Thursday, April 7, 2016

"It's all about perception" ~ Jim McCourtie


When you study the picture above, what do you see? 

Some see a young woman - and some see an elderly woman. Both - as it turns out - are right. But if you were a brand manager - how do you want the audience to see it?

Program Director Jim McCourtie (Y108 and Fresh FM, Hamilton) used that image - and the meaning behind it - to demonstrate to the Radio Humber students that the audience's perception on how they see YOU is what counts. What do the students want their media to convey? What is their personal brand? What is going to attract the right kind of attention? 

Now 3 weeks away from the leaving the comforts of college for the real world - the class of 2016 were reminded how important it is to stand out - go above and beyond with creativity and innovation to get noticed - and to manage that perception - that brand - that will take them places in their career. 

Jim reminded the class that their brand will be hired to compliment a station's larger brand - which led to the greater discussion of hiring practices and what someone like Jim would be looking for.

For announcers, newscasters and producers - Jim calls it a 'narrow look' before considering the bigger picture. He starts with the 'tape'; if he likes the audio piece - it fits with what he's looking for - then he opens up the resume and files it for consideration. A custom demo goes a long way, so does having a clean social media profile, and a stellar reputation. Jim will seek out what he calls 'back door references' - to get an opinion on someone he is considering hiring. These would be the references you don't put down on your resume. If those elements pass the test, then it would be time for the 'hiring viewpoint' - bringing the person in for a face to face chat.

Much like the image at the beginning of this story - Jim wants his station's audiences to either see the young woman, or the elderly one - and programming what he calls 'funusual' pieces (fun + unusual) work for both. A good programmer understands his audiences needs - and Jim says his announcers are never to make the listeners worry - it's not the job of these particular formats - it's not the perception to be conveyed. If the students can remember what they are trying to accomplish with their own brand - the perception they want to convey - then success is not far away.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Find your voice: Scott Metcalfe

'Find your voice' is what 680 News - News Director Scott Metcalfe opened his lecture with. 

Scott played audio examples of artists such as Bob Marley, Paul McCartney and Janis Joplin before - and after - 'finding their voice' . The point being to demonstrate to the Radio Humber Class of 2016 that who they are now ~ their talents and capabilities ~ will continue to evolve and get better ~  but only if they continue to practice and find their voice. Scott reiterated the point with a piece of audio of celebrated sportscaster Dan Shulman, who went from a green weekend sports anchor who Scott hired in the 1990's (audio piece 1),  to award winning ESPN play-by-play announcer (audio piece 2). Dan found his voice.

Scott has a great deal of perspective on things like this after having been in the business for more than 40 years - many of those years as a manager. He maintains a calm, mild-mannered disposition despite running the busiest and arguably the most hectic newsroom in Canada - Toronto's 680 News. Scott's leadership style has him clearly thinking outside the box in many cases - including with young up and coming broadcasters. Scott used an example of looking at someone who may be a Britney Spears expert as  'curious' - not 'limited' - and instead of scoffing at them,  he would attempt to  direct and channel that natural curiosity into other areas like politics or community issues.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of freelancing for Scott at the Fan 590 more than 20 years ago and can attest that he was one of the nicest, most pleasant, approachable bosses I have ever worked for. Scott brought up his own experiences with bosses - good and bad - and offered to the class (who are currently searching for their first jobs) that they will most likely have experiences with both good and bad bosses. His advice? Focus on the job - not the boss; 'you may want to quit the boss, just don't quit the job'. 

Looks like that - might in fact - be the secret to such longevity in the radio.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Yes Mom, your child can have a great career in Radio!

Preparing to champion the Radio Humber program to potential students this weekend during our Open House, I like review the most recent statistics on radio so I can reassure nervous parents that "yes - your child can get employment in radio" and "no, radio is not dead; it's alive and well and flourishing in many different forms".

These statistics and data come from various sources - but none so succinct as conferences like the one presented by the Ontario Association of Broadcasters. Back in November, the OAB hosted an array of experts and consultants who shared much positive evidence and information about the state of radio today.

Read on...

Conference  - Toronto, Sheila Walsh, November 2015

Some of the provinces biggest and brightest managers, programmers and broadcasters were in attendance yesterday at the annual Ontario Association of Broadcasters (OAB) Connection – Conference and Gala Awards that took place in Toronto.

Sessions included exploring Radio’s Roadmap to the Future, Diving Deep into the Talent Pool, The Importance of Digital and Social media to Radio, and The Future of Media – presented by noted radio futurologist James Cridland.

Some of the dozens of featured radio experts taking part in the panels included former Radio Humber Advisory Committee member Jeff Vidler (analysis and researcher),  visionary Jeff Smulyan (said to have been the man who gave David Letterman his first radio job (NM)  – now recognized for his efforts to free the FREE FM chip in  smartphones), long time multi-award winning broadcaster John Derringer, respected radio GM and current Radio Humber Advisory member Lorie Russell, savvy New Media expert Chris ‘Dunner’ Duncombe, and Radio Humber’s own multi-award winning Writing for Radio professor Larry MacInnis.

Many topics and angles were covered, discussed and debated over the 9 hour day – here’s a summary of some of the items:
  • ·        More people listen to radio in a day than check their Facebook page in a month

  • ·        Despite massive competition, radio’s reach and numbers are very similar to 10 years ago (J Vidler)

  • ·        Traditional AM/FM radio still dominates audio landscape:

o   81% listen to radio (music/talk etc.) at least once a week
o   41% listen to music on YouTube
o   17% listen to  Satellite Radio
o   14% listen to pod-casting
o   13% listen to archived audio (streaming)
o   4% listen via app
o   (survey October 2015 – 1500 random Canadians – J Vidler)

·        There’s no end of people wanting to blow up radio – but in reality – radio is in very good shape with 88% of Canadians tuning into radio weekly, 93% of Americans, 89% of those in the UK, and 94% in India” – James Cridland

o    (interestingly – majority of radio listeners in India (over 90%)  listen to the radio on their mobile – utilizing the free FM chip that is STILL NOT UNLOCKED HERE IN CANADA! Why? Because the Canadian carriers will lose money if their customers can listen to something for free instead of using their data to listen! The entire room agreed there needs to be pressure put on carriers to unlock the chip. Currently only MOTO and HTC phones have unlocked the FM chip (allowing for a modern day Walkman)
  • ·        In the UK, Norway and Australia – traditional radio listening is still number one followed by DAB

  • ·        DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting)  is launching in 2017 in Norway – meaning the analogue FM radio that allows for only 5 FM stations will be shut off and exclusive DAB technology brought in - allowing for 22 radio stations (17 more!). Current FM radios can be upgraded or recycled.

  • ·        Some of the trends happening around the world with radio include ‘pop up digital stations’ – allowing for a terrestrial radio station to announce that – for example – “for the next 4 days leading up to the Oscars - tune into (xxxx dot xxxx) to listen to features, interviews and soundtrack from this years nominated films”.  This (dot) station would be an extension of that current station, but focus exclusively on specialty content. Very cool!

o   (this is a very interesting idea, but it was noted here in Canada with our CRTC regulations – it may not fly as easily as it does in the UK)

·        Some of the cool trends happening for mobile devices include…
o   NPR 1 app (US)
o   Your Own BBC (UK)
o   OMNY (Australia)
o   Capital Xtra (UK)

·        Conclusions/actions points
o   Radio continues to be the most emotional medium (Larry MacInnis)
o   Radio needs to better promote itself (campaign launching January 2016)
o   Radio needs to rediscover it’s coolness
o   Pressure needs to be put on carriers to unlock the FREE FM chip in everyone’s smart device; CRTC unsure who should be guiding carriers with this – is it them? Industry Canada? Further exploration needs to be discussed.
o   CRTC want to focus on improving the radio experience for Canadians before discussion on opening up more ownership
o   Potentially scary things?
§  The desire and push from companies to be allowed to own more than the regulated 2 FM stations per market. We have seen the results of these kinds of amalgamations – many job losses, and those who have managed to keep their jobs being given the work of 2 more people

§  The trend to get rid of ‘heritage’ stations for brand consolidation. Radio ownership becomes a ‘national’ product with local content. 


Parents/guardians - rest assured - radio is a good choice for an exciting career. The medium isn't going anywhere soon. If anything - some exciting innovative ideas are in the works offering further expansion of the medium.