Remodeling Communications

My church recently sent its Annual Report for 2020 to all its members. It reminded me that it was on March 13, 2020 that in-person worship service was suspended at our church, along with all other activities because of the highly infectious nature of COVID-19.

Pastor Martha Sims wrote, “In its 267-year history, this congregation has had its share of difficult times; fires and conflicts and even some changes that resulted from the virus of 1918.”

The 1918-1920 global pandemic, often referred to as the “Spanish Flu,” caused my church to end the use of a common cup for communion during services and begin using little individual glasses. While communicants had the option to either continue to drink wine from the common cup or use the new individual glasses, the record shows that people quickly adjusted to the new normal and both methods did not have to be offered beyond that first Sunday morning of the change.

Permanent Change

I share this story with you, because setting up those little individual glasses for the communion wine, and then collecting them, washing them and putting them back out again for the second Sunday morning service was something my wife and I participated in as part of our church service. But now I wonder what the future will hold regarding more changes in this and other areas of our church life after what COVID-19 has taught us.

We’ve dined out on only a few occasions, mainly due to traveling, and noticed that restaurants now give patrons a paper menu that is disposed of after orders are taken.

Hand sanitizer is found in every store you go into these days, often with signs asking people to use it upon entering. Might we find these changes remain, post-COVID?

Radio Personalities Broadcasting from Home

Broadcast programming consultant, Gary Berkowitz, hosted his first ZOOM call with radio programmers from throughout the United States and Canada talking about how they’re dealing with the global pandemic in their radio operations. What struck me most was that all of the radio stations had equipped their personalities with high quality microphones, processing, laptops and high-speed internet service to do their shows and/or voice track them from home.

Personalities in places like New York City and Philadelphia were broadcasting from their apartment or basement on some of America’s top radio stations.

One personality said he had to get special permission to go into the radio station to do a special Christmas broadcast, taking calls from youngsters who wanted to talk to Santa, because it wasn’t possible to execute this from his home studio.

A Canadian programmer said his radio group spent about $2,500 per personality to equip them with the best equipment to broadcast from home, and that it has worked out seamlessly with no disruption to any of their radio stations normal programming. Might this become permanent?

Bob Van Dillen

It’s not just radio personalities, but television personalities too. Bob Van Dillen is the meteorologist on HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade. Since the pandemic hit, Bob has been doing his weather forecasts from the safety of his home.

I also noticed that some of our local TV anchors and reporters on NBC4 out of Washington, DC are doing this too.

COVID-19 Disruptions

I’ve done a lot of reading about past global pandemics, with the intent of trying to learn how they made permanent changes to the world going forward. What I’ve learned is, there really is nothing to compare with what we’re going through, with those of the past.

The Internet

Probably the biggest reason this time is so different is the existence of the internet. Never before has the world been able to continue operating to such a large extent by being so instantly connected as we are today.

Almost everything we need, can now be obtained via this communications innovation.

Our last medical appointment with our doctor was done over a ZOOM-like connection. Our weekly church service is broadcast live on Facebook and on-demand recordings are available for later viewing on YouTube. Our church has already committed to continuing video church services even when in-person services can once again take place.

In my home, all of our television viewing is via streaming, using AppleTV, FireTV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.

I access the world of radio, via streaming as well these days by simply asking Alexa for the station or audio content I wish to hear.

Audio Tipping Point Crossed in 2020

While we were all consumed with trying not to contract COVID, the average time spent listening to traditional radio (AM/FM) was surpassed by listening to digital audio.

“ When we change the way we communicate, we change society.”
-Clay Shirky

The Future of Radio is to Meet the Listener Where They Are

Today’s audio consumer is more likely to be accessing audio content via digital streaming than through an AM/FM radio set and they are also more likely to want some visual content along with their audio. It will be critical for broadcasters to be offering programming – both audio & visual – that is engaging and delivers what people want.

Broadcasters will have to take into consideration the environment the media consumer is using their product in, and take full advantage of all the technology advances it offers, be it at home, at work or in the car.

In other words, it’s time for broadcast media to start making plans to remodel the way they communicate with their audience. The first question every broadcaster will need to be asking is:

How relevant are we to our media consumer in this environment?

10 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

10 responses to “Remodeling Communications

  1. Gene Tognacci

    IMHO radio is no longer relevant in this environment. And it is a sefl inflicted wound.

    At a time when we could have been doubling down on delivering instant guidance, insight and re assurance to communities, stations cut costs, cut services and abdicated its100 year old legacy.

    Now, if I want news, I check my iPad, if I want music I have Sirius and if I want entertainment I have Audible, etc.

    Many talk about the Fairness Doctrine, Equal Time and maximum station number deregulation killing radio, I also recall that before dereg, prospective buyers had to show financial ability to carry a station at a loss for 3 years.

    Instead, today’s ownership heads cried fiscal hardship less tha a month into the pandemic. What a shame

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Not everyone HAS abandoned it, though. Cox Media Group is an exception to the rule. Here in Dayton, we have a live, local news department that runs 24 hours a day on the weekdays. Personality radio is encouraged. One problem with some of these big companies is very understandable. They get too big, too fast. They, then, try and figure out how to run them profitably. That’s putting the cart before the horse (and I don’t mean “cart machine”). You buy the stations, get them making money, then buy more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Rick

      kfodor, I live in Cincinnati and Cox Media is my go to for the very reasons you stated. This company conducted itself with honor and intelligence. They didn’t run for the hills screaming “nothing will ever be the same”.
      The virus didn’t crash this country, the government did. Interesting that with a 98.5% survival rate and several quality treatments, they “didn’t let the crisis go to waste.” Thank you, Cox Media.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Unfortunately, there aren’t many operations like Dayton, that haven’t been dismantled through the consolidation process. It’s a unique situation and you are very fortunate to have a home there Kevin.
      -DT

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Our morning show situation is unique: we begged our way back into the studio in June of 2020, and instantly doubled our ratings. We’ve been in-studio the entire time. Entercom L.A. also has the new KROQ morning show, and of course, KNX, in studio situations. From my perspective, there’s something else that’s killing traditional media: the lack of a robust dialogue, and even debate, about the pandemic and our response. We’re not allowed to question the government response, or to point out other scientific data or theories, on the basis that we’re harming the great unwashed by questioning the official story. Even comedy is verboten. One of the things that makes America unique in history is our absolute belief in the ability of individuals to chose their own destiny, and collectively, to govern themselves. When we lose faith in that ability, for any reason, we lose the motivation to pay attention.
    Fear is a powerful motivator. Fear of a virus, and fear of being cast out of society for asking reasonable (or even unreasonable) questions, etc. Maybe that’s why we’re becoming irrelevant.

    Like

    • Rick

      Oh krth, what an excellent narrative! Thank you for your reason and eloquence!

      Like

    • What we do know is, properly wearing face masks that cover the nose & mouth are one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID and likewise contracting it. Hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60% kills the virus on people’s hands. And socially distancing from others by avoiding large crowds or crowded spaces will keep you safe. That’s proven.

      What’s still unknown is what level of protection vaccines give you and for how long. So even if you are vaccinated, following the above procedures are still recommended.

      This is not fear mongering, this is getting the word out to save people’s lives.

      We can hold different opinions on lots of things, but we can’t have different facts.

      Glad you and your team are safe and back in the studio and congratulations on your robust ratings!
      -DT

      Like

  4. One metaphor I used to hear years ago, not so much anymore, was buggy whip makers and wagon makers. When the automobile came along, “OMG, my business has ceased to exist, whatever shall I do?” And the moral (do metaphors have morals?) is they’d have been fine if, instead of defining their business as building wooden wagons with wooden wheels, they were in the transportation business, or maybe the carpentry business. I literally learned to speak from a radio by my pillow, which got me beat up in elementary school — six-year-olds aren’t supposed to sound like radio DJs. Went to school to get into Broadcasting — and when I graduated, “there was no There there.”

    Radio per se will be around for a while yet. But it makes sense to “keep your head on a swivel” and adjust to current circumstances. Radio started out as that geeky, newfangled tech thing, after all, Adjusting to new tech and new techniques isn’t a new habit, it’s an old habit we lost when we started finding The Right Way To Do Things. It’s a bit of work, but we’ve done it before. I say “we” advisedly. I’m still a kid fresh out of school, hoping to break into the business, gray hairs notwithstanding.

    Exempli Gratia: try a search for “Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work” sometime. They’ve done rather well, I hear.

    Liked by 1 person

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