I’ve watched him work his magic to make radio a better experience. In our recent lunch in Woodstock, we caught up on radio today, the CRTC and suggestions for Radio’s new playbook.
Give our readers some Dave Farough radio story highlights so far.
Like many who got their start in the early ’80s, my first job was in a small town- Estevan (Saskatchewan) – at CJSL, running the bible tapes on Sunday morning, reading the obituaries at 11 am and the birth announcements at 1 pm. After a few years of gaining much-needed experience, I went to Brandon (Manitoba) and an FM rock station. Then to Victoria to help launch 100.3 The Q in 1987.
What I thought was going to be a short stint on the Island turned into 13 great years working with some of the most talented people on the planet. It was there that I was given my first opportunity to Program and help develop talent and I loved it! I knew then that Talent Development would become my specialty.
In January of 2001, I got lucky when JJ Johnston – a mentor and brilliant radio guy- gave me the opportunity to move to Toronto and program 102.1 the edge and, a few years later, Q107. I learned so much about content, marketing, sales, the industry in general and how to build trusting relationships with people. I also made a ton of mistakes and learned many things the hard way.
From there, it was a GM position overseeing 4 stations in London (Ontario), then back to Toronto in 2010 as VP of Brands and what was called “New Media” at the time (digital), and a short stint as GM of Toronto from 2013-2015.
To go full circle, like so many who got their start in the early 80s, I was caught up in restructuring and cost-cutting in July of 2015 and was suddenly on my own. A year of soul-searching commenced, and because I’m lucky to have so many good connections in the industry, I was offered some opportunities to advise companies and develop talent.
That brings us to today. I’m still active in the industry as a Programming advisor and Content Strategist to companies like Acadia Broadcasting, and prior to the pandemic, Rogers Sports & Media and Blackburn Media. And because I specialize in Talent Development, I spend my days doing what I love the most- working with content creators at all levels of experience to help them get better at what they do.
What does radio need to do to thrive and survive?
Marketing: Tell people you exist. There are too many content choices these days and people won’t just find you the way they did in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Especially new products – you must tell them what you do and why.
Personalities: Content is all that matters. Without engaging in human connections you cannot be successful.
Patience; Create a great product with entertaining and informative content and then leave it alone! Stop tinkering and messing around! Inconsistency over time will kill your brand.
What are the essentials that radio in 2023 must embrace?
This a big question with many different answers and opinions. For me, it comes back to executing the basics well.
Content; Coach your content creators constantly. Help them understand the needs of the audiences and advertisers. Help them be timely and topical to reflect what’s happening “at this time on this day in this town”.
Investment; Reinvestment needs to start and the cost-cutting needs to stop. Yes, efficiencies are essential for business success, but when the cutting began around 2008, it was always about “what can we cut WITHOUT affecting the product”. By 2015/2016, we started to go too far. Here we sit in 2023 and there is no question the product has been negatively affected. We can only abuse our best customers (P1s and loyal advertisers) so long before they go elsewhere…and that’s happening. Let’s accept lower margins for a few years and spend a few dollars to re-energize and re-imagine the industry.
Expertise: The industry needs to do a much better job employing people who can teach content strategies based on the needs of the audience. Currently, there are too few with too many duties to spend the time needed. We keep saying “Content is King”. Let’s put some real focus and resources towards it.
Give us your thoughts on the recent radio review.
As someone who loves this industry so much, I’m extremely disappointed. It seems to me they put very little effort into the review and I’m really starting to wonder about the future. How can we continue to compete for audiences when the rules are different for the various players and platforms? This review is clear evidence the CRTC is out of touch with the day-to-day operations and challenges of the radio industry in Canada.
What are three things that you would include in today’s Radio Playbook?
Again, there are many, but these are top-of-mind;
Spontaneous/FUN: There was a time when radio was unpredictable- you never really knew what was going to happen from hour to hour, show to show and day to day. These days you can easily predict when the commercials will play, what songs will air and what the host will talk about- usually some random survey or “Question of the Day” i.e., does a hot dog qualify as a sandwich? This is what happens when the industry continues to cut costs and resources.
Talent Creates AND Sells; We need to innovate the traditional model of programming on one side and sales on the other. We all need to generate revenue. Talent needs to learn how to sell what they make. Owners and Managers need to pay talent a commission on the revenue they generate. It’s a Win-Win. There are no downsides.
Experiment: This ties to #1. We need to try new things. Unfortunately, Imagination has gone from radio. Too few people with too many duties. They’re burnt out. They don’t have time to stare out the window and think about new concepts and new ways of doing things. We’re doing it the way it’s always been done because that’s all the time we have. And if you don’t think this is true, you haven’t been in an actual radio station – in the trenches- in a long time.