Programming for Commuters Changing Habits By Andy Meadows

I’ve always been a proponent for building programming clocks based around the commuting habits within a local market. For instance, if the average commute is 17 minutes and the majority of listeners within the stations target demo get to work at 8am and leave at 5pm. That station should build their clocks to make sure they are delivering their highest value content within the 17 minute windows before 8am and after 5pm. Depending on the format and on-air talent, that might be a popular on-air feature or just leaning more heavily on the station’s strongest music categories. Plus, it certainly means avoiding a long stop-set during those windows. 

However, during this extended pandemic here in the US those commuting habits have drastically changed. In most states traffic is still down 20% or more. But, during the shelter in place orders, which could certainly be reinstated at any point, traffic volumes dipped more than 50%. None of that should cause us to totally abandon any formatting we’ve done for commuting habits within our market, as those are still likely the heaviest traffic times. However, it does mean we should try harder to consistently deliver strong content and music throughout the typical office hours where people are now more likely to be out and about running midday errands. Plus, it’s all the more reason to step up our game and use our other platforms, social media, websites, and apps, to set multiple on-air appointments by teasing specific music and content throughout the day. 

Programming isn’t done in a vacuum. We have to be willing to adjust our on air strategies to fit our rapidly changing society. Asking ourselves questions like, if more people are working from home and therefore spending shorter intervals in the car, how should we adjust for that? Should we commit to shortening stopsets, emphasize better on-air teases, spread our programming resources out throughout the day instead of focusing on mornings? Depending on market and format each of those answers will vary. But one thing is clear, when listener habits change, so should we. 

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