Dave Charles Tells It As He Sees It
Dave Charles has many years of radio and music consulting experience at the highest level.
From partnering with John Parikhal to start Q107 Toronto, starting one of Canada’s top media research and consulting firms Joint Communications Corp in 1979, working with the legendary Lee Abrams during the Superstars Album Rock revolution in the U.S. establishing a major media consulting firm in Australia (ESP Ltd.) Entertainment, Strategy, and Programming for 16 years with media guru Greg Smith, serving the music industry as President of the CCMA and CARAS over eight years is only part of his media life and story. Charles has consulted radio and entertainment companies in 42 countries worldwide including Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, China, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, the U.K., Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic, India, and New Zealand to name a few. One of his proudest moments came from working with Jean LaRose at First People Radio (Didan Sirunivut)which means(our people-our future) in 2016 to help launch two Indigenous-owned radio stations called Elmnt fm in Ottawa and Toronto giving Indigenous music talents a chance to be heard on equal footing with the world greatest music artists. ‘A Day to Listen,’ produced by Orybit Media, in collaboration with Elmnt fm, was aired on over 650 radio stations in Canada winning high acclaim from listeners and broadcasters alike. Media Results Inc. was formed by Charles shortly after his return to Canada in 2009 as a new beginning. His list of media associates and partners includes Paul Amos (Research) Lee Cornell (New Media/ Podcasts) John Parkihal (Strategy/Marketing) Peter Shurman (Strategy) Lee Abrams (New Media) Greg Smith (new Radio) Duncan Campbell (ARN Australia) Gary Muth (Entertainment) Glenn Prins (IT) Michael Nadel (new media/Marketing)and Rita Cugini (CRTC and regulatory affairs). Let’s get caught up on what’s next for Dave and MRI….
What is Media RESULTS Inc. up to these days?
Adding a new Sales/Marketing division this September to our core consulting services. SFI- Sales Fundamentals Inc headed up by sales legend John Perras is now partnering exclusively with Media RESULTS Inc. We have developed some great sales systems over the last year out of necessity due to Covid. That’s going to be our new focus this year as the radio industry needs to achieve greater traditional and non-traditional. We can help prepare radio for the road ahead and beyond. Digital sales, podcasting and other options need to now be considered and added to what radio sales can provide. However, the majority of radio’s revenue remains at local/retail sales. National sales are solely dependent on ratings.
For the past five years, you’ve been involved in consulting and launching ELMNT FM stations in Ottawa and Toronto for First Peoples Radio. Tell us about that experience and what was achieved.
After five years with Jean LaRose and his teams at Elmnt fm Ottawa and Toronto two new FM radio stations have, I believe, made a difference in these two markets by giving Indigenous music, news, perspectives (Moment of Truth talk show) and Indigenous languages a chance to be heard. We got hit by COVID as both stations lost their sales moment due to a lack to live contact selling. I believe that the current rating system hasn’t been able to truly reflect on the current audiences that both Elmnt fm stations have developed in Ottawa and Toronto. Both stations are using StatsRadio to gather more audience and social media data which we hope in time will benefit these stations in ultra-competitive markets. The aggregation of data makes way more sense to me as you’ve got to factor in other sources of incoming content that’s being consumed. Elmnt fm in Toronto and Ottawa must succeed to give Indigenous artists a chance to be heard in two of Canada’s largest markets. I wish them well.
Some are saying that radio is dying. Comment on some of Radio’s biggest challenges today.
The death of AM and FM radio is highly exaggerated! I only have to look at the numbers in Australia that say radio is growing.
I helped produce proof in the recent OAB opening session ‘The Wizards of AUS Radio’ with Aussie’s Paul Amos of Xtra Insights and Ronnie Stanton, VP of Corus content. You need to contact the OAB and check out the reasons why Aussie radio is growing. Having worked with and consulted them for over 23 years, Australian broadcasters know the importance of personalities, entertainment and information quality.
Radio’s biggest challenges in my view are:
Lack of direction. Content Directors are stretched too thin these days. Morning shows are in daily need of direction. Some Content Directors are not trained to direct morning shows and talent in general. There’s a gap here that needs to be addressed.
Podcast fear. Podcasts will never replace radio. Podcasts offer specific themed shows whenever you want. Radio is 24/7. Radio is 24/7.
Radio’s relationship with its listeners is in jeopardy. Covid has caused radio to become a ‘virtual medium’. Stations now need to get back out and participate in their communities. Being local is extremely important. IE Food Bank drives. Local hero’s who are making a difference. Every community has issues that radio can help to promote awareness of and champion. Radio needs to be seen in the communities it serves.
Contesting is over. Only 2% of your audience will ever tune in for contests. Why? Most listeners believe that they can never get through or win. Texting makes contesting slightly better because every text gets through and you can develop an active database. Contests that have a trivia component are better because you can play along. Contests like ‘Beat the Bank’ are bullshit. I’d never win that in a million years. People respond to somebody winning even if they don’t. We all love to share the feeling of winning. Also, we know in major markets that there’s an organized contest cartel that plays all radio contests. We saw this over and over at Elmnt fm in both markets. This is a disgusting reality. Prize pigs are now organized. Who knew? I DID!
Lack of new talent. Radio is not an attractive destination as it once was. Radio needs to get out to Colleges like Seneca, Humber and Ryerson and do seminars to encourage new broadcasters into our business.
Two of your well-known pet peeves are the CRTC and the current Radio Ratings system. Talk to us about that.
The CRTC needs a complete rethink. It’s cumbersome, very slow and overly bureaucratic. The delay in important decisions is a continuous problem for the commercial radio system to function effectively.
The current radio rating system is controlled by the major broadcast owners and agencies. As long as that remains, the current rating system will not change very much. I believe that radio is grossly under-measured in medium and small markets. I talked to many broadcasters who continue to suffer from a lack of regular measurement. Stats Radio has been gaining some traction in medium and smaller markets. The problem is that the major ad agencies don’t like change. Thinking out loud, there should be enough interest from broadcasters to develop a Radio Ratings APP. This APP would allow a great number of real listeners to register their listenership. I’ll leave this challenge with the CAB, OAB, WAB and BCAB to ponder. I believe such new ratings technology would give radio the revenue it deserves.
There are so many choices for media and music consumers. Where does radio fit into this mix? What must radio do to improve its awareness with consumers in a world of media over-choice?
Radio must improve the quality of its content overall. Most competitive major market stations have solid music formats. Radio can and must do a better job at updating local and regional news. Radio fails to provide adequate live news on the weekends. Radio is over voice tracked. As a result, radio is not as current and responsive as it once was. I know that weekends are prime time for radio listeners. Most weekends are voiced tracked with no fresh information or news.
Radio needs to offer a better menu of shows and music features. Radio is better because of texting. At least when you text your radio stations, the message gets through and you have some data you can use to make contact with your active listeners.
Radio station websites can also help in offering vital information plus the best of your morning show in a tight highlight package of 15 to 20 minutes. Blogs can be effective in giving your talent a chance to have a say beyond their show.
The average listener listens for about 1 hour or less a day. Do the math. The 10 to 12 songs you play in that hour must be the strongest and best. An average morning show plays 4 to 6 songs. There, content and live interaction are vital.
You wrote a compelling article ‘Gender Bias is a crime. What advice would you give to Content Managers with regard to hiring practices for today's radio audience?
If we don’t get gender balance on radio we are doomed to be out of sync. Now’s the time to realize that gender bias is a crime and will no longer be tolerated by your audience. They know. So should you.
How has radio changed during the last two years of the Covid pandemic?
With most talent working from home, radio has had to make technical challenges. With audio software like CLEAN FEED you and do high-quality radio shows from your home. The lack of community interaction has hurt radio. Morning shows have been affected by the lack to face to face yin and yang. Most stations are moving to get live studio shows again starting in September, which will improve things. Radio has not been able to get out in the community as well. This has also hurt live listener interaction and sales.
What’s your view of podcasting? Could a radio station featuring only the world's best podcasts survive and thrive?
There’s only a hand full of really good podcasts. The problem is the quality of the content. A friend of mine has a station in London U.K. called the Podcast Network. It's still early days yet so I can’t comment on how it is doing. The U.S., U.K. and Australia seem to be leading the way in presenting podcasts. Here are some of the latest Podcast stats from a U.S.report. My friend Jeff Vidler is an expert on Podcasts, you should interview him. Here are a couple of factoids on podcasts:
Podcasts continue to grow their prominence in the audio ecosystem, with annual podcast reach in the U.S growing +13% YoY. And, with more exposure comes more insight - particularly when it comes to learning about how podcast consumers view advertisements.
Over two-thirds of podcast consumers feel ads are acceptable, but only as long as the content is free. When it comes to advertisement Recall & Favourability though, there are several fascinating scenarios. Podcast listeners say they are most likely to remember advertisements from the middle of an episode.
Still, opportunities from all types of advertisements exist. Over one-third (35%) of podcast consumers intend to buy a service or product that they hear about on a podcast in the near future, which is especially true for Music Podcast Fans who are 32% more likely to do so than the average podcast consumer in the U.S. Additionally, about half would be glad to see an advertisement for a local business on their favourite podcast.
What does Dave Charles enjoy away from your media consulting life?
Love hiking, riding my bike and walking. It’s a great way to explore any neighbourhood and experience things you don’t normally take the time to experience. When I did my global consulting I would walk a city to get a feel for it. Loved doing that.
Love the Blue Jays. Was at the first game in April of 1977. They had a very tough ending to their magical season. I’m a baseball nerd! Lee Abrams and I are constantly talking about our teams. You’d think we were real managers. That’s a job I wouldn’t want. Like being in a fish bowl.
My wife Rita and I love to travel. We have a place in San Donato, Italy that is a great spot to hang out in. We’ve missed international travel back to my second country Australia. I miss my mates!! Maybe next year. Love my Cricket and Footy (Aussie Rules Football) not to forget some of the best seafood in the world. Life is great!