“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.
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.”