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.
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.
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.
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.”
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: