Three Things for September 16, 2021

From the Public Impact Group

This week’s Three Things for public media leaders looks at:

  1. A Snapshot of The Global Media Landscape

  2. Study: Activating Employees as Brand Ambassadors

  3. A Look Inside the Prison Journalism Project

THING ONE: What Can We Learn from Global Media Trends

There’s been plenty of research showing the impact of the pandemic on the media habits of individuals. A recent report from GWI does a deep dive into how this is shaping up on a global scale and what public media can learn from some of the results.

GWI is an audience targeting company that provides audience insight to publishers, media agencies, and marketers worldwide.

The report is taken from extensive online research from internet users aged 16-64 across the globe.1 Here are some of the key insights that transcend geography in how media consumption has changed since the onset of COVID across the planet.

  • The gap between online and offline media is widening. Before COVID, they were neck-and-neck in terms of how much attention they command during the day, but now online media is inching ahead of offline. Initial lockdowns saw spikes for all behaviors, but the story is one of online media pulling ahead since then.

The chart above displays the time spent with various media from 2012 - 2021, showing a substantial increase in media use from more than seven hours per day in 2012 to more than twelve hours each day in 2021. Smartphone ownership is driving the growth across various online channels, including social networking, music streaming, online TV, gaming, and podcasts.

Surprisingly radio consumption increased slightly worldwide given the impact of the pandemic on listening in cars. Listening to radio in North America was higher than any other region across the globe2 with daily consumption of one hour, ten minutes per day. Meanwhile, the time spent with social networking in North America was lower than every other region other than Europe. People surveyed in Latin America and Africa reported spending more than three hours a day with social networking.

In terms of media consumption by age, persons 16-24 globally only spent 42 minutes a day with radio.

A few other highlights:

  • Media has been affected by changing movement patterns – but not how you might expect. Outdoor advertising and print media consumption have declined as commutes have been suspended, but podcasts have thrived. And more time spent at home has allowed smart speakers to consolidate their place as a new kind of media hub. These are two very positive developments for organizations that specialize in audio.

  • More people are reading the news and with more scrutiny. Since the early days of the pandemic, consumers have been turning to news with more regularity. Digital news has seen particularly good growth for time spent, and reading the news is now the third most important reason people use social media. While this is creating more opportunities to generate revenue from membership and advertising, general perceptions of trust have dipped since the pandemic began, particularly with older readers.

The report also takes a look at radio vs. streaming, noting that the growth in streaming over the past few years has not severely impacted the time spent listening to radio. For example, in the U.S., the report’s findings show Americans spending 1:43 (h:mm) listening to streaming compared to 1:10 listening to radio.

100 years after the first commercial radio stations were founded, and even after a pandemic, radio continues to adapt to changed circumstances. Not only has average time spent per day stayed consistent, but few people are switching off completely. Radio reaches 3 in 4 consumers, and has done so since GWI began tracking it in 2012.

There’s also this interesting graphic showing what podcast genres appeal to different age demographics in the U.S. For example, 25-34 and 35-44 year-olds favor comedy and music podcasts above other genres while the 55-65 year-olds lean to news & politics and history as favorites.

GWI also notes the continued challenges of converting news consumers to pay for news content. In the early stages of the pandemic, GWI predicted there would be a small window of opportunity for publishers to grow their subscriber base, but that moment has seemed to pass.

If there’s a lesson from the pandemic for monetizing news, it’s how important it is to drive conversions at the acute stage of crisis, especially if more unexpected events like COVID-19 emerge – though this obviously has to be balanced with the public interest incentive. The Atlantic did this by using a two-tier strategy to drop the paywall from some of science journalist’s Ed Yong’s longform pieces, but leaving it in place for other COVID-related content. Maintaining this balance also helps avoid any sense of profiteering, or creation of information inequality.

There is a lot more to be found in the full report. If you contact me, I’ll happily forward it to you.

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THING TWO: Happy Employees Aren’t Necessarily Great Brand Ambassadors

I really admire the work of Long Dash, who describe themselves as a creative consultancy grown from journalistic roots. In an earlier Three Things, I wrote about their ideas around micro-disruptions and I’m regularly watching their blog for great ideas.

Earlier this summer, they released the results of a study of employees of Fortune 500 companies that sought to learn what brings them a meaningful work experience, what leaders can do to cultivate a more engaged workforce, and how that engaged experience can translate into being a brand ambassador for their employer.

At this moment, where workplace culture is on the minds of nearly every public media leader I’ve spoken with over the past many months, I thought this would be some good information to share.

And here’s what the study had to say.

The vast majority of employees—86 percent—feel proud to work for their organizations, but less than half are willing to share about their companies on social media.

According to the study, the reason for this disconnect is that employees do not get the sense that leadership has successfully translated the organization’s business objectives to match their employees’ values. In addition, younger employees, especially, are susceptible to not seeing or feeling this connection with the organizations they work for.

One in three Gen Z and Millennial respondents say that not feeling a sense of connection to the work is a barrier to sharing positively about their employers online.

But it’s not just younger employees who share that sentiment, as half of Boomers surveyed also care that their organization’s values align with their own.

It’s worth a reminder that this is a survey of employees of Fortune 500 companies, so it’s worth a lot of thought and conversation about how this may translate to the nonprofit sector. Particularly with the second major insight from the study.

When surveying respondents, “a core mission that directly benefits society” and “robust corporate social responsibility initiatives” were not the most important considerations for Gen Z or Millennials when choosing where to work.

What did make it to the top? A competitive salary and flexibility in hours and location.

The survey found that only 27% of Gen Z employees say it’s important they work for a company where the core mission is ambitious and exciting.

The study suggests that demographic distinctions do not define whether an employee will be engaged at work. The key, according to Long Dash, is based on meeting their underlying needs and motivations.

In acknowledging this, the objective then is to pursue a targeted, typologies-driven3 approach to the employee experience. From this research identifying what employees value, what delights them, and what motivates them at work, Long Dash has defined five very different types of employees with differing needs and expectations. And here they are, listed in the order as to the highest likelihood of being a brand ambassador:

Altruists (13% of the surveyed workforce): Socially minded vocal community leaders who want to make a big impact with the work they do. This group often asks, “What impact will my company have on society and the world at large?

Disciples (16%): Leader-followers and workplace politics whisperers eager to be recognized by top brass. This group will often ask, “Did I meet my boss’s expectations?

Self-Actualizers (12%): Self-oriented personal branders seeking meaning and purpose through work and peer-recognition. This group will ask, “Is the work I’m doing aligned with my deeper purpose?”

Careerists (23%): Professional progress-seeking worker bees, looking to hone their strengths and achieve clear goals. This group will ask", “How does this ladder up to my growth plan?”

Pragmatists (36%): Job-focused employees who value autonomy and incentives. This group has the lowest propensity to be a brand ambassador. This groups are asking the question, “How does this benefit me?”

By understanding what is needed to create a more robust employee experience, Long Dash recommends it’s critical to position your brand to address the needs of your external stakeholders (customers) and the motivations of your employees. They describe this as a two-audience mindset: considering both your external and internal audiences across all you do. These internal and external experiences must be unified under a single compelling core narrative people can rally around.

The better your positioning is articulated, the easier it will be to translate it into messages and experiences tailored to different employee motivations. Without this north star, Altruists may feel rudderless; Self Actualizers may sense lost potential; Disciples may bristle at a lack of leadership; Careerists may feel stalled; and Pragmatists may fear instability.

A second major implication from this research is to address inconsistencies in how your core narrative is expressed across the employee journey. For example, do you live your values from the moment they apply for a job to their onboarding, day-to-day experience, and exit interview when they leave? Inconsistencies in that journey can lead to miscommunication, frustration, and unhappy employees who may even become detractors to your brand.

View your employees as an audience to be developed. Brands routinely invest in content, campaigns, and experiences to reduce friction in the customer journey.

Finally, Long Dash recommends that organizations commit to an ongoing cycle of evaluation and evolution regarding the employee journey. This needs to be built into the culture in how you accommodate change and encourage collaboration.

Empower employees to speak up about where aspects of their job don’t align with your core narrative. Their feedback can help you identify points of friction in the employee journey. Be prepared to take action in response to their input.

While the research design was to learn how to move employees into becoming brand ambassadors, it is so much more than that as the findings can help deepen employee engagement, satisfaction, and a more positive workplace culture, resulting in improved productivity and employee retention.

You can read the full report via the Long Dash website.

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THING THREE: Finding Important Voices with the Prison Journalism Project

A few weeks ago, This American Life ran a rebroadcast from 2002 showcasing the work of Prison Performing Arts, founded in St. Louis by a dear friend of mine, Agnes Wilcox. The episode told the story about a group of prisoners at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center who are rehearsing and staging a production of Hamlet.

After hearing the show, I started to research similar models designed to bring the voices of the incarcerated to the public and came across the Prison Journalism Project4.

Founded in 2020 by Yukari Kane and Shaheen Pasha, the mission of the PJP is to help incarcerated writers and those in communities affected by incarceration tell stories about their world using the tools of journalism: gathering and testing facts, writing with nuance, texture, and insight and reaching a thoughtful audience.

“When you think about it, who’s got better access to stories than the prisoner? We live among some of society’s most colorful characters.”

—JOHN J. LENNON, PRISON JOURNALIST AND PRISON JOURNALISM PROJECT ADVISOR

When you go to the PJP website, you’ll find journalism, opinion, essays, multimedia, poetry, and more. The project is also producing a monthly newsletter that includes material from the website plus important data from sources such as the Marshall Project.

In a recent interview with the Harvard Political Review, co-founder Yukari Kane spoke about the organization's work.

“A year ago when the pandemic hit, we just felt like there wasn’t enough information coming from inside prisons. It was clear that prisons in general were not doing the best job at dealing with the pandemic and San Quentin in particular was the site of one of the worst outbreaks in the country. We just also really felt like it was important that these voices be a part of the historical record, and I think it was really clear that we were in this historical moment.

“History is littered with moments where voices like the men and women inside prison are not recorded or even noted in history, and so we created this publication on Medium thinking that we’d just collect some pandemic stories and publish them.

“And then George Floyd got killed and the Black Lives Matter movement was refueled, and so writers had a lot to say about that too. That’s when we realized that there was a lot that they wanted to write about, and that there was a way that we could take our background and experience and network inside the industry, to really develop prison journalism and help shape how that should look. “

One of the interesting aspects of the project that builds credibility and trust with readers is its alignment with the values of journalism, as Kane articulated in the Harvard Political Review piece.

“One of the walls that exists in journalism is between journalism and advocacy. And so, we ourselves would probably not do the kind of advocacy work where we’re trying to affect a specific change or we’re trying to directly influence policy.

“However — anybody who’s covering this space — our job is to expose problems or shed light on areas where we want to invite readers to think about the way things work or draw questions about how things are working. I think the first step is to get the information out there. The policymakers could give us ideas for stories, but we do think a lot of criminal justice effort goes into policy, and we just think that journalism is complementary because, ultimately, voters have to vote on the policy.”

The journalists involved in the Prison Journalism Project deserve a larger audience. It would be fascinating for a public media organization to partner with the PJP to distribute some of the stories coming out of this project.

One of those journalists is Joe Garcia, a PJP correspondent at San Quentin State Prison and the chairperson of San Quentin News’ Journalism Guild. In addition to prison publications, Garcia’s work has also appeared in the Washington Post and the Sacramento Bee. His latest story, “The Only Way the Virus Gets in Here is Through Them:” SQ Prisoners Frustrated with Latest COVID-19 Outbreak, was about a recent COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin where several fully vaccinated prisoners with breakthrough COVID cases.

It’s excellent journalism.

Julia Metraux from Poynter did a piece on the PJP earlier this year reporting that Kane and Pasha will officially launch the Prison Journalism Project J-School in the coming months. Pasha said that she and Kane would be using different resources and exercises to train incarcerated people to become journalists virtually in Florida and Illinois.

The Prison Journalism Project is a member of the Institute for Non-Profit News and has subscribed to its standards of editorial independence. I encourage public media leaders to look at the work being produced on the website and think about a potential partnership with the PJP.

It’s an opportunity to bring important stories and voices to your audience.

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1

In many markets in Latin America, the Middle-East and Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region, low internet penetration rates can mean online populations are more young, urban, affluent, and educated than the total population.

2

The regions are defined as APAC (Asia-Pacific), Europe, Latin America, MEA (Middle East Africa), and North America.

3

Typologies are segments based on an investigation into the shared motivations and needs of audiences.

4

The Prison Journalism Project is an independent, nonprofit, non-partisan national initiative housed at Penn State University and staffed by journalists and university professors with experience teaching journalism inside the walls.