The past 14 months have posed challenges for nearly every industry, including radio. The pandemic shook up established listening habits as people transformed their daily schedules—or abandoned them altogether. Yet throughout the pandemic, radio maintained its impressive reach, and it holds the greatest share of ear compared to other audio media. One reason for radio’s success may be the adaptability of the medium. In a recent article by Inside Radio, radio professionals share their thoughts on the ways the medium has adjusted on the fly to meet the shifting needs of its audience. Here are some highlights:
Peak Listening Hours
Before the pandemic, peak listening hours for radio were aligned with commute times, when people would listen to the radio on their way to and from work. Now, with many people working from home, “Listening in general starts later and has fewer traditional boundaries like start times and lunch routines,” Audacy classic hits Format Captain Chris Ebbott says. “It remains to be seen what the new normal ‘at work’ looks like.”
Radio has played an important role in sharing news and information about COVID-19, but as the pandemic dragged on, broadcasters had to make decisions about how much COVID-related content to provide.
It has been a challenge “knowing when to back off, realizing listeners were looking for an escape from all the COVID-19 information and statistics,” says Audacy classic rock Format Captain Vince Richards.
“Whatever you can share that provides your audience with information they don’t have to search online for – where [and] why the audience should get a vaccine, what restaurants are reopening – do it, and promote that you’re doing it,” says Mike McVay, President of McVay Media Consulting.
In addition to providing important information, radio has become a much-needed source of connection amidst the isolation of social distancing. Unique radio personalities with a local focus are key to building connection.
“Now more than ever, great radio personalities are indispensable,” said Jimmy Steal, Hubbard Brand and Content VP for Chicago AC WSHE and Hot AC “Mix 101.9” WTMX. “Our audience was living such a harried life that they had no time for that beer in the yard or the coffee in the kitchen with a neighbor, and our personalities filled that void.”
“If we’ve made any changes, it’s been with music – keeping it more positive and upbeat, and making sure the overall ‘vibe’ of the station was very positive,” AC programming consultant Gary Berkowitz says.
“The metrics showed an acceleration of the way listeners use smart speakers, mobile devices and desktop listening,” Richards says.
With the growth of smart speakers and digital audio, broadcasters have had to find ways to ensure that listeners are tuning in, regardless of their choice of listening devices. “Reaching listeners wherever they are has become more important, with greater reliance on digital platforms,” Berkowitz says.
“Consistency on-air was and is a key element of getting through the pandemic,” Berkowitz says. “Getting back to normal seems to be a priority for most people, and radio is a part of that normal.”
Want to connect with engaged listeners on adaptable, tried and true medium of radio? Contact SMI today.