Loverboy had it right. We're all workin' for the weekend, and for most of us, that means Saturday and Sunday are days off. But now our post-COVID workplace protocols are changing the fabric of the typical Monday-Friday routine. Weekends have never been elevated to more importance. For many, they're the “life” in the so-called “work-life balance.”
There's also much talk about the 4-day workweek. And companies like Kickstarter are now experimenting with this truncated schedule. They've hooked up with dozen of other companies in a trial to test this concept.
According to CBS News, researchers at Boston College are spearheading the project, trying to determine whether a 32-hour workweek – Monday through Thursday – can be as efficient and productive as the standard 40 hours.
The early reviews are….not surprisingly….very good. In some workplaces, Fridays have morphed into half days – or less – anyway. They've always been more casual; now they're becoming less productive as many employees sneak out or shut down early.
In radio, weekend programming has changed quite a bit in recent years, too. Pre-PPM, many stations leaned on syndicated programming, especially Sunday and often Saturday, too. And when it came to voicetracking, weekends quickly followed overnights in their lack of weight and import. More and more, stations are looking at Monday-through-Friday when pulling up the ratings. And special programming, theme weekends, and contesting on Saturdays and Sundays have become rarer over time. I've heard more than a few sales managers say they can't sell weekends anyway. That's how quarter-hours, hours, and entire days become “throwaways.”
And wouldn't you know it – many stations find themselves dealing with declining weekend ratings, raising the chicken : egg question:
Are consumers listening less over the weekend due to their changing lifestyles OR are is it due to less compelling programming on the two “S days” on so many radio stations?
Radio is like every other entertainment and information medium. If we don't make our programming sound big and of great value, our audiences won't either. And when radio starts “mailing in” weekends, there's simply less motivation for listeners to include radio in their Saturday and Sunday entertainment plans.
I subscribe to the print editions of the New York Times Saturday and Sunday editions. That gets me access to the digital editions throughout the week, but I truthfully enjoy having a physical newspaper on my weekends. And I started noticing that on Friday afternoons, the Times sends me a teaser/preview email without fail.
The email tees up three stories from the Sunday edition in a package simply called “This Weekend In Print.” It's in the Cheltenham font the Times uses for its headlines. And it's followed by capsule summaries of a trio of stories, along with the same illustrations that will appear in the Sunday edition.
The subtitle is “A standout selection of articles brought to life in your paper.”
The Friday that caught my attention was September 26, and the email highlighted some of the bigger stories from the Sunday paper. On this day, they showcased the following;
- A title feature in their Sunday magazine. “The Voyages Issues,” featuring rare animal photography from around the world.
- Promotion for the Times' highly popular “Cooking” special section, one of the paper's most popular verticals, along with “Games.”
- A special print-only section, “The New York Times For Kids,” now a regular feature.
Animal photos, food, and kids – hard to go too wrong there.
The Times' choices seemed strategic, and the first two were available online, right now – two days before paper arrives on my front porch. The “Cooking” feature was “Dinner in Seven Ingredients (Or Even Fewer!)” – perfect for people on the go. In other words, most of us.
I checked subsequent Friday emails from the Times, and learned they vary greatly from week to week, ostensibly featuring what the editors consider their best work for that weekend. You have to wonder if there's even an internal competition from editors to lobby their section's best work for the “weekend preview” email.
(It makes you wonder why after decades of me subscribing, they don't know me better. Like radio, the Times has no idea which parts of the paper I always/never read. For a print newspaper or radio airwaves, there's no digital footprint.
But there could be. Not that every Friday email sent to Fred Jacobs should point to stories about entertainment, technology, business, and sports – but it would probably guarantee me being more attracted to that weekend's paper.
Their email is always in 3's, an acknowledgment our attention spans are limited. So many weekend emails I receive from radio stations are “laundry lists” of promotions, sales tie-ins, and other on-air programming that the best stuff is often drowned out by the mass of everything else.
And the obvious implication is that if I continue to find the weekend editions compelling, it will lead to me coming back Monday morning to start the new week.
For radio stations, that's a big part of the weekend's potential. It can showcase programming you won't hear throughout the week, and it's an obvious lead-in to the new week.
So, a few takeaways:
- Lean into your weekends. Make 'em sound big, important, worth listening to, and a place listeners can hear something different from the usual.
- Promote them with energy. Use your email database, and your air to make them stand out. If it's really something big, use the push messaging function in your mobile app.
- Think in 3's. On-air promos should be focused on one main feature, but the email should target three reasons to tune in Saturday/Sunday.
- Think weekend lifestyle. All weekends aren't the same. In your market, this weekend could point to the big football rivalry, the color change, the coming Halloween extravaganza or whatever locals in your town are fixated on.
- Showcase your accessibility. If your listeners are likely on the road of going to be big game, remind them they can take the station with them via your app. Or remind them to bring Alexa along on those weekend getaways.
- Demand more from your voicetrackers – Don't treat Saturday and Sunday as secondary listening periods. Raise the bar on your expectations. Weekend may be a great place for up-and-coming talent to get better, but demand more prep out of those weekend voices.
- Make sure your frontliners are there, too. If you can make it happen, use voicetracking to guarantee your main weekday talent are present on Saturday and Sunday, too.
- Cut weekends-only production. Weekend lifestyles bear little resemblance to Monday through Friday routines. Your station should sound like itself, of course, but have a different vibe.
Commit to making your weekends shine for a rating book, and then measure and evaluate. The ratings are one obvious way to do that. But so is a simple web survey of weekend features and themes among your email database members.
If you start seeing results, put together packages with your smartest, most motivated salesperson – someone who might actually listen to the station over the weekend. When one industrious person starts making regular sales using weekend inventory, that good news will make its way through the cubicles. Let's not forget Saturday is the biggest shopping day of the week.
“Project Weekend” doesn't have to be a giant time suck or a burden, but it should send a clear message to the staff that you're not giving up on nearly 30% of the week's 6a-midnight quarter-hours.
The more you reflect that weekend vibe, the more you have a chance to connect with your audience during their precious weekends. It's another way of “meeting the audience where they are” – on their cherished Saturday and Sunday. Unlike the Times which has only touch points with a reader – when the email is opened (if it is) and when the reader picks up the physical paper or goes online, your radio station is in real-time whenever a listener punches you up or accesses the station via the stream.
Giving up on weekends also puts more pressure on that morning show of yours to have to start building an audience from scratch on those dreaded Monday mornings.
And whatever you do, have a nice weekend.