By Andy Beaubien, BPR
A recent study of American radio listeners by Jacobs Media gives us a fresh insight into listeners’ thoughts and feelings as the Covid-19 virus continues to impact our daily lives. It is worth noting that concerns about the economy are so intense that they even exceed concerns about the health of family and friends.
At the bottom of the list, we find that less than 15% of respondents say that they are feeling angry or depressed. However, 30% say that they are feeling “up and down”. In other words, people are experiencing wider than normal mood swings.
In general, listener concerns fall into two categories: finances and health. In the United States, we are engaged in a virtual tug of war between these two issues. Financial concerns are pressing people to ask for a re-opening of businesses and workplaces. Health concerns are making people reluctant to leave home and engage with others on a direct person-to-person basis.
As radio broadcasters, our job is to understand the mood of our listeners and, in turn, meet their needs. Listener expectations of radio fall into two categories: information and distraction.
First, we must provide information. Radio is well-designed to be a source of information, especially local information. We are in a very fluid situation and listeners want the latest information about the availability of goods and services, the impact of the virus in their local area, the response of local government to the crisis, the availability of health services, etc.
Secondly, listeners are coming to radio for distraction. In other words, they need to escape from the concerns of daily life, especially at a time when many have far more free time than before. Of course, music is a reliable form of escape and radio remains a major source of music entertainment for most radio listeners. However, distraction can also come in the form of humour, story-telling, discussions about the arts and culture, historical themes, etc. Audiobooks can also be a great means of escape.
Over the years, radio has shown that it is able to adapt to changing circumstances, whether they are cultural, technological or social. The old rules no longer apply. Fresh thinking is a must.
Although the current crisis is unprecedented in radio’s short history, we can adapt and meet the challenge.