Caroline Paquet, CEO of Cogeco Media, owner of the radio stations Rythme FM, 98.5 in Montreal and FM93 in Quebec City, is focusing on promoting the audio content of its 21 stations in Quebec through its digital platforms to generate new revenues. and regain the volume of business that the group posted before the pandemic. “There is a way to further monetize what we produce across the entire network,” says the CEO.
The broadcasting industry has been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as advertising revenues from the retail, restaurant and automotive sectors, in particular, have been in sharp decline.
This represents a great opportunity to rethink the business model of this more than 100-year-old industry, which has to fight on unequal terms with the giants of the web.
“We did our radio shows like 15 years ago. We produce original content and the next day, we start again. We decided to better promote our content. We are the leader in Quebec in the terrestrial sector, but here we have to find new revenue models and that is what digital audio allows us to do,” explains Caroline Paquet, in office since July 2021 as CEO of Cogeco Media.
After having worked for 15 years in the bosom of the Quebecor group, including the last 11 years at Videotron, where, as Vice-President, Marketing and Content, she participated in the launch of TV on demand with the Club illico, Caroline Paquet was ripe for a new challenge.
I joined a Quebec flagship. We are the smallest of the major integrated players, but we can make the broadcasting industry sustainable by transforming it.
Cogeco Media is present in 10 major markets in Quebec through its network of 21 radio stations, including 7 talk stations and 14 music stations.
Already last year, Cogeco Media digitized all of its regional stations, which now operate in real time. The network has also implemented dynamic advertising insertion, which allows advertising to be sold to a client for a specific market.
“Let’s assume that we have 30,000 CKOI listeners in a regional market like Sherbrooke who listen to the station digitally. We can insert local advertisements in regular programming, we promote our content and we target customers for our advertisers,” explains Caroline Paquet.
This new advertising platform has been operational since last September in all stations of the Cogeco Media group.
“We invest a lot in new technologies and we haven’t finished doing it. We are now able to produce commercials in our regional stations. We will now integrate artificial intelligence to distribute content more quickly on our platforms and to be able to find interview segments, ”says the CEO.
The digital potential
Caroline Paquet adds that digital audio allows Cogeco Media to open its doors to a new audience and, of course, to new advertising clients.
“98.5 is the most listened to station in Canada. We are the leader in Quebec. For 10 years, we have captured more than 62% of the French-speaking audience in the Greater Montreal market. Even our English-language station The Beat tops the listening rankings in Montreal with a 26e subsequent survey. »
We accumulate 6 million unique listeners each month via traditional radio. With digital, we add 1 million additional unique listeners. We can monetize this content.
Similarly, the podcasts aired by Cogeco Media accumulate more than 6 million listens annually, while two podcasts – The blue pocket and Area exit – alone manage to generate more than 1 million plays per year. (Editor’s note, Area exit is a co-production of The Press)
Although the broadcasting group still remained profitable during the height of the pandemic, its total revenue has yet to recover to 2019 levels.
It is mainly the regional stations that are unable to resume their pre-pandemic range. Many national advertisers ignore local stations in their media placement, and regional advertisers remain cautious.
” We’ll get there. With terrestrial, you sell your ratings from the past. With digital, you sell the present. We have exclusive interviews with Paul Arcand that have been heard by more than 2 million listeners via digital. We can generate new revenue with digital,” adds Caroline Paquet.
While Cogeco Media has been successful in meeting its profitability targets over the past year, future results are threatened by changes the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) wants to make to broadcaster contributions. to the Canada Media Fund.
“The CRTC wants to increase the contributions of regional radio stations, which does not make sense. We are in difficult markets, and this would become a serious pitfall.
“Radio in the regions is often the only medium left. Over the past two years, there have been around 60 local media closures. Radio remains the most direct and, in these times of fake news on social networks, the most credible means of informing the population about local issues,” argues the CEO of Cogeco Media.