Information, a sense of normalcy and a welcome distraction from reality are some of the often-cited reasons why listeners are drawn to radio in times of crisis. The efforts of radio talent from coast to coast is not going unrecognized in the consumer press as daily newspapers are writing what those in the industry already knew.
“Our station motto is ‘live and local,’ and that’s what we’re doing,” Isabel “Isa” González Content/Brand Manager at Meruelo Media Spanish CHR “Cali 93.9” KLLI Los Angeles tells the Los Angeles Times. “In the Hispanic community, we wear our emotions on our sleeves,” she continues. “We are there for people to call in and explore how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.”
The phone lines are a lifeline for a public now spending their days in isolation. “We're now in the age of social distancing and people are really looking to connect and learning how to do that in different ways,” Leanna Costa, morning co-host at JVC Media hot AC “Party 105.3” WPTY Nassau-Suffolk tells Newsday.
Ken Charles, Brand Manager at Entercom news KNX Los Angeles (1070) has been impressed with the number of calls from listeners thanking the staff for continuing to provide a much-needed service. “Most of the time you only hear from people when it’s something negative,” he tells the Times. “This has been... ‘heartwarming’ is the only word that comes to mind, to hear positive messages from listeners who are appreciative of the efforts our staff is making.”
Roger Luce, who along with JP Parise has been anchoring mornings at Cox Media Group classic rock WBAB Nassau-Suffolk (102.3) for 20 years, says being there for the listeners, and vice versa, is important. “We learned from 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy that we literally get through this together,” he tells Newsday. “The back-and-forth communication also helps people because you're hearing someone else talk about their own solution.”
With an absence of a morning commute and after-work errands put on hold, Ana-Maria Caraballo, co-host at JVC Media’s tropical “La Fiesta 98.5” WBON, is seeing an expanded window of engagement. “We usually get a surge of listener [calls] at 8am and now the same thing is happening from 6am all the way through to 9pm at night,” she says.
At KNX, “listening is up 44% this week, and up 55% compared to the prior two-week average,” Entercom Senior Vice President of Product John Pacino reveals, citing streaming numbers.
Judy McAlpine, President of University of Southern California classical KUSC is also seeing increased activity on the station’s social media platforms. “KUSC’s Facebook page this week over last week showed a 479% increase in reach, and 2,565% increase in engagement,” she says. “People need to engage with each other.”
iHeartMedia Chief Programming Officer/National Programming Group President Tom Poleman says usage for iHeart stations overall has increased 30% over smart speakers, 20% over the iHeart website and 22% through smart TV apps. Social engagement with on-air personalities has increased 19% and sharing of iHeart content over social media is up 97%.
“We’re in the friendship business, and that’s kind of what we’re maximizing right now,” Poleman said in the Times article. “Radio has always served our communities in times of need, whether that’s with information, companionship or escape from the world with entertainment. Now with people locked in their homes, we find they’re craving any sort of human interaction even more; they’re craving hearing voices that are familiar.”