One of Canada’s most impactful radio formats is disappearing, not through listener disinterest but by broadcaster neglect.
by Doug Rutherford
for Broadcast Dialogue magazine
September the 17th, 2015
In its prime, News/Talk radio dominated every major market in which they operated; Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. It worked because programmers kept creating compelling reasons to listen.
News/Talk is an art form lost on the new generation of programmers caught in the vortex of shrinking audiences, declining revenue and head office demands for higher margins. This generation of programmers and News/Talk general managers seems convinced that the secret to margin growth is the elimination of core services, the reduction of news coverage and the abdication of News/Talk categories that helped build the format in the first place.
Somehow, using this formula and logic, younger listeners will find their way back to the AM band, and if the audience doesn’t get bigger it will at least shift younger and be more attractive to advertisers.
That thinking didn’t work 20 years ago and it won’t work today.
Those three words that are destroying News/Talk radio in Canada: “We used to…”
Here is how a typical interview with a modern day News/ Talk GM or programmer might go if he or she were being interviewed regarding the latest cuts to station staff:
“We used to” have a bigger and stronger local news presence but now that there is an all-news station in the market our research shows that we are not known for breaking news anymore.
“We used to” have a stronger sports presence but we couldn’t afford to maintain play-by-play rights for the NHL and CFL; we lost those broadcast rights to the all-sports station. Maintaining a high sports profile just didn’t make economic sense anymore.
“We used to” own the traffic “hill” in this city; no one could touch us. But then the all-news station started traffic every 10 minutes round the clock and we just couldn’t compete so we pared this part of our operation back.
“We used to” have talk show hosts with strong opinions and powerful points of view but our research showed that people wanted to “chat” and have “meaningful thoughtful conversations”. We shifted our focus toward hosts who could talk about a number of topics, skimming the surface. The more in-depth investigative reporting shifting to on-line ventures.
READ THE REST OF THIS COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS HERE AT THE BROADCAST DIALOGUE WEBSITE
(Doug Rutherford Photo Courtesy of EdmontonBroadcasters.com )