He’s a fan of ‘Billions’.

It sounded to me like Glen had a very fulfilling life, like so many people living in Regional Australia. Sure, there are people everywhere around Australia doing it tough, but there are millions in Regional Australia with lots of money and lifestyles that people in the city would envy.

If you’re a brand or business and you haven’t yet included Regional Australia in your advertising and marketing strategy, your missing 45% of the country. Regional Radio and Regional Television each reach almost 12 Million Australian’s every week.

And as is the case with Glen, they’re not all driving tractors ploughing the fields.

Look at the large regional centre of Albury Wodonga on the border of NSW and Victoria. Population 148,588.

Out of that, 71,919 people are employed full time with the main industries of employment: Education and Training, Health Care and Social Assistance, Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, Accommodation and Food Services, Manufacturing, Electricity Gas Water, Waste Services, and Construction. Where’s the cows and the sheep?

Back to Glen. The reason Glen’s face looks like an old leather saddle, is he spends his workdays digging trenches and rolling-out the NBN to hundreds of homes along the South Coast. After a 30-year career working for Telstra he went out on his own. He’s a contractor. A small business owner. He employs a couple of young blokes to help him each week. Every quarter the BAS needs to be filed with the ATO. There’s the Annual Return. He works at least 10-hour days. There’s Workers Comp, Business Insurance, maintenance of the truck, suppliers need to be paid, all day to day operations of running a small business.

Glen is no different to any other business owner anywhere in Australia, whether they live in Blacktown or Batemans Bay. And this is the point. Regional Australians all buy the same stuff as the people in the big cities. And if you don’t get your brand or business in their face, then you’re missing out.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

  • Almost half of all groceries are purchased in Regional Australia

  • Every second car is bought in a Regional market

  • 1 out of 2 household appliances including televisions and computers are bought in
    Regional Australia

The Radio Sales Network provides these figures. They represent around 50% of Regional Radio stations trying to secure advertising from big Ad agencies. I worked with them for 3 years.


I’ve spent most of my career working in or with Regional Radio. It always astounds me when Ad agencies say, “We are only placing radio in the metro markets. Sorry we don’t have any budget for Regional Radio.”

For many years the Regional Radio station owners didn’t do themselves any favours. There were no ratings for most regional markets. But in the last few years that’s changed and the smart owner/operators are conducting in-market surveys to find out who is listening to the two stations they own. In most markets there are only two commercial radio stations. One for the oldies and one for the younger listeners owned by the same company.

But with Networking making their business more cost efficient, many of the metro stars are heard across Regional Radio. Nova Entertainment, Southern Cross Austereo, Super Network, and Macquarie Media all syndicate some of their top programs either live or as a highlights package into Regional Radio.

John Laws, I know it’s hard to believe the former King of the Airwaves is still going, but even ‘Lawsy’ is heard all through NSW from Newcastle to Lismore and up into QLD. In fact, in the most recent survey, John Laws was Number 1 again in the morning session 9am-12pm in Newcastle, where at the last Census the population was recorded at almost 600,000.


Triple M has a Network of 29 Regional Radio markets who take ‘Molloy and Kennedy’ in afternoon Drive every weekday.

Ray Hadley smashes them in Sydney every weekday morning on 2GB. In the final survey of 2018, Ray finished the year miles ahead of his nearest competitor with a share of 17.9. In the most recent survey in Coffs Harbour, Ray Hadley was Number 1 with a share of 25.3. In Port Macquarie, wait for it, Number 1 with a share of 40.3. The other stations in Port Mac might as well save power and turn off the transmitter for 3 hours.

Alan Jones is heard in 49 markets. Steve Price 51 markets. Roothy’s Australia 215 Markets. Regional Radio delivers a massive audience which presents new opportunities for brands and businesses to drive sales.

Just like Glen, almost all Regional Australians have the internet. If you’ve got a shopping cart on your site and you haven’t marketed your brand to Regional Australia, there’s 12 Million potential customers waiting to buy your product.

Most towns, no matter how big or small have a supermarket. Bunnings has 295 stores, many are in Regional Australia. If your product is sold in Bunnings, Coles, Woolworths, IGA, or any other large retail chain, Regional Australia is waiting to hear from you.

On the last day of my cruise, Glen told me he was already booking next year’s cruise. That was a year ago. I reckon if you were looking for Glen right now, he’d be holding court on the Sun Princess, somewhere out in the middle of the Pacific, sipping his VB, making friends with some other bloke. Glen’s not making billions, but life’s pretty good in Regional Australia.

Matt Summerill is a radio advertising specialist with over 30 years-experience in the Australian radio industry. Matt operates his own media agency - SUMM Media.

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