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(By Richard Davies) All the awful things about the coronavirus crisis are obvious— from the economic calamity and disruption of social distancing to the virus itself.
But for podcasters, there are opportunities as well as challenges. When the pandemic erupted, our team at “How Do We Fix It?” had to react in a hurry. We tossed our spring program plans into the trash.
Our weekly solutions journalism podcast does interviews about constructive ideas aimed at making the world a better place. Instead of carefully constructed shows worked out weeks in advance, we’re winging it, booking guests one or two days ahead. Many authors, journalists and thought leaders have time on their hands, and are easier to get. Scrappy and immediate is the order of the day. Quick turnaround time is essential.
The same is true for countless other content creators.
We are all being constantly surprised. And we have no idea how this thing will end. A Pew Research Center poll finds that the coronavirus outbreak is having profound impacts on the personal lives of Americans. Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their life has changed in a moderate or major way.
Listening and viewing habits have changed. A new survey by the research firm, Podsights, says that the big fear among podcast publishers in the early days of the pandemic “was with fewer people commuting, we would see a massive decrease in people listening to podcasts.” But the results are mixed. While some shows have taken a dive, audiences for news podcasts are up by as much as 30%.
Along with countless others, we found new ways to work remotely. We learned how to record up to four people on separate audio channels— something we’d never tried before. The challenge was to make it quick and easy for guests to jump on the line and speak with us.
Companies and causes alike are in fast forward mode— searching for new ways to say something of value. Some are launching brand new podcasts, while others are producing them with a greater sense of urgency. Deadlines have gone from weeks to days to hours.
The corporate leadership podcast that we produce needed a 72-hour turnaround on an interview with a prominent CEO.
A cable TV company that we work with has turned their weekly podcast into a daily show about the pandemic.
Common Ground Committee, a non-profit group that brings together politicians and public servants prominent leaders, had to cancel public events. Instead, they put podcasts on the front burner, and are working an urgent new series of shows that address the current crisis.
Politicians and thought leaders are finding new ways to communicate. Andrew Yang launched a new issues-based podcast. So has Joe Biden. The now-certain Democratic Presidential nominee faces the daunting prospect of being shunted to the sidelines: ignored and disregarded before the convention. “Here’s The Deal With Joe Biden”, launched at the end of March, might help him stay relevant.
The Biden campaign said it will expand the conversations to beyond the pandemic. The shows are unscripted and allow for the possibility of surprise.
Many brands are in a Biden boat, facing a “WTF happened to my carefully orchestrated communications strategy” moment.
Podcasting during this crisis may help them deal with a gut-wrenching challenge, allowing them to face into the wind and demonstrate how they’re committed to the communities they serve.