It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over

Yogi Berra“It ain’t over, till it’s over,” one of the many phrases made popular by Yogi Berra kept popping into my mind as I sat in on several webinars these past few weeks. COVID19 is not over, so why are people acting like it is? We can expect that we will be living with this virus through all of this year and through most of 2021.

Just because we’re tired of it, doesn’t mean we can let our guard down.

“If the underlying problem is that people are afraid of interacting in close proximity, and they’re afraid to go shopping in certain ways, then the only way to get things back to normal is going to be to solve the public health problem.”

-John Friedman, Brown University economist

Nobody Has the Answers

Whether by reading the broadcast trade publications or watching webinars, it’s become abundantly clear that no one has the answers. Sadly, the radio world seems determined to turn back the clock to the way things were. Whether it be in programming or sales, you simply can’t take the way things were done and put them online. The online world is different and needs to be utilized differently.

The Medium is the Message

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan realized how important the medium carrying a message was to the process of communication. Each medium, be it print, visual, audio, musical etc., will determine how the message is perceived by the person receiving it.

You can’t take a price/item full page newspaper ad and simply print that ad on a billboard.

Every advertising person knows that a billboard message needs to be short, succinct and instantly communicated. For a driver passing by at 65 miles per hour, that means a message of about seven words.

Yet, broadcasters forget the wisdom of McLuhan when they take their over-the-air radio broadcasts and simply stream them on the internet.

The internet is a different medium, and people’s expectations for what they watch, listen to or read on the internet are likewise.

It’s Like Déjá Vu All Over Again

Yogi Berra sure knew how to turn a phrase and expose our follies.

When FM radio was born, the type of radio being done on AM was easily transferred over to this new commercial FM radio band. Why? Because both the AM and FM commercial radio bands came through the same type of receiver, a radio tuner. In other words, they utilized the same medium, the radio set.

But when listening to audio programming over the internet, the listener could be using a computer, a tablet, a smart speaker, a cellphone or any of a multitude of internet connected devices.

Different mediums entirely than AM/FM radio sets and each with different user expectations.

You Can Observe a Lot by Just Watching

Once again, Yogi points the way with his unique turn of a phrase.

As I watched the latest round of weekly webinars, one of the things that became clear was how people were moving to steaming when accessing media in their homes.

ComScore said that WiFi connected homes accounted for 68% of video consumption, with the big five streamers being Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney. These five account for 82.5% of the streaming video that’s being consumed.

Likewise, Edison Research’s Larry Rosin points out that radio listening is very much car dependent (mainly due to most cars having an AM/FM radio in the dashboard) and that when people are home, streaming is taking over.

“Radio is mainly an over-the-air product

and not a streaming one.”

-Larry Rosin, Edison Research

Think about that statement for a moment. Edison Research has found that AM/FM radios are vanishing from American homes, with 32% of households no longer owning a single radio set.

So, if people mainly use radio programming only on radio receivers, and those receivers are dwindling in homes, offices and dashboards, the radio industry’s challenge is a daunting one. Listening to audio programming will continue to grow via streaming on non-radio set devices. Radio, as we knew it, is moving in the direction of malls and movie theaters, built for a past generation.

During the stay-at-home months of April and May 2020, audio listening at home rose from a pre-COVID19 49% to 70%. This didn’t mean more OTA radio per se.Share of Ear May 2020

If the way people accessed their audio content was via streaming, they did more of that, and if they still owned a radio set, then they listened to more OTA radio.

If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, You’ll End Up Someplace Else

And that Yogi Berra saying pretty much sums up the world right now during this pandemic. No one knows where we are going. No one has the answers. This is a period of global disruption.

What history shows us during periods of disruption is, the old ways get destroyed before the new ones get built to take over. However, COVID19 appears to be speeding up the process.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

-Yogi Berra





Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

12 responses to “It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over

  1. J Peter Wilson

    Over this side of ‘the pond’ radio listening has been growing during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a retired broadcasting regulation consultant, I listen mostly to my favourite stations on our DAB/DAB+/FM radios or via our Smart-speakers. I will be adding another station to my pre-sets on Monday (2020-06-29) when a new national speech station – Times Radio – starts broadcasting from studios in the same building as The Times & Sunday Times newspapers.


    • DAB/DAB+/FM radio sets are basically the same type of device as an AM/FM radio. DRM is as well.

      I listen to NPR radio in the car, but at home I stream NPR news and podcasts on my Amazon Echo.

      Over here in America, NPR has done the best job of understand that different receiving devices create different listener expectations.

      It sounds like Times Radio will be something similar to our NY Times “The Daily.” I hope you will drop me a line and let me know how it sounds.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog to day and sharing your insights J. Peter.


  2. “When you come to the fork, take it!” – Yogi #8 Changes with masks, two meter separation and how we hear radio broadcasts. Fact is, millions of receivers and other ways to tune in exist. Just please may we continue to broadcast excellence for audience and advertisers. New demand will take care of success and sustainability. Thanks, Prof. Dick.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the McLuhan quote! I discovered “Understanding Media” in 1977, and I’ve made millions off of the wisdom therein. I agree with your observations. I’ve been saying for years that broadcasters who think they can just take their over-the-air content and stream it have no understanding of what they’re dealing with. The Internet is, as McLuhan predicted, individualized, discreet media. It’s “what I want, when I want it.” Broadcast is “you’ll take what we give you,” but there is a secret… it also connects listeners to a larger community, and that’s our best hope for maintaining a radio audience.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank You Gary for sharing the insight and the wisdom that you have gained from performing at the highest level of the radio industry.

      McLuhan’s understanding of the nuances of media is like a beacon, much the same as Peter Drucker was for understanding management theory.

      I appreciate your stopping by the blog and sharing your perspective.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. dickie vaughan

    There is a great song…that describes AM radio’s future….The Partys Over Its Time to Call It a Day…..we are in the 3rd night of the wake they just haven’t closed the casket yet ! and yes we are right behind our old competitor Newspapers !!! Computers and advance technology has changed the world !!! as Einstein said in 1939…the more new technology we develop the more new idiots we also develop !…so I enjoyed a long and very successful and satisfying career in radio broadcasting…but sadly I ended up being an undertaker and not a GM…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mr. Vaughan, you were one of the best at both selling and representing local radio. I’m better for the time I mentored under you. Thank You.

      Sadly, I agree with your analysis of AM radio.

      Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
      (American Standard Version)
      3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every [a]purpose under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

      And so it shall be for AM radio.

      Stay Safe by good friend.

      Liked by 2 people

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