Canada and the United States share more than any other two countries on this planet. And that goes far beyond sharing the world's largest undefended border crossing. So much sharing takes place, Americans often have a hard time seeing any differences with Canadians. In fact, things are so peaceful with Canada that most Americans hardly spend much time thinking about Canada at all. Labels: Radio
During a time with so much global upheaval, war on terror and violence, the fact Americans are mainly blissfully ignorant of Canada is a strangely wonderful achievement.
Americans simply don't get much news at all about Canada unless it comes from a friend returning from a fabulous vacation or a Canuck celebrity makes headlines (Mike Myers standing shocked next to a "Bush doesn't like black people" Kanye West post-Katrina may have been the last mainstream news Americans heard about something involving a Canadian.)
(Or maybe Pam Anderson's marriage to Kid Rock in Saint-Tropez...well, that was probably more about her wedding bikini than her being Canadian).
Of course, there are differences when the two countries are compared. And, yes, even some news that media trend watchers in America should know.
For example, Radio.
While radio languishes in the old media doldrums here in the U.S, it is doing just quite fine in Canada, reports the Toronto Globe and Mail. While high tech and new media gets a lot of attention in Canada just like in America, Canada's radio industry is quietly thriving and generating strong profits. And American investment firms are taking notice, learning what they can to figure out why radio in Canada is performing so much better than radio in the U.S.
Sales of radio ad spots were up 8.7 percent last year -- its biggest jump since 1988, according to Statistics Canada.
The increase pushed commercial revenue to a combined $1.3 billion for AM and FM stations, led by the top three markets in the country: oil rich Calgary, federal government centerpiece Ottawa-Gatineau and Toronto, the largest market in the country.
Granted, the size of overall economies is substantially different (the U.S. radio ad market is about $22 billion right now; Los Angeles alone pulls in a bit more than 1 billion a year). However, Canada's lean and mean operators are growing revenues faster than the U.S. top dogs right now, keeping the terrestrial radio industry in a much stronger position against competitive medias. In the U.S., the post-consolidation hangover has been continuing for at least 4 years (the post-iPod years), bruising radio's image against everything new tech media.
In America, a common perception by many thinks radio has gotten old, slow and corporate, run by monolithic conglomerates led by suits. Yes, radio is still a dominant media, where an estimated 93% of the population listens at some point weekly for an average of a few hours per day, mostly in commutable bits and pieces. And radio is still essential for American life. Just not as vital everyday as it used to be.
In Canada, radio has the same reach into the population every week (94%)...but Canadians listen longer. Canadians are actually more high-tech than average Americans, embracing broadband, satellite and wireless technologies far ahead of U.S. investments. And yet, radio has not rolled over and stayed dead. Canadian radio adapted and made faster digital convergences, getting onto various new media platforms and investing aggressively in web development and live streaming of their on-air broadcasts (something the U.S. still has been slow to transition for music formats due to licensing issues).
Canadian radio stations have gone through a smaller, more careful era of consolidation. One of Canada's top 3 radio groups is still a private (not public) company (Standard Broadcasting). None of America's top 10 radio groups are private. In reality, there is probably a similar ratio of corporate/mom-and-pop radio owners in both Canada and the US. But there is a much smaller gap between the "haves" and the have nots". The industry has done more to protect its interests, both by choice as well as by CRTC regulation.
The most important factor for Canada's current profitable spurt is its adaptation filling the void left behind by TV. The ad revenue surge is driven by a shift among TV networks toward more regional and national ads, leaving local businesses, such as restaurants and shopping malls, to radio. And radio has done a lot to better serve those local businesses. When the television industry essentially walked away from the local ad market, radio was right there to pick up the opportunity.
There are some good lessons to be learned by US radio executives and managers...if they just remembered there's a friendly country north of the border. They'd see there's a working model for modern radio partnering and competing well with new media.
They'd might enjoy a great beer, too.
Links for Canadian streaming radio stations here
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Tuesday, August 15, 2006,
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