Three Things for April 7, 2022
This week: Let’s call this the “Great Re-Evaluation. A return to The Infinite Dial 2022, and go bold or go home.
THING ONE: Perhaps This Thing Should Be Called “The Great Re-Evaluation”
Last week, as a follow-up to the published results of the Public Media Staff Vacancy Survey, the Public Impact Group hosted a Zoom conversation with a smart group of public media colleagues on Public Media and The Great Resignation.
We had 25 people from a variety of backgrounds and organizations join in on the conversation where we focused on ideas and solutions to address the challenges stations are facing in retaining and recruiting talent.
Following a brief review of the survey results, I shared a few highlights from another research study conducted late last summer by Eagle Hill Consulting, a management consulting firm that has some public media experience1 as part of its portfolio.
The COVID-19 Workforce Burnout Survey included 1,010 respondents from a random sample of employees across the United States. The survey polled respondents on burnout and retention in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The headline from the study found that more than half of the U.S. workforce is facing burnout, with younger workers feeling the most strain, at 62% with more than half of workers polled saying that the pandemic has brought about a reevaluation of their personal priorities.
This reassessment, according to Eagle Hill president and chief executive officer Melisssa Jezior means that “the workforce situation likely will worsen before it gets better, with one-third of the workforce planning to leave their job soon. The so-called Great Resignation means that employers must start a Great Re-Evaluation, re-thinking everything from their culture to how work gets done.”
These re-evaluations mean that a lot of people are thinking differently about work and life.
31% of employees say the pandemic has them considering changing careers
34% considering changing employers
21% thinking of changing where they live
According to Jezior, “employee burnout was simmering even before the pandemic, and now it’s boiled over for more than half of workers. It’s simply an unsustainable situation for a business when burnout is rising and the labor shortage continues.” This is reflected in the survey response where 53% of working Americans are suffering from burnout, with younger workers most impacted by this feeling.
The Eagle Hill study also offered some ideas for employers to focus on to reduce the burnout factor that many are facing right now. Leading the way is more flexibility and a four-day workweek, which appealed highest among women and younger workers.
Other suggestions receiving more than 50-percent approval from those surveyed included decreasing the workload of employees, better health and wellness, reduced administrative burdens, more on-site amenities, working from home, and the ability to relocate or work from multiple locations.
The webinar then brought in the attendees to join the conversation beginning with a discussion around the challenges many small stations are having in retaining and recruiting development staff2.
Several important points were made as part of this topic:
The workload in a small development shop is incredibly difficult. It’s one of the reasons that many stations don’t move to outsource some of their work as the staff is “too busy” with the day-to-day to even put efforts in place to hand off the work to a firm like CDP.
The average tenure for a development professional at small nonprofits is 12-18 months. This is also true at many smaller public radio stations. In these situations, there’s rarely upward movement available for development staff because of how flat many public radio organizations are with only one or two people in a department.
Some University stations are looking to share development team members with the licensee’s Advancement unit and some are looking to work more in partnership with NPR’s development staff. Meanwhile, university licensees face their own issues with locked-in salary ranges and pay increases that the stations have very little control over to hire and keep staff.
On the subject of providing competitive compensation for staff, one participant noted that it’s worth exploring moving from “we can’t afford to pay them” to “we can’t afford to lose them,” taking into account the cost of turnover when you lose great people from a continuity and expertise standpoint. It might be worth paying more to keep good people given the opportunity cost of having to frequently fill positions in an organization. This is an important budgeting strategy that organizations might want to consider to address the churn of losing key staff.
The conversation then shifted to ideas around collaboration that could help bring about some new ways for stations to fill important roles.
A News Director at a small rural public radio station was able to have one of its reporters work in partnership with a more experienced reporter at a larger news organization on an investigative story. The end result of making the space for this type of collaboration was terrific journalism that appeared across a variety of outlets including NPR and the Washington Post Magazine, plus the station reporter’s skills were advanced considerably and they stayed with the station an entire year longer than they originally intended.
There was also agreement that projects like the Public Media Journalists Association’s Editor Corps are a model that needs to be duplicated and expanded. The PMJA’s Editor Corps was launched in 2020 as an emergency response to the burdens faced by stations at the onset of the pandemic. In February, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) announced an additional $115,000 grant to continue this initiative through early 2023.
The PMJA Editor Corps is made up of seasoned freelance public media editors who provide short-term assistance to stations. A question is how can a model like this become institutionalized from a financial and operating model to assist stations, particularly smaller stations that desperately need more editing support.
Another worrisome trend that’s happening has been the lost investment in training talent, and this is primarily on the journalism side of things, who get their start in public radio and then jump to an outlet outside of public media — often these are upstart podcast companies.
The concept of developing a “farm system” approach was also discussed in great detail in the chat during this conversation.
Are there new non-traditional structures that can be put in place that can help provide a career path for talent to move from smaller stations to a larger organizations to keep talent in public media?
The conversation shifted to recruiting and attracting talent to organizations. One attendee discussed the perception of the “pipeline problem” in recruiting applicants from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
At last summer’s virtual PMDMC, there was terrific conversation related to this issue on the changing media workplace and the importance of developing a culture that understands and supports emerging BIPOC leadership.
An important point addressed in the discussion is that public media may be facing a problem in that in many communities there isn’t much visibility of what public media stands for right now. Is there a perception issue that others in the journalism space are defining themselves much better than public radio?
Will a young and talented journalist find Axios or Vox more attractive than public media because of the brand identity of those organizations versus a local station or even NPR?
Is this hampering our ability to drive talent to public media?
Another comment offered during the discussion addressed the continuing conversation about what experience to credit and count towards when constructing a job offer for employees. For example, hiring managers are working to be more open to (and, ultimately, advocate for) crediting non-journalism experience as transferable skills for the journalism-focused roles candidates will fill.
“Is it tied to more awareness around DEI efforts, specifically inclusion? Is it tied to the concept of bringing one’s whole, authentic self to work? My guess would be yes in both situations.”
There was a general consensus from those participating in the conversation that a larger approach across public media to focus on recruiting and retaining talent to stay in the system would help organizations of all sizes. Would it be better to focus on a regional approach, or by format, or cohort?
And the million-dollar question is who has the capacity to take this on and how to fund and sustain it?
One meaningful final comment was about the need for Servant Leadership at the top of the org chart and looking out for the people who work for you. An example of this is to regularly do “retention (or stay) interviews” within the organization3.
What to ask in a stay interview
Stay interviews should focus on how your employee feels about the work they do every day, the value of their contributions, and how they feel within the organization, It’s not a time to share status updates about to-dos and projects.
It can be a good idea to send workers a few starter questions to prepare for the conversation ahead of time.
Some common questions are:
What excites you to come into work?
Do you feel good about the impact of your work?
What do you want to do more of at work? Less?
Do you see a future for yourself at the company? How are things the same or different?
If you were manager for a day, what would you do differently?
Servant Leadership. Mentoring. Professional Development. Work | Life Balance. Collaboration.
These themes were consistent throughout the discussion.
My sincere appreciation to those colleagues who joined the discussion. Thank you.
If you have time, the full video of the hour-long conversation is below for you to view at your leisure.
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THING TWO: A Further Dive Into The Infinite Dial 2022
It’s been a couple of weeks since Edison Research shared the findings from The Infinite Dial 2022 study. It’s been interesting to observe some of the headlines assessing this year’s results:
Not Paying Attention To TikTok? You’re Missing America’s Third Most Used Social Platform
Research Sees 2022 Podcast Weekly/Monthly Listening Decline
Six Head Snappers From Edison Research’s 2022 Infinite Dial Study
I’ll admit, I love this research study because, while it does do a bit of spin about podcasting, it remains neutral in its assessment and has the history, dating back to 1998, to take a long view of trends in audio usage over the years.
I shared a few weeks ago some slides from the study tracking radio ownership in the home with smart speaker ownership. For radio, the decrease of radios in homes is a big deal and with smart speaker ownership flat, it furthers the challenge for radio listening in homes.
At the same time, AM/FM radio usage in cars slipped two percentage points from 75 to 73 percent in 2022. Because of the timing when this study was done, 2021 was the first year that the impact of pandemic-related lifestyle changes came through in these results. The trend from the pre-pandemic 2020 study saw an eight-point drop in AM/FM radio listening in 2022 (81% to 73%).
The biggest increases in in-car audio use were owned digital music, which jumped five percentage points from 48 to 53 percent, and podcast listening, which increased from 30% in 2021 to 32% this year.
TikTok’s growth is an incredible phenomenon, particularly with its appeal to young people. The platform was used by 11% of the 12+ population in 2020 and is used by 36% of the total U.S. population, putting it third behind Instagram at 46% and Facebook at 63%.
The ascension of TikTok with 12 to 34-year-olds is truly astounding increasing from 25% usage in 2020 to 61% this year and is the second most used social media brand with 61% penetration in the demo.
TikTok’s appeal is broadening as well with older demographics as 34% of those between 35 and 54 use the platform (only 5% percent of this demographic used it in 2020) and 13% in the 55 and older age group watching its short-form user-generated videos in 2022.
If you’re looking for ideas as to how public media might create content for TikTok, I suggest this two-minute video from Dave Jorgenson, The Washington Post’s TikTok guy, who takes you behind the scenes of how he (and his team) create videos for the app.
In the WestwoodOne blog post about this year’s Infinite Dial, Pierre Bouvard listed it as his Number 1 item among his “Six Head Snappers” from the study writing that “Audio content creators need to prioritize the platform for audience engagement and marketing.”
And I agree.
Finally, the drop in monthly podcast listening from 41% in 2021 to 38% was a bit of a shocker but is probably more of a factor of lifestyle changes as the world was reopening more in 2022 than a year ago.
With no place to go, people were willing to experiment with new things in 2021, such as listening to podcasts. That drove the familiarity, monthly and weekly listening numbers up. As people began returning to work and school, some fell out of the podcasting habit, and that is reflected in the data, which shows a drop in the weekly and monthly numbers for 2022.
Monthly listening fell from 41 to 38 percent last year, while the weekly numbers from the research went from 28 to 26 percent. Note that in both instances, research suggests that the overall trend is still going up.
For those attending the Public Radio Super Regional next week, I highly recommend the Tuesday, April 12th session at 1:45 pm featuring Gabriel Soto, Edison Research’s Director of Research. He’ll have more on The Infinite Dial and other research from Edison in a session titled “Share of Ear Through the Multicultural Prism.”
I’ll have more on the Super Regional in Monday’s Three Things Datebook.
THING THREE: The New York Times Bold Statement on Strategy
I love the bold pronouncement on the vision of where The Times wants to go as a company.
Our vision is to become the essential subscription for every curious, English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world.
That’s as clear a statement as you could ever read. As are the three parts of the company’s strategy:
First and foremost, we aim to be the best news destination in the world.
We intend to become even more valuable to people by helping them make the most of their lives and engage with their passions.
We aim to create a more expansive and connected product experience that helps people engage with everything The New York Times offers.
Does public radio have anything close to this type of clear, concise, and focused vision for its future?
In next week’s Three Things, I’ll offer my thoughts on what might be a bold statement for a public radio station’s future strategy. I’d love your thoughts on this too. You can email me at email@example.com or leave a comment here on Substack. Thanks.
Eagle Hill helped the Corporation for Public Broadcasting nearly double the target response rate for a comprehensive technology survey of ts grantee stations.
The Public Media Staff Vacancy Survey found that 26% of stations with budgets under $2 million were struggling to retain and recruit development staffing positions.
Source: Why the ‘stay interview’ is the next big trend of the Great Resignation by Jennifer Liu, posted on the CNBC website on November 30, 2021.