💬 The Most Shocking Audio Stat of the Year and What it Means

Replied to The Most Shocking Audio Stat of the Year and What it Means by Tom Webster (tomwebster.substack.com)

Our commutes were not “taken away;” our commuting time was given back to us. What really changed was what the late Clayton Christensen, one of our most influential thinkers on business and the man who literally wrote the book on disruptive innovation, would call jobs to be done.

Morning radio is not about a block of time. It’s about what jobs we need it to do in that block of time. A typical morning radio show generally does well because it does those jobs. But today, in July of 2020 and maybe in July of 2021, fewer of us need those jobs.

Tom, I really enjoyed this newsletter. I have found that the change in work and getting back the commute time really interesting. I am no longer stressing about waking at six and rushing around frantically in the morning trying to the kids and I out the door. However, as you touch upon, this has not necessarily provided more time, but instead a different set of jobs to be done. In regards to audio, I no longer listen on my commute, instead I have found myself listening to podcasts as I do the morning rounds (something that used to be the afternoon rounds).

Now, starting our audio day at 8:30 instead of 7:15 doesn’t necessarily mean we are sleeping in later, but I am sure that’s true for many people. I’m not getting any more sleep, I can tell you that, because… [gestures broadly at the outside world.] But one of the many things COVID-19 hath wrought is a drastic reduction in the Great American Commute. On any given day, work can throw you a curveball, kids and family can have their issues, but the commute is ritualized behavior. It’s one of the reasons that AM/FM remains the leading source of audio in the car—it has been expertly designed to serve that ritual.

In April, most of the country (and the world) was shut down, and EVERY form of media had a dramatic consumption shift. Podcasts, AM/FM Radio, even Audiobooks, all went down. “Tiger King” went up (man does that seem a long time ago?) We didn’t just lose our commutes—we lost the gym, we lost our “lunch hour,” and we lost something crucial for listening to many podcasts and audiobooks, Me Time. If you thought quarantine was going to give you more Me Time, you didn’t think through the impact of being a 100%-on-duty spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father, in addition to whatever your job entailed for those of us lucky enough to still be working.

Gradually, however, overall audio consumption has returned to something approaching pre-pandemic levels. We might be starting our audio days 75 minutes later, but COVID didn’t permanently rob us of 75 minutes of audio listening. Comparing Q2 2020 to last year, we are down about 10 minutes per day, not 75. We’ve settled into the this that is whatever this this is. Podcasts are fitting back into our lives.

I think that what I have come to appreciate about podcasts as opposed to radio (although many of my podcasts actually are deduced from radio) is that they allow me to steal time when it may arise.

2 responses on “💬 The Most Shocking Audio Stat of the Year and What it Means”

  1. I never thought of the loss of commute being about ‘me time’ or ‘listening time’ being taken away, but rather about getting time back. This is interesting and insightful.
    My wife and I used to commute to the same school and she had a morning radio show she loved… I tolerated it. I didn’t like how they tried to build mystery and ‘leave you hanging’ at every commercial break to keep you listening after the commercials. It was just too contrived and predictable. So any time I’m alone in the car it’s audio books or a podcast.
    Although my commute is very short, I’d miss that time too if I lost it.

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