Radio is the oldest electronic medium – predating social media, streaming, the internet and even TV — and it continues to be surprisingly resilient.
Corus Radio has shown incredible growth on both its AM and FM stations over the past year, and there’s no better time than World Radio Day (Feb. 13) to highlight why radio continues to be a powerful, underestimated medium, spanning decades. In some instances, radio even supersedes its counterparts.
These key factors exemplify why radio remains a powerhouse, despite seismic shifts in the industry.
You can take radio anywhere you want. You can’t drive in your car and watch TV. Nor can you read (at least, you shouldn’t). It’s this factor that has helped radio soldier on for so many decades. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, radio is accessible pretty much everywhere.
“You can walk down the street listening to your favourite host on your phone,” said Jeff Storey, Senior Program and News Director for 900 CHML, Y108 and Fresh 95.3. “Podcasting, which has really been an evolution of radio, is booming. It’s an extension of the radio format, but it’s now accessible in new and exciting ways, especially for a younger audience.”
Indeed, FM stations like Toronto’s 102.1 the Edge are reaching and targeting that millennial audience, bringing in a whole new generation of radio listeners.
“We’ve really focused on making radio meaningful and relevant to millennials,” said Tammy Cole, program director for the station and for Q107. “We’ve revamped the on-air lineup to include personalities living the millennial lifestyle. They’re fun, inclusive and really champion that group of listeners. We embrace them and acknowledge the great generation they are. We try to give them what they want: the best music, can’t-miss Instagram-worthy experiences, up-close and personal experiences with music’s biggest stars and different perspectives on shows, like our new morning hosts on The Edge, siblings Ruby and Alex.”
Charity & Community Outreach
Hand-in-hand with radio’s accessibility, it’s a medium that’s able to leapfrog the distance between creator and audience. In many smaller communities, radio is very much a part of the fabric.
“One thing that radio does really, really well is connecting with your community through charity and charitable giving,” said Storey.
Corus has given approximately $33 million in its charitable endeavours over the years. CHML Children’s Fund, for example, donates approximately $250,000 every year to underprivileged families in the Hamilton, Ont. community.
“I know every company is going to tout what they do on the charity front, but I can tell you first-hand, from a radio perspective, being on the front lines and being connected to your community… through radio remotes and going live on-location as often as we do, the impact is significant,” said Storey.
Just last week, Country 105 in Alberta held its 16th annual Caring for Kids Radiothon, and broke a record with more than $6.6 million in donations to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. (The total donated since 2003 now surpasses $31.1 million.)
“The opportunity to have every donation doubled, and then tripled, was incredibly exciting,” said Phil Kallsen, Program Director, Country 105. “The energy it created not only propelled the giving spirit of this community, it raised an astounding amount of much-needed funds for the Alberta Children’s Hospital — a place very special to all of us at Country 105 and our listeners.”
In BC, the CKNW Kids’ Fund Pledge Day Radiothon in December 2018 raised more than $1.4 million to help kids in need. In Edmonton, 630 CHED, Global News Radio 880 Edmonton, CISN and The ‘Chuck have raised roughly $2 million for various charitable and nonprofits in the past year. Similarily, Calgary’s CHQR‘s one-day radiothon raised $255 thousand last December.
Brad Gibb, Program Director of London’s FM96, Country 104 and 103.1 Fresh Radio, insists that radio is the most intimate medium.
“You listen with your headphones or in your car by yourself and it’s those moments of one-on-one association that strengthen the emotional bond with a listener,” he said. “Each brand is different, each brand has its own unique way of connecting with our audience. The end goal is the same but the message is different. Our on-air teams are living, breathing people who reflect the feelings of our city. They see wrong and want to make it right. If someone is down, we come together to pick them up. People just want to feel good… that’s what we do.”
In yet another example of radio reaching the community, London radio station FM96 replaced a 96-year-old woman’s front step at her home because Canada Post wouldn’t deliver mail to her house, saying it was two inches too high.
A very important factor to radio’s success is the changing and modernization of technology, and the medium’s ability to adapt to that change.
“Radio in 2019 is really a multi-platform business,” said Storey. “That’s what we’ve turned it into recently. There are so many new technologies in radio, for example, the smart speakers. It’s available in more places — you can play it on the Radioplayer Canada app. Alexa in the home is a factor. Streaming, online streaming, is a big part of that as well, in conjunction with in the car, on the phone, on tablets.”
Along with the expansion of podcasts on a wide array of topics, soon there won’t be a single category radio isn’t covering.
Immediacy & Accuracy
You can have that connection with radio almost immediately. Got an issue with something happening in your city? Call up your local radio station or host, air your grievances. It’s basically like an open forum to have an on-air discussion. (Obviously this is a bit harder in a market like Toronto with millions of listeners, but the option is still there.)
Radio isn’t an article you see online that you just close and move away from, nor are there awful, angry comments to read underneath the copy. Issues are discussed on the radio, often in fine detail, and the discourse is necessary in today’s insane world. Same with accuracy; in this era of “fake news,” Corus Radio strives every day to ensure what it promotes and pushes forward is 100 per cent factual.
“It’s a 1:1 personal connection,” said Storey. “When you listen to the radio, it’s like you’re talking directly to that person. You’re so engaged in the conversation and the dialogue, you feel like they’re speaking to you, despite the fact that they’re speaking to 100,000 people. It’s magic.”
According to a study by Vividata in October 2018, radio is the most trustworthy source of news to Canadians — a whopping 82 per cent named it as the most dependable source for news. (Sixty-nine per cent also said that of all media, radio provides the most in-depth coverage.)
“The integration of Global News with Corus Radio has been a wonderful exercise over the past 18 months,” said Storey, adding that the move really helped the AM stations up their credibility and listener bases.
Listeners are definitely responding to the accuracy and work put into Corus’ news offering; six of seven Global News Radio stations saw a ratings bump this past fall compared to last year. Clearly, listeners are seeking informed opinion that is local, contextual and relevant to their communities.
So turn up that radio dial; this is a medium that’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Global News and all radio stations referenced in this article are properties of Corus Entertainment.