I was pondering on just how massively my life has changed in the last 2 years. It’s almost unrecognisable for many reasons and it started me thinking of what to take from it and what needs to be understood in the brave new world we now have- changed by the pandemic and all that it brought.
Because we all like lists, I picked three things which should be grasped and understood by business, media and individuals. They are in no particular order of importance or impact. They all play a role and will continue to have influence whether you decide to grasp them or not, so you might as well get on with it.
There was a change underway before Covid came into our lives surrounding the desire and balance between work and home. It was beaten down though and didn’t cut through much because of the power of the normal everyday expectation in most workplaces… “if you want to work for us, then you have to travel and come into our building every day- full stop”. It was still there though and growing. I know of one organisation which offered a job to the leading candidate for a role and they turned it down because of the requirement to effectively upend their life and move to another bit of the country to sit in the company office rather than work remotely, (something which they could very effectively do in the advertised role in question I might add). Such was the norm just 2 years ago. In the end, not willing to compromise or find a solution of geography, the organisation hired a less experienced candidate who was willing to make the physical move.
Post pandemic one thing companies, media, and individuals need to consider is the shift in the desire, need and attractiveness of the daily commute. It was a consideration before Covid as I have said, but the pandemic proved the theory that it is possible for many roles to work very effectively remotely and so now the genie is out of the bottle. A hybrid model where in-person meetings and collaboration take place as and when required is a more attractive proposition for much of the talented workforce in media organisations. Grasping that, making the most of it from the media organisation’s perspective, developing a culture that isn’t geographically based or requiring a physical implementation in a building to make it a reality takes a different type of effort, but will attract a talent pool that you just might miss out on without that effort. After all, if your culture is dependent on staff seeing a sign painted on a wall, then your culture isn’t the one you think you had in the first place. Collaboration is of course good, but like all things, its better in moderation. A former boss of mine used to say, “it takes one hell of a meeting to beat having no meeting at all”. It is something I used to try and follow in my work life too. We have all had to sit in meetings which could have very easily just been an email rather than a physical meeting.
Someone I once worked with put it succinctly, “my former employer used to give me all of the tools to work remotely and then frown at me if I actually used them like that”.
Caveat. These observations are very much media industry related and don’t really translate to other industries perhaps, where remote is less of a viable option. It is also true that not all roles within media are easily remote enabled too.
Media consumption was becoming more promiscuous before the pandemic changed our world. The commute change, the media sampling change as a result of that commute change and the working pattern adjustment all played a role in revolutionising the established norms. Without the pre-pandemic size of breakfast commute (as there are many who remain working more remote than before the pandemic), the media consumption pattern changes. For the whole of my career in radio, The Breakfast Show was the top slot of radio presenters and seen as the pinnacle of a career. Is it now? Is the timing of that show right in today’s reality? Invariably the breakfast show is the most expensive in terms of talent and resource, but is the 6-7am hour having the pull it once had or has the time shifted into what is considered mid-morning? BBC Radio 1 have certainly grasped that issue to some extent with the Radio 1 Breakfast Show running until 10.30am which they started doing some time ago now.
The graph below shows the half hour reach numbers for ALL RADIO listening (All Adults 15+) in the UK from Wave 4 2018 and Wave 4 2021. Its worth bearing in mind that this is for ALL RADIO and so there will be very stark differences depending on demographic and perhaps geographic parameters too.
In a fierce battle for the mind and for attention, radio has to remain relevant. The Edison Infinite Dial 2021 research last year showed the UK catching up with the US in terms of diversity of media consumption and in some cases overtaking it.
“The UK is on par with the U.S. regarding monthly podcast listening, as both countries have 41% of the 16+ population who have listened in the last month. The UK is slightly behind the U.S. regarding weekly podcast listening as 25% of the UK population age 16+ has listened to a podcast in the last week versus 29% of the U.S. population having listened in the last week.”https://www.edisonresearch.com/the-infinite-dial-2021-uk/
Podcast listening is growing. Listeners are programming their own radio stations in effect with on demand ‘breakfast show type’ content from podcasts at a time that suits them with their changed lifestyle habits. If radio still decides to programme the same way it did in the 1970’s or 1980’s for the 2022 crowd it might be that that crowd is ultimately no longer there.
Listeners know more than you appreciate. At best, enough of them do to make a difference when you just assume their loyalty. They know when they are being sold to, and they understand the transactional nature of that more and more.
As a commercial media operation there is a commercial imperative to make things pay for themselves and create profit and return for shareholders and investors – just like any other business. There are many ways to do that however and if all that you ever give a listener is based on a commercial transaction, pretty quickly it becomes obvious as a listener. There is a need of course, the margins are tight, the need is urgent and sponsoring everything you can is awfully attractive when looking at the diminishing bottom line. I’ve lived there, where everything that didn’t move was open for sponsorship and absolutely nothing was ever done on air in terms of specials, contests or content unless it had a client attached. The needs of the business dictated it and I absolutely get it. The issue is that it sounded like the audio equivalent of scrolling down a heavily ad-laden website looking for the next paragraph of actual content. It sounded awful and fatigued listeners and its really hard to ween off that drug and make more content for content’s sake. It is a brave choice and a really hard one to make, but investing on your own listening experience rather than just selling it is important. The truth is that listeners hear the difference and it impacts their loyalty over a period of time too when the perception they are given from their listening experience is that they are the currency being traded.
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