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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

Talking Podcast At Canadian Music Week

Updated: May 27, 2019

This year at Canadian Music Week, I moderated a panel called "Broadcasting in the Age of Podcasting", a session designed to help broadcasters find their footing in the podcasting space. Here is a small recap from the session for those who missed it, and some observations about other podcast related matters from the conference.

cundill CMW Podcast CBC
Matt Cundill, Sound Off Media Company (Moderator), Leslie Merklinger, Sr. Dir. Audio Innovation, CBC Radio / Radio-Canada, Jordan Heath-Rawlings, Dir. Dig’l, Rogers Broadcasting, Steve Pratt, Pacific Content.

I had a few opening remarks recapping the past year in Podcast news including:

  • A leader in podcast content creation, Panoply, pivoted from content creation to focus on their Megaphone dynamic ad insertion platform.

  • Spotify emerging as the #2 podcast destination in the world.

  • Google made their move into podcast with the creation of an app

  • iHeartMedia purchased How Stuff Works, Spotify purchased Gimlet Media and the free podcast platform Anchor for what is thought to be over $200 million dollars…

  • Then there’s Luminary, the latest attempt to become the “Netflix of Podcasting”. They raised $100 million in venture capital, and have proceeded to purchase popular podcast content from Trevor Noah, and Michael Rappaport, Lena Dunham and Russell Brand. And they believe people are willing to pay $8.95 a month for this and add another subscription to their lives.

  • And finally, Rogers' recent purchase of one of the great Canadian podcast success stories … Pacific Content


You couldn't ask for three sharper podcast minds to get together and talk about one of my favourite subjects. For the last 5 years I have been trying to locate the intersection of where podcast and broadcast meet. A week before our panel got together, it was announced that Rogers would be purchasing Pacific Content. That seemed like an obvious place for us to start given that Jordan's employer had just bought Steve's company. Rogers has been quite proactive in podcasting over the last year. Julie Adam and her team have taken the macro view that their product isn't radio but audio.

Leslie Merklinger from the CBC (director of audio innovation) brought up the importance of storytelling and Canada's opportunity to be exporting our stories to the world. CBC is Canada's number 1 podcast creator and Canadian radio should be taking notes about how their podcasts are marketed and stories get told. Now, understand that I attended Eric Samuels' Communicate Like a Mind Reader the day before, and could hear the words from radio programmers' in the room: "Must be nice with a big budget designed to the create those stories."

If you thought that, I'll share that in my 5 years enveloped in podcasting, some of the most successful podcasts do not run on a big budget, don't cost a lot of money to make, and are quite profitable. It's no surprise that the CBC in Canada and NPR in the States are top podcast creators. They have been the best storytellers since they erected a radio transmitter, and those stories reside comfortably in podcast form. I know commercial radio hires talent coaches like Valerie Geller who has been saying for years that there are no boring stories, only boring storytellers. So tell better stories.

Steve Pratt from Pacific Content has been creating branded content podcasts for big brands. Commercial radio's idea of branded content is an informercial; which works for TV & Radio when people are button pushing in the car or couch surfing with a remote control. For podcast, it needs to be very very compelling. One of the best examples is Choiceology, which is a podcast created for Charles Schwab. If you have never heard of Pacific Content, that's probably by design. They want you to hear about their clients and their podcasts. Their podcasts have stories and information and things people find useful; not peddling or selling or promoting. (Well, only subtly) Of note, Steve is quite famous in podcasting circles for the podcasting advice he and partner Dan Misner publish. Give both these people a follow because the wisdom the dispense is quite useful.

It was also good to see Jordan Heath-Rawlings again. I last saw him at the Podcast Movement in Philadelphia when Rogers was in the throes of launching Frequency Network. His daily podcast, The Big Story is a hit and one of a number of reasons why podcasting has grown in Canada. Also during our discussion, I drew from Steve's blog about podcast consumption to draw parallels between radio's "Cume vs. Time Spent Listening", and podcast's "Downloads vs. Consumption."

The day before, Tom Webster from Edison Research presented data from the Infinite Dial Canada. The number I always look at for podcast growth is weekly podcast listening. The reason is simple: Once you have someone listening weekly, you own a significant piece of their habitual media time. That stat jumped a lot from 19 to 23%. But I'll cut right to the sexy slide that made me say, "Ohhhhhhhh".

The 35-54 demo showed huge growth in podcast listening in Canada. I can think of two reasons for this, and both are because of radio. With Rogers, Corus and CBC proactively creating Canadian podcasts and promoting them, it has created a surge in listening for the Gen X demo who are looking for Canadian stories. We already know that once people get involved with one podcast, more follow and deep listening habits form. This appears to be the year when the rubber has hit the road in Canada. Secondly,I'm willing to bet that many of these people are disaffected radio listeners who find the on air product very boring after 10am and have supplanted some of their radio listening with podcast. Weekly Canadian radio listening is at 85% while America is 91-93%. There's a price to pay for replaying all those old Cancon hits over and over again, and managing the product quarterly through the bottom line. It might be time to acknowledge James Cridland's keynote address and make some changes.

I know not everyone could make it out to this session with Dave Grohl speaking in the next room, flights to catch on a Friday and beer o'clock on the horizon. I want to thank Leslie, Jordan, and Steve for being candid about podcasting and sharing their success stories. Also my thanks to Ross Davies, Neill and Danya Dixon, the always supportive (and dear friend) Greg Simpson, and everyone at Canadian Music Week for inviting me out to moderate again this year.

See you all next year!


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