In the process of preparing topics for JacoBLOG, I scan through a lot of articles, Twitter feeds, and other sources.
And when I ran across this story in Medium by Annie Atherton, she had me at the headline:
“I Tried 7 Different Morning Routines – Here's What Made Me Happiest”
Whether you've been in the radio business for 20 minutes or 20 years, you know the value of morning drive. It's almost always the most-listened to daypart, commanding the highest rates and attracting the very best talent. Billions of dollars have been spent over the decades recruiting, hiring, coaching, researching, promoting, and negotiating with morning hosts, sidekicks, producers – you name it.
So, I was curious to find out if any of Annie's morning “experiments” involved a radio morning show.
In her story,she reveals that feelings of anxiety, stress, and even dread accompany her morning routine, as it no doubt does for many people. To find an activity that might counteract these emotions, Annie came up with seven alternatives, acting them ou on successive days.
Here's her list, with a quick snapshot of her respective conclusions on all seven days:
- Do something escapist – Laying in bed, watching TV or reading a chapter in a book had a certain appeal to Annie. While it turned out to be uplifting, she concluded this activity was irrelevant to the rest of her day.
- Exercise – While valuable, Annie concluded working out first thing in the morning did nothing to do relieve her anxiety.
- Meditate – Another worthwhile activity, but even a simple 10-minute session did little make Annie feel less “scatterbrained” that day.
- Do something social – Annie tried a couple of variations, both involving breakfast with a close friend. As “uplifting” as these meals turned out, the transition to her workday was difficult.
- Get right to work – This turned out to be a “pretty effective” way to relieve Annie's monring angst. And truth be told, it's one of my “techniques” – getting to work before everyone else shows up (except for Paul, of course). You get a lot done, but I'm not sure you're any more relaxed when the workday start.
- Indulge in a small luxury – Yes, this translates to some sort of comfort food and a fancy coffee drink. Annie admits she felt momentary joy, but it was followed by guilt and remorse.
- Foster creativity – Annie's interpretation was to squeeze in some writing at a very early hour at a comfy café. She tried this practice on a Sunday, and concluded that on a workday, it coul be distracting.
Her net-net on this morning experiment? The more serious activities – working out, meditation, and getting to work early – led to a better day of work. But they weren't fun.
And as I discovered, “Waking up with my favorite radio morning show” was not on Annie's list of potential mood elevators.
Now I don't know Annie Atherton, but I believe I may have found her on LinkedIn. And her profile indicates she lives in Seatlle – a market that most would conclude is pretty damn good.
And when you think about some of the truly successful a.m. drive shows in that market – B.J. & Migs, Brooke & Jubal, Danny Bonaduce, Gregr, John Richards, John Fisher, Dave Ross, NPR's “Morning Edition” – there are compelling morning choices that range from serious to fun to controversial to informative.
Seattle is an amazing market, and most of the personalities I listed above live in the metro, do their shows live every day, and reflect the vibe that is distinctly the Pacific Northwest. Some talk, some play music, some provide news and information, and a few combine those elements.
Now, I know that some people are disdainful of morning radio shows for any number of reasons. But after reading about Annie's morning angst experiments, I started thinking about the hundreds of radio research studies I've seen over the years. In every one, stations ask listeners about whether they're familiar with personalities and how much they like or loathe them.
But I have never seen a research project designed to determine whether regularly listeners of morning radio shows are happier than those who don't; whether they get into the office, school, hospital, or job site in a better mood after tuning in a favorite morning show.
Perhaps it also says something that while Annie was designing her morning experiment, the idea of waking up the entertainment and information of a local morning show never made the cut. We can't know her process, but it's possible she thought about the radio option – and rejected it. Or worse, it never entered her mind.
I'm not sure which is worse. But unlike some of her other choices – like watching “Good Morning America,” reading a new book, working out on the eliptical, or going inward with meditation – turning on the radio in the morning provides a unique foreground/background environment. Radio allows a harried, hassled, hustling morning commuter the chance to do other things, while still being entertained and/or informed.
If, in fact, the idea of turning on the radio was something Annie just didn't think of, the lack of top-of-mind awareness fits into the narrative that many of us in radio know too well. When was the last time the major morning shows in Seattle – or most markets, for that matter – took to the TV airwaves or billboard companies to market their franchises? Especially in growing markets where new residents are moving in daily, how would a newcomer even know about local radio stations, muchc less their morning shows.
Annie's LinkedIn profile suggests she's a Millennial, and of course, that in and of itself may be part of broadcast radio's more existential problem – earning the time and attention of that generation in a media landscape loaded with more personalized, on-demand options, often devoid of advertising.
Has Annie ever listened to GregR on The End, or “Morning Edition” on NPR, KUOW in Seattle? Has she even checked out B.J. & Migs, Brooke & Jubal, or KEXP in mornings?
So, here's my thought…
What if Annie Atherton replicated her experiment, but this time chose a different Seattle-based morning show across five consecutive weekdays? She could choose commercial stations, public, or both.
What impact would the morning radio listening experience have on her mood, her outlook, and the way she starts her day? Would it relieve her angst and stress? Or just make it worse?
The more cynical among you might wonder if Annie even owns a radio, much less uses one where she lives. I'm way ahead of you. She no doubt has a smartphone, a laptop, and/or a tablet. And might also own a smart speaker. So, let's assume access to broadcast radio morning shows is a non-issue.
I will let you know if I successfully connect with her on LinkedIn and whether she's game for the morning radio experiment.
If she decides to give it a go, we may not like the outcome. But it would be an interesting learning experience nonetheless.
Meantime, a message for Seattle morning shows:
Stay on your toes. You never know when Annie Atherton may be listening in.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.