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Departing radio boss sees future in digital

In almost 15 years at the helm of Southern Cross Austereo Perth, Linda Wayman has driven changes to take full advantage of the digital revolution and entrench the company as a leading name in WA radio.

Ms Wayman, who has managed Perth radio stations Mix94.5 and Hit92.9 since 2002, next week steps down from her position to focus on her family.

And she leaves on a high note given business has never been better. Listener figures are up — in her time at the company Mix94.5 has racked up a total of 114 number one positions in independent ratings surveys, beaten only three times during her tenure. Available advertising slots are regularly full and the rate card remains strong.

The digital revolution has been the major change influencing radio since the new millennium.

While radio remains the main game, the stations now have their own websites as a touch point for listeners. Social media is a later development, but has also proven successful and enables listeners to engage.

“Digital has been great for radio and performs two roles for us,” she said. “First it enables us to market our own radio stations.

“Second, it gives us an opportunity to offer clients a fully integrated multi-platform buy with integrated messaging on air and event activations such as 92.9’s World Famous Rooftops where we hold large music events with international artists.” As the more straightforward task of selling radio time has become more complicated, so has the need to develop suitable staff.

“We put a lot of work into developing integrated messaging across multiple channels, so the organisation needed to create structures which would directly address the complexity of the media landscape for clients,” she said.

“We therefore formed a team of top professionals in Perth who work exclusively on creative client solutions.

“SCA has branded that team The Studio — now a national brand for SCA — and it offers our clients a one-stop shop for a fully integrated marketing solution with sophisticated consumer insights.”

She said the radio audience had increased during her time, across all demographics, as it remained a passive and accessible medium. Listeners also wanted entertainment in the form of breakfast and drive shows, which had grown in popularity over the years.

For these reasons, Ms Wayman said music streaming services such Spotify and Pandora had failed to put a dent in radio listening.

But she said the threat cannot be dismissed. She cites one of the future challenges for radio is the increase in sophisticated technology in cars which will offer even more options for listening.

She believes an opportunity yet to be embraced by radio is the development of podcasts, which is aligned with audio entertainment.

“The challenge will be to commercialise the opportunities, and SCA is well on that track,” she said.

Ms Wayman noted another change during her time was radio was now run more like a true business. When she joined the company in 2002, there was no human resources department, staff did not receive performance reviews or have position descriptions.

“While you do not want to turn a creative industry into a bureaucracy, to run an effective business you do need business support and structures in place. That’s what I’ve seen in the business itself, and that’s been to radio’s absolute benefit,” she said.

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