There is a lot of talk these days about the state of radio. Is it dead, dying or just pining for the fjords (credit Monty Python). I recently asked my boss, media consultant Chris Byrnes, about the health of Canada’s smaller markets.
Your consulting business, ByrnesMedia, works exclusively with radio, particularly small broadcasters. Why?
In most cases, their decisions are not based on improving the shareholder dividend. They also tend to be nimbler and can make decisions quickly and move on a dime.The big companies tend to have so many layers of approval that it takes too long to get anything done. The big guys do have their advantages and are always great to compete against.
What is the state of small market radio at present?
Small markets stations are improving their systems and technology which enables them to operate more efficiently and in some cases, are finding new ways to grow revenue. Look at what Larche, Blue Sk, and Golden West are doing with digital revenue and community portals for example. These three broadcasters have taken the time to develop a strong digital strategy, and are generating revenue using the combined power and reach of both digital and radio.
These are not rollouts – this is what smaller markets can do, on their own!
You own Heart FM, a radio station in Woodstock, Ontario. I don’t know of any other consultants who own their own radio station. Which came first?
In 2003 I became a Canadian citizen and that allowed me to start looking at radio ownership opportunities. The multiples being paid for stations was crazy, so I identified three markets in Ontario that looked to have no local radio or were underserved, engaged an engineer to find frequencies and started to put together the information I needed. Woodstock looked promising so in late 2004 I wrote and filed an application with the CRTC.
After winning the license we built the station and launched in April 2006, and it quickly became the most listened to radio station in Oxford County even though all the stations from London. Kitchener, Hamilton, Stratford, Tillsonburg and Stratford, Brantford and some of the Toronto stations put a signal into that market. As far as I am aware, we are the only radio consultants who also own radio stations, which gives us somewhat of an advantage in that we walk the walk so to speak and are able to talk to owners and operators on a different level.
What does radio need to do, to continue to be profitable and relevant?
CB: Focus on providing great service to both listeners and clients, and continue to educate clients on the power of radio. Radio's unfair advantage is our reach and we need to use that and create great local products that make a difference in our communities. We also need to do a better job of selling the benefits of radio and not allow the new shiny apps or products to position radio as old and outdated.
We need to be everywhere our listeners are, which means getting the FM chip activated in all smartphones. I am excited for the launch of Radioplayer in Canada which will roll out in early 2017.
Based on what happened in England, it will help grow listening and tuning to radio. It also gives each radio station a presence in the connected car which will be important moving forward. As an industry, we need to adopt the HD technology on both AM and FM as it makes radio cool again, improves the listener audio and interactive experience.Lastly, we need to have fun. This is a great business to be in!
You talk funny. What’s up with that?
CB: Yes I do. I was born in New Zealand and while my children lost their accents soon after moving here, as adults we are stuck with what we have. After living in Canada for 19 years, my New Zealand friends also tell me that I have a Canadian accent and sometimes they find it hard to understand me. However, my wife Jilann says that is one of the things that attracted her to me, so hope I don’t ever lose my funny accent.
Sharon Taylor is a consultant at ByrnesMedia.com. She has worked small markets (hello Moose Jaw), medium markets (luv u Ottawa), large markets (Wpg 4ever) and major markets (in the 6ix) and can be reached right now at 437 992 9202 or email@example.com.