We are most certainly living in confusing times.
For example, we used to know who was rock n' roll and who was country.
The Who, Ozzy Osbourne, and AC/DC were stone cold rock artists, while Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, and Tammy Wynette were absolutely country.
But now the Rock Hall, already (in)famous for blurring lines, is about to induct Dolly Parton into their august membership community in spite of the artist's own rejection of the idea. She has since reversed course, and will happily and memorably appear at the induction ceremony.
And look for her to join fellow Hall of Famers Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, and Pat Benatar on stage, backed by Duran Duran. Along with Eminem and Lionel Richie, the definition of “rock” gets fuzzier in Cleveland with each passing year.
To underscore Dolly's bona fides in the Rock Hall, Louder recently published a video of her cover of “Stairway To Heaven,” a bluegrass meets gospel of the rock classic. Apparently, anything's possible in 2022.
Beyond her accomplishments as a singer/songwriter, Dolly has also excelled at acting, including the iconic “9 To 5,” perhaps the most famous female empowerment movie of all time, and one that still resonates today. Co-starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and the late Dabney Coleman as the evil boss, it was released in 1980.
In the 4+ decades that have followed, the rules of the workplace have been greatly altered. Women have made progress since Dolly, Jane, and Lily got revenge on Franklin Hart, Jr. in “9 To 5.” Women in the workforce have broken lots of glass, often ascending to the corner office, the bench of the Supreme Court, and the office of the Vice President of the United States. Yet, the pay gap between men and women is still not entirely closed, reminding us there's more work to be done.
When “9 to 5” hit the big screen, there was no doubt it signified the traditional workday for the vast majority of American workers, whether they made their living on a loading dock, behind a typewriter, or selling radio time. Whether you were white or blue collar, most people defined their work hours with great similarity.
Then along came the 2000s, where the shift started to take place. Thanks in no small part to the Internet enabling millions to set up home offices (or even working out of coffee shops), managing to get a great deal accomplished even if they actually didn't set foot in the office.
And then COVID, solidifying use of a new acronym, WFH, that has been a game changer in the workforce – and in the radio industry. In the early months of the pandemic, there were strong indicators Americans were getting their day started later than usual. As s result, many morning shows stayed on the air until 11 a.m. to be more congruent with changing lifestyle patterns.
In the days when every rated market used the Arbitron diary, getting credit for listening at work became a smart and savvy tactic. Adult Contemporary stations, in particular, elevated at-work promotions to an art form, using direct mail and telemarketing contesting to achieve the goal of getting credit for the 9-t0-5 workday.
And Arbitron made it easier for respondents by allowing them to simply draw a line down a diary page, signifying they were listening to the same station at work for long spans of time, often an eight hour workday.
In the 90's, Edison Research released a breakthrough at-work study that turned radio's conventional wisdom on its head. Among the findings – only 4% of American actually got to work at 9 a.m. and punched out at 5 p.m.
Edison also revealed that Classic Rockers were big at-work listeners. And it was that research that led Jacobs Media to successfully launch “The Workforce Payroll” promotion. For years, Classic Rock stations enjoyed great results in their midday and afternoon numbers, paying out cash to their fans for simply listening to the station at work.
Twenty years later, radio tacticians are dealing with a much different reality. Recently released data shows the so-called Great Resignation roars on, making us scratch our collective heads.
Last month, for example, more than 4.5 million Americans told their employers “I quit” – a record. This continues a trend that has raged on for months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While resignations are plentiful in every job sector, those working in manufacturing along with leisure and hospitality are leading the trend. And given what we know about broadcast radio listeners, job quitting is likely occurring among core radio listeners.
Of course, hiring is at a record level, as many workers now have the luxury of weighing their options. For employers, it's the worst of times. More and more new hires are “ghosting” their new jobs. According to the Wall Street Journal, many don't even call or show up for that first day on the job. Southwest Airlines reports 15% to 20% of newly hired workers simply go M.I.A. on Day One.
And we're trying to get them to remember our “key word?!”
Despite this turbulence in the workforce, perhaps the most difficult challenge facing radio programmers who thrive on listener habit is the lack of patterns in hours folks are now working.
The New York Times' Emma Goldberg suggests “9 to 5” has morphed into the “Triple Peak Day.” She reports that WFH for many has become more like 9 to 2 (with a lunch break in between), followed by a work spurt in the 7 to 10 p.m. zone.
What does that say about afternoon drive, a period when kids arrive home from school, and as a result, at-work productivity goes on hold. But after dinner, there's that “third peak” – returning email, getting ready for tomorrow, and cleaning up loose ends from the day. It is reminiscent of how and when many of us did our homework after dinner. And is it another opportunity for the radio to be on in the background?
In the meantime, some companies (none that I know of in radio BTW) are becoming increasingly concerned about the “work:life” balance, a condition that has become more prevalent among Gen Z's, working its way up to older generations.
In Goldberg's story, Microsoft researcher Javier Hernandez points out that while workers have become more flexible in mixing their home and work lives, many are also more miserable over their jobs.
That phenomenon is playing out on a new TV series on Apple TV+, aptly named “Severance.” It is a dystopian story of powerful corporations and the people who make them go, And it highlights the question of whether it's possible to separate our work and home lives.
The diabolical company in the center of this at-work dilemma, Lumon, is a place you most definitely don't want to work. However, their troubled employees all appear to work 9 to 5 days.
Much of Goldberg's story about the new working protocols is anecdotal – there's very little research showing a “third peak,” or even the bifurcated 9 to 2 block.
But it doesn't have to be that way for you, your station, and your audience. Your email database can shed much light on what they're doing, when they're doing it, and where it all takes place. Whether their office is the extra bedroom, a Starbucks, or their car is all knowable information that can help PDs and salespeople understand new possibilities.
Is there an opportunity for listen-at-work promotions in this unstable, rapidly changing work environment? And what about those in your audience pool who aren't working with no intention of return to their old jobs – or any job? They're listeners, too, ostensibly with even more time on their hands to enjoy a show or play a contest.
The fact your database is mostly made up of your core listeners is actually a plus. When you understand what your P1s are doing, you've gained valuable insight into how to best communicate and market to them, whether it's making modifications in airshifts, contest placement, or the exposure of new music.
If there's a new “9 to 5” for your audience, it's something you can easily find out. My “gut” is that it differs by brand, and certainly format. It would seem logical that an NPR fan is working differently than someone who loves Country, Hip-Hop or Sports Radio.
Assuming they're not retired, job hopping, or “ghosting” their employer.
Welcome to another “Manic Monday.”
Learn more about your audience in our free webinar, unveiling the key findings from Techsurvey 2022. We'll address some of the big, existential questions impacting radio, along with action steps to help your station take on the rest of the year. Info and registration here.