Rogers Media refreshes AM news stations, starts with 680News

Revamp includes new radio imaging, websites and increased local content

Chris Powell March 30, 2015

680 LogoRogers Media is refreshing its AM news stations across the country, beginning with its flagship 680News in Toronto and rolling out across other properties throughout the year.

Julie Adam, senior vice-president of Rogers Radio in Toronto, described it as a fine-tuning of the six “green” stations – including their associated websites – to make them more “relevant sounding and relevant looking.”

All of Rogers’ AM news stations – which also include Ottawa’s 1310News, Kitchener’s 570News and Calgary’s 660News, as well as stations in Halifax and Vancouver – have new logos with a much “cleaner” look, said Adam. The brand refresh also includes different radio imaging and increased local content.

Adam said certain brand elements were long overdue for a change. The font used in the previous iteration of the stations’ logo, for example, was the same one that was used when the station debuted in June of 1993.

She said the refresh is not solely intended as a ratings play, noting that both Toronto’s 680News and Vancouver’s News1130 are the leading AM stations in their respective markets.

According to ratings information provided by Rogers, 680News increased its share among its core demo of A35-54 to 7.3% in the most recent Numeris ratings, up from 6% in the previous quarter.

Vancouver’s News1130, meanwhile, accounted for 6.7% of market tuning among the A25-54 demo in the most recent ratings, up from 5.3% in the corresponding year-earlier period. Adam said the station has been “the voice of news” on several major stories in the market, earning the station credibility and trust with listeners.

“I don’t know that changing or updating your logo will drive ratings,” said Adam. “Our motto and our mission is always to work on our brand and our content, and to improve both when they need to be improved.”

According to the most recent CRTC data, Canada’s 685 radio stations recorded pre-tax profits of $266.7 million in 2013, down from $367.2 million in 2012. Local airtime sales for the country’s 129 AM stations were essentially flat at $1.12 billion, with national airtime sales increasing 4.9% to $476.3 million, though pre-tax profit fell to $24.7 million from $45.5 million in 2012.

Adam said the Rogers properties are “adapting well,” to the challenges posed by the new digital environment, with the company being “quite diligent” in ensuring that its radio properties are accessible via the web and mobile. “The work’s never done, but we’ve been diligent in ensuring that our listeners can listen to us on whatever device they want to use,” she said.

“The key is, you can’t just do what you’ve always done and hope to remain successful,” she said. “It’s a constant evaluation.”

Adam said AM news stations were never intended to appeal to younger listeners, even in the pre-internet days. “When 680News launched, the target audience was not 18-24. We’ve never been that station, so we have not shifted our target; we have to ensure that we are still relevant to the core people that want to listen to news on radio, and not try to chase people that aren’t there,” she said.

“We’re not trying to get younger – we’re trying to serve the core audience, because those are the people who are pre-disposed to listen to news on the radio.” The key, she added, is to be as relevant to younger members of the target audience as you are to older listeners.

“These are not new challenges,” she said.

The revamp also includes an overhaul of the stations’ websites, including responsive web design, easier navigation and enhanced user-generated content functions.

“At its heart it’s about improving the sound and the look – we’re as much a visual medium now as we are an audible medium, because people are seeing our website and our apps,” she added. “If at the end you deliver a better product and you have a stronger brand, the hope is always to have improved ratings.”

Rogers, which also owns Marketing, will support the refresh with marketing on sister radio stations and external marketing including TV.