What are your travel plans over the holidays?
That's usually a great ice breaker question because most of us go someplace over Thanksgiving and/or the December holidays.
There's the tropical vacation, a family cruise, a visit to a theme park, or just going home to see the family.
We've all seen the cliché local TV news standups from the airport, covering “the busiest travel day of the year.”
But not this year.
Just like everything else in 2020, we're off the charts as we roll into the biggest holidays of the year. Many of you – 350+ radio stations – took part in the third wave of our COVID studies last month in an effort to better understand the audience's mindset and how things may be different.
From the research, we learned a great deal about how this holiday season – like everything else – will be an anomaly. That means fewer parties, gatherings, and events, less spending on gifts, more virtual meet-ups, and online shopping that will be off the charts.
We also learned that most people will be staying close to home. In fact, a majority (55%) of our more than 27,000 respondents told us they've got no personal travel planned this season.
And here's the kicker:
Of those venturing out, most of that will be via car – not air travel.
That changes the game, because it means that many people won't be straying too far from home. A few hundred miles by car isn't exactly “traveling,” but for those planning on going anywhere this year, that's what it comes down to.
That means loading up the Country Squire station wagon a la the Griswolds, rather than heading for the airport to fly to Paris like the McCallisters. (The latest word is that Wally World remains closed due to it being a hot spot.)
For radio broadcasters – especially programmers and sales managers – that's like getting a heads-up memo from corporate with the following information:
- There will be new sales opportunities for many stations, perhaps with regional clients and businesses in nearby cities and towns.
- This news about curtailed travel information should be shared with all advertisers to help them craft their holiday strategies, promotions, and copy points, including post Christmas sales and events.
- Listeners should be encouraged to “take the station with them” over the holidays, switching over to the mobile app stream if they leave terrestrial coverage.
- Similar to the sales department, programming promo language should be crafted to fit this life-changing 2020 season.
- And (nothing new this year) many people will be receiving smartphones and smart speakers under their trees and bushes, the perfect opportunity to download your station's app or skill. So, keep reminding them you have it and how to use it.
It also means December programming might need to be reconsidered. Now, I get the fact that in diary markets, the last four weeks of the year are unrated. And that in PPM measured metros, the dreaded Holiday Book tends to have much greater value for the station in town playing non-stop Burl Ives and Brenda Lee yuletide favorites.
But the radio world shouldn't come to an end on December 2nd. Certainly, the audience will be hanging around, looking for something to listen to.
In most years, radio stations use this time to give the full-time staff much-need vacation time, turning on the voicetracking software, and calling it a year. And while I'm not suggesting it's necessary to invest resources into these usually “dead weeks,” it is a fact that many regular listeners will be at home, eating leftovers, scanning Netflix and Hulu, and bored out of their minds.
Well-crafted feature programming and even a guest host or two just might give your audience a reason to listen during a time of year when it's yet another Netflix movie, that same Spotify playlist, or end-of-year countdowns and retrospectives. And it might give you a nice jumpstart heading into what we all hope will be better days – 2021.
It's the simple things. This holiday season, it may be simply hanging around the house, staying socially distant with a friend or two, or taking the family on a drive to a nearby cottage or tourist spot. That would make it a December like no other. But for an entertainment and information medium like local radio, it could easily be a growth opportunity.
Tomorrow: A new independent study reports on what drivers love to listen to when in cars – by songs, bands, genres, and yes, media.