Radio In Review At CMW
Sharon Taylor's final report from the meeting rooms at the Sheraton Centre Toronto during the CMW confab. The message resonating from the various panels and presentations was mostly positive, but there is a consensus that the CRTC needs to step back in its demands on how broadcasters conduct their businesses.
The Evolution of Radio and Music: A Perspective from Women Visionaries who are Making it Happen
Barb Williams, EVP, CBC, Canada
Connie Walker, CBC, Canada
Megan Bingley, General Manager, CIND-FM (Indie 88), Canada
Melissa Vincent, Editor, Blue Ant Media, Canada
Patti-Anne Tarlton, Chairman Ticketmaster Canada, and EVP of Venues & Promoters for North America, Ticketmaster Canada, Canada
Susan Marjetti, Exec Dir Radio/Audio, CBC, Canada
The panel carried out a wide-ranging discussion that included the question “have we erased the importance of a hit?,” the role of a hit song in today’s multi-platform environment, as well as branded content and of course – how much room women are taking up in our industries.
Discussion on advertising was best summed up by Susan Marietti: “The future is not ad-free”. Panelists echoed the same point of view as the importance of monetizing digital and newer platforms were discussed. Clearly advertising funds content, and good content needs the security of advertisers.
Everyone seemed to agree that opportunities for women are there in today's environment and that the explosion of platforms has made room for voices that have been underrepresented in the past. While the audience demands more diversity, Megan Bingley reminded us all that we are still talking about the future. Women currently make up 9% of the executive positions overall, and media clocks in at the same percentage for female execs. Bingley did point out that numbers also show a sizable group of women right below the executive level ready to move up, making the future look promising for female management possibilities.
The Power of Broadcast
This session was delivered by Bob Hoffman. Hoffman is an ad man and now presents material suggesting that our advertising gurus don’t really know how to move audiences, and the possibility of a success or a flop is difficult to predict.
He then focused on two areas, online and traditional media. He holds nothing back when saying “today, websites, web browsers, apps, and search engines collect information about each of us every hour of every day. They follow us everywhere we go online, if we have a cell phone they can track our location everywhere we go in the physical world, they scan our texts and emails for information about us, they raid our contact lists to acquire data about people who don’t even use their services. “
He goes on to say: “The companies that have taken the brunt of the anger for the abuse of privacy have been Facebook, Google, YouTube, and other large online platforms. While these companies are certainly culpable, what most of the public doesn’t understand is that these companies are just the face of privacy abuse. The puppet masters are the advertisers and marketers. It is substantially for the benefit of advertisers and marketers that the online platforms collect, trade, share, and sell personal, private information about us”.
Hoffman says the result is ad fraud. “According to an article published in Fast Company recently, online ad fraud has reached 50 billion, and according to the World Federation of Advertisers, within six years ad fraud may become the second largest source of criminal income in the world, after drug trafficking”.
The result of which is “waste, public disgust, ineffectiveness, brand safety, fake news, degradation of journalism, non-transparency, plus it is undermining important principles of free societies. “Advertising used to be about imparting information to the public. Online advertising has become about extracting information from the public”.
For the second half of his presentation, Hoffman disproved the current presumption that precision marketing performs better than mass reach. His proof lies in the inability of online to create consumer-facing brands. “Anyone can see or hear radio and other broad-based media. But online tries very hard to be a one-to-one private medium. One of the reasons brands become huge is that everyone knows them. That’s the enormous advantage that broadcast media have that marketers and ad agencies have forgotten about”.
The Executive Supersession
Tony Chapman, Tony Chapman Reactions, Canada
Dave Daigle, VP, Radio and Local TV, Bell Media Radio, Canada
Doug Bingley, CEO, Central Ontario Broadcasting, Canada
Ian Lurie, President, Radio, Stingray Radio, Canada
Julie Adam, SVP Rogers Radio, Rogers Broadcasting, Canada
Troy Reeb, Executive Vice President, Broadcast Networks, Corus Entertainment, Canada
This highly anticipated session resulted in both a full house and full discussion that ranged from where radio is today, podcasting, the abandonment of teens (and how we are about to start courting them again), what the CRTC needs to do to be a help (as opposed to hindrance) and diversity in the workplace.
The panel was ebullient all the while addressing the challenges of declining listenership and revenue. Julie Adam stated, “we are not surrendering, we need to fight back, we need to innovate.” Troy Reeb noted that while there is a lot of flash from online, radio and TV continue to be the brand builders. Ian Lurie doubled down pointing out that while that they have the data and advertisers buy in, down the road clients realize it’s not helping them. Digital is just not working as hyped, while radio continues to dominate in the audio space.
When asked about the acquisition of Pacific Content by Rogers, Adam talked about how she looks at podcasting as audio and considers it another radio station "added to our basket of assets."
There was an encouraging talk from the panel on the fresh importance of talent. Diversity, the emotive appeal of radio and the need to concentrate on finding and building talent was discussed. Reeb cited the ability to build stars across platforms now.
Turning their gaze to regulatory, Dave Daigle mentioned that an even playing field is all that’s ever required, and the next 18 months are critical with the radio review upcoming. Doug Bingley suggested that the commission needs to move from regulator to facilitator to allow the business to grow.
The final word goes to Julie Adam who noted that she'd learned the importance of defining when to compete and when to collaborate with other broadcasters. Certainly explains the incredible success of Radioplayer this past year as well as the freshness and openness that most of the panels at CMW exuded. Cynicism is so yesterday.
Emerging Talent – Elevating Young and Diverse Voices
Maureen Holloway, Mornings, CHFI-FM (98.1) Toronto's Perfect Music Mix, Canada
Jamar McNeil, mornings, CHUM FM (104.5), Canada
Jax Irwin, mornings, 99.9 Virgin Radio (CKFM-FM), Canada
Kevin Lim, Morning Show Host, CKKS FM (Kiss 104.9), Canada
Missy Knott, announcer, 95.7 ELMNT FM, Canada
Peter Kash, Mornings, FLOW 93.5, Canada
Sonia Sidhu, Mornings, CKKS FM (Kiss 104.9), Canada
Denise Donlon, Media Executive, Producer & Host, Denise Donlon C.M., Canada
Talent, talent and more talent. The new wave of on-air stars weighed in on the challenges that they have faced on the way up: racism, sexism, homophobia, non-acceptance from certain corners in their communities.
Clear through the discussion was that if you are not a white heterosexual male, there will be push back. Kevin Lim who is partnered in the mornings with Sonia Sidhu remarked that even though each of them represents a visible minority, they are in the majority in Vancouver. Sonia discussed how at one point she had to take out a restraining order on a listener (you’re a woman you shouldn’t be doing news) while at the same time there was an entire online forum dedicated to tearing every single thing about her apart.
Jax Irwin talked about the decision to be to either be safe and hid behind the mic or be out and proud. Jamar McNeil has been in some version of the entertainment business since he was a toddler and has become accustomed to being judged on “how black he is.”
Denise Donlon, who is passionate about diversity and gender equality, gets the quote of the panel “Things don’t happen because you wish it. If you can measure it, you can move it”.
Podcasting – Broadcasting in the age of Podcasting
Matt Cundill, Owner/Host, Sound Off Podcast, Canada
Jordan Heath-Rawlings, Dir. Dig’l, Rogers Broadcasting, Canada
Leslie Merklinger, Sr. Dir. Audio IOnnovation, CBC Radio / Radio-Canada, Canada
Steve Pratt, Pacific Content, Canada
Podcasting was talked about in more positive terms this year than any previous.
The general agreement was that it’s very much like the wild west currently, where everyone is pretty well making it up as they go along. Length, narration, style, etc., are all being toyed with and best practices are just starting to form.
It was said that while there are 700,000 podcasts out there, there are still many stories and formats that have not yet made it to podcasts. Incredibly popular is the true crime genre which has the story built in and can do well in any format. Also, inside that big number are the podcast series that start and fail, often due to the amount of work it takes and how much it costs.
While generally it is felt that repurposing radio content is smart but not very compelling, Rogers begs to differ citing Roz & Mocha's podcast success as well as Prime Time Sports.
Monetizing podcasting is a different beast than other audio, and the panel believed that traditional marketing does not work. Guerilla marketing and word of mouth are the go-to methods of building cume (downloads are the current measurement).
Expect to see podcasting take over more stage time at upcoming CMW’s. New, exciting and exposing a fresh slate of talent, podcasting is off to an incredible start.
How to Refresh a Market Leader
Engaging and fun session on how BBC Radio 2 has handled major change in the last 12 months.
Points worth noting:
-they were always looking to evolve the station (fix the roof while the sun is shining)
-all along the way they give importance to research but also to trusting your gut
-when you discover one of your big stars is leaving, once you get over the shock, you see the opportunities
-if a relaunch is needed or a new personality is being introduced leave no stone unturned. You don’t want your 1st how to sound like a 1st show. Trial runs off air work to get comfortable and smooth before launch.
-they always plan on getting their ratings by day and their reputation by night.
Frame Your Station
Masa Patterson, VP Sales and Operations, Benztown, USA
Adam Kecskemeti, Sr Imaging Dir, 99.9 Virgin Radio (CKFM-FM), Canada
Lisa Keys, Voice Over Talent, Lisa Keys
Matt Anderson, Director Custom Imaging, Benztown, USA
Troy McCallum, PD, CHBM boom 973, Canada
This last panel was a good one but suffered in attendance as it was the last session of the day (and conference) and many had hit the bar, airport or hotel bed.
The imaging production studio (or Sound Kitchen!) is home to some of the most talented writers, voice over talent and producers. Since most of the voiceover talent is not in-house, communication between the voice and the station is paramount. Lisa Keys stressed that without that steady stream of information she couldn’t do her best work.
Troy McCallum writes all the imaging for BOOM Toronto and talked about how important it is for him to think of fresh ways to speak their audience through imaging. Everyone has heard the music, so they rely on imaging to help bring the station it’s needed connection with today’s environment.
While technology has allowed imaging to be anything you want it to be, therein lies a problem. Decisions with unlimited choices can make it distracting and harder to land on the bullseye.
This year's CMW was a great one. Having attended each panel, there was a clear pattern of fighting optimism and a renewed call to find and nurture talent. The faces are fresher too; executives are newish but storied and confident. The emerging talent is wildly good, and diversity IS happening albeit at a glacial pace.
Regulation is on everyone’s mind and is probably the biggest game-changer of them all.
Back to the real-world folks, let’s have another checkup in 365 days. Congrats and thank you to the organizers at CMW. The logistics make my head spin, but this year seemed organic and flawless. Nicely done!