Sharon Taylor At CMW: All Things Radio

Sharon Taylor takes over the Media Beat column today and Monday as she offers her unique, thoughtful and ever professional overview of the radio content component of CMW.

Sharon Taylor At CMW: All Things Radio

By Sharon Taylor

Sharon Taylor takes over the Media Beat column today and Monday as she offers her unique, thoughtful and ever professional overview of the radio content component of CMW. Today's edition spans the entirety of Thursday's meetings.


Are Smart Speakers Making Smart Listeners?

Canada’s adoption of smart speakers has grown from 0% to 19% in a year and a half. This latest entry into the “smart” devices has radio hopeful that smart speakers will move radio usage from the car back into the home (where there are virtually no “radios” anymore). 

Jeff Vidler from Audience Insights delivered top-line data from a millennial focus group who are all smart speaker users, what they do with them, how they use them, their likes and dislikes.


All the participants listen to some amount of radio on their smart speakers which makes hope swell in the chests of radio folks.  Some listen to more radio than they did before because of the device.

Smart speakers are perceived as a convenient way to get answers, set timers, play music, listen to podcasts, etc., all hands-free and more efficiently using their phone or computer.

There was no real concern from the millennials regarding privacy. Some mentioned that social media and cell phones have paved the way and now it's just accepted that companies are tracking your usage and content. “Privacy is not a concern at all for me.”

Jeff talked about key points, then showed an edited video of the participants responding in the focus group.  It was a nice touch that Jeff also had the focus group participants waiting in the wings, and they took to the stage to respond to questions

One take away is that the focus group was firm in the conviction that as time goes on and technology advances smart speakers will be just the start of an at home revolution.  Kids are growing up with them, and the focus group felt that things will be added to smart speakers that will fold more and more of their life into this device. “The smart speaker is the catalyst for a smart home.”


My favourite quote from a focus group member (they all live in Toronto). “My smart speaker is right beside me at home.  Well, I do live in a condo, so really everything is right beside me.”


Preparing for a Digital Future: What is it and how do I get there?

This session was hosted by Alan Cross and the panelists were Barbara Escoto, Bell Media; Radio futurologist James Cridland; Jeff Leake, SiriusXM; Jeffrey Ulster, Ulster Media; and Steven Goldstein, Amplifi Media.

Lots of interesting discussion on podcasting (there is a panel tomorrow dedicated to just that).  Google has just added podcasts to their search (which is huge), and Spotify is the #1 podcast app.

HD Radio and DAB were declared dead and done.  The inability of the US to come to a consensus on DAB has sounded their death knell, and HD is “not needed, hard to explain, requires receivers that don’t exist”. (pssst – anyone remember AM Stereo?)


While radio still gives listeners a community to connect to, personalities have had to evolve. On-air talent no longer have the ear of stars or can report back secrets of the famous with any exclusivity when you can follow your favourite celebs yourself on Insta or Twitter.

YouTube is where radio should be looking for its stars.  YouTube is chock a block full of personalities who have tremendous audiences that they have built from being different and delivering content that fans react to.


Infinite Dial Canada

Presented by Tom Webster of Edison Research and Stephanie Donovan.


This is the second year that Edison has compiled a Canadian survey. 

Here are some takeaways.

In Canada households who had smart speakers usually had one, now it’s moving to 2.

YouTube is the number one source for discovering new music.

Online audio is growing.  Radio still dominates in the car, but it’s diminishing.

Podcasting has had a massive jump in growth and podcasts listeners are split almost evenly between men and women. The most growth has come in the 35-54 demo.  23% of adults 18+ have listened to a podcast in the last week. The average number of podcasts that listeners consume is 5 per week.  Listening to podcasts has shifted from the computer to a portable device. Overwhelmingly people listen to podcasts mostly at home (91%).

Listening to various audio in Canada is lower than in the states and presenters implied that since data rates in Canada are comparatively high, the cost might be a limiting factor in listening.

I would have more, but Edison is not providing copies of the research to media (or anyone else) until the summer. 


Programming 2020 Masterclass

Moderated by JJ Johnston of JJ Johnston International Media and Management Solutions and panelists Christian Hall Programming Harvard Broadcasting, Janet Trecarten Brand Director QX104 Pattison Broadcasting, Paul Kaye VP Product and Talent Rogers, Ross Davies General Manager Radio Numeris, Steve Jones VP Brands and Content Stingray, Tammy Cole PD the Edge, Q107 Corus Radio.

Fun, fun, fun.  A standing room only audience for a great collection of panelists including programmers who are at the top of their game.

The panel kicked off with Ross Davies walking through the changes coming to Numeris, including the continuous measurement for non-PPM markets.  This led to a lively discussion between Christian Hall and Davies, with Christian suggesting that the word “hope” should be the word for the drinking game. “We HOPE that the sample will be good, we HOPE that the return will be there….”.  Also, at issue is the compromised ratings in the fall of a blended book and the unbalance it may present.  In all, it was refreshing to watch two smart and passionate radio folks air their dissenting views with candor and humour.


Interesting discussion on edgy content and how to deal with artists like R Kelly, Michael Jackson, Hedley, etc.  It was generally agreed that it’s a difficult time in the current climate of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” internet frenzy.  False outright on the internet has to be dealt with in a balanced manner and panelists were divided on what to do with the big step of removing artists from a station’s playlist.

Finally, the panel dealt with talent coaching.  It’s agreed across the group that it’s the most important thing a programmer does.  Coaching too little is not good; coaching too much causes damage, and coaching in general needs more attention from the top.  Programmers should be spending time coaching their talent, and corporate should be coaching them.  As far as air checking goes Christian Hall points out that air talent has pretty great memories when it comes to their stuff.  You don’t need to put them through the pain of listening to their show with you in the room; you can just talk about breaks.  Paul Kaye reminded everyone that 70% of feedback does not even stick.


Great panel – and interesting discussions.  The corporate equivalent happens tomorrow with a panel of CEO’s.  If they can keep it real like these guys – that’s a win x 2.


Power of the Audio Signature – Create a Strong Radio Brand with Imaging.

I’ll be honest.  I skipped most of this panel, even though I always loved working on produced imaging and analyzing other stations work.  The power and magic of imaging is nothing new; programmers have spent thousands of hours getting their imaging just right. The voice, the production, the script, the style, over music, stand-alone, into music, out of music, I could go on.

While I love that panels are committed to discussing imaging, I just didn’t hear much new here.


Communicate Like a Mind Reader

Presented by mentalist Eric Samuels.  Eric was also a long-time radio guy rising from on air to programming some of the biggest stations in Canada.

A perfect ending to a great first day of CMW.  Eric’s presentation was flawless.  Funny and light, but with teaching in the trickery.

I would tell you what the moral of the story was, but I was too busy either laughing or wondering “how did he do that???”.

If you have a budget to bring in someone to deliver key communication points to your group in a way that goes down super easy, this is the one.

Overall, it was a tremendous first CMW day.  There were enough hungover folks to show that the parties are in full swing, and I absolutely loved connecting with radio folks from near and far.  There was something else though, and I’m not yet sure of what it is.  Positivity? Creativity? I’m not sure, but this year's CMW feels pretty darn good so far.  I’m back tomorrow to investigate further.

-- Sharon Taylor is a career radio broadcaster in Toronto.  She can be reached at She’s a fan of kindness and out of control record company parties.

Courtesy of Vertigo Live



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