As Canadian Music Week’s RadioActive 2022 returned in-person Tuesday for the first time since 2019, radio futurologist James Cridland opened with a keynote filled with some examples of future leaning radio from around the world, as a smaller than usual but enthusiastic group of radio broadcasters and podcasters settled into a very long day of in-person learning. Rolling straight into Building a Strategy for the Future, Cridland explored the themes of collaboration; not being afraid to break things; and adopting the attitude that this is a time of renaissance surfaced.
Caroline Gianias, President of Radio Connects, deftly steered a discussion on radio’s business challenges, highlighting the need for attribution – proving radio’s value in the face of data driven digital. Radio has lost its local advantage to geo-targeted digital campaigns and it needs to become more agile and easier to buy. Digital buys can be done instantly using a handful of networks, whereas radio buys usually involved hundreds of stations. The conversation seemed to float back to Attribution, as Gina Banks, Chief Client Officer for Mindshare opined, “If we could really measure performance, that would be the Holy Grail.” NLogic’s David Phillips raised the need to validate the role of radio in the marketing funnel to help agencies win business and make the medium more justifiable to the CFO.
At lunch, Barb Williams, CBC’s Executive Vice-President English Services, delivered a sharp address to both CMW conference rooms at once, The Big Shift – Radio to Audio. Karen Steele, was recognized with this year’s Rosalie Award by the Radio Trailblazers, recognizing a woman blazing new trails in radio, while Virgin Radio personality Shannon Burns was awarded the Allan Waters Broadcaster of the Year Award, in memory of Steve Young.
Fred Jacobs kicked off with afternoon sessions by introducing Tobias Nielson of Bauer Media Audio in the UK, who presented a case study on subscription radio, answering the question, will listeners pay for radio? With a 70% retention rate on Bauer’s Premium RadioPlay, this is one revenue stream to watch. Later joined by Rod Schween, President of Pattison Media; Troy Reeb, Executive Vice President, Broadcast Networks at Corus Entertainment; and Caroline Beasley, Director of the Beasley Broadcast Group, the panel debated whether subscriptions would fly. It was noted that Bauer has a reach of 61M listeners, which was unrivalled by the participant’s groups. The panel also discussed easing ownership rules, the importance of adopting more ad tech, and the importance of local talent and local content.
Now! Radio and Today Radio are two of the hot new brands in radio broadcasting. Sean Ross steered a great discussion on what it takes to put personality back at the heart of radio brands. The panelists discussed the mindset shift that is required on the part of programmers and talent to recognize what’s important – and what’s not – to today’s audience.
In one of the most poignant sessions of the day, moderator Saroja Coelho of CBC Music led a discussion on inclusion. Flow 98.7 General Manager Gary Gunter described the challenges and opportunities of managing the formerly Black-owned radio station through a post-ownership transition period (to another minority owner), as well as subsequent adoption of the Flow brand, which also saw the integration of non-Black talent into the operation, challenging all involved to confront the multi-faceted issue of inclusion. Sharon Hinds provided insight into Rogers Sports & Media’s All-In program and shone a light on the importance of mentorship and retention of minority employees. Nick Davis, Executive Director of Equity & Inclusion, at CBC, also described the importance of helping white managers understand the benefits of multicultural teams and the mix of perspectives they bring, as well as giving managers assistance in recognizing the unique needs of everyone at the team table.
The day ended with a few sparks as broadcast consultant and former CRTC commissioner Rita Cugini tackled a broad range of issues ranging from CanCon reduction, streaming royalties, tangible benefits, ownership policy, diversity, the radio review, and C-11. The prevailing views of the panelists were that the results of the radio review won’t be made public until the political issues around C-11 are cleared up. Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) President Kevin Desjardins and Music Canada CEO Patrick Rogers clashed on the issue of Canadian content and streaming, but did find common ground on the importance of radio to the music community.
More to come.
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