Coronavirus Coverage: What Should be On the Air?

NuVoodoo started tracking concern levels regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic on Monday, March 9. We’re collecting interviews nationwide among 16-54 year-olds at the rate of about 3,000 per day. During this time, we’ve watched the percentage who are “extremely concerned” grow from 14% when we started on March 9 to 36% as I’m typing this on March 20. You can access daily updates of the data on our website at and you can sign up there to receive daily updates of the data.

We’re also looking at where people are going for information on the pandemic and see that many are coming to radio for local information. The lion’s share are looking online and going to local TV news, but radio rivals cable TV and newspaper as a source for many. It’s a matter of having the right information.

When we asked those who are going to radio for information what it is they’re looking for, the big pieces – especially among those taking the pandemic most seriously – are where to get tested for the virus, information from authorities and items in short supply. But don’t underestimate the demand for ways to help neighbors, call-ins from local listeners (hearing other people talking about getting through this can be a comfort) and giveaways to help pay your bills.

While we haven’t yet taken the step of isolating the ratings-friendly respondents in our on-going study, we can reliably predict that the demand levels will be higher among those in the ratings pool, especially for giveaways to help with bills. When we opened NuVoodoo in 2010, we saw outsized demand for practical prize concepts (bills paid, rent/mortgage payments, car payments, etc.) leftover from the 2008 financial crisis. We also saw an outsized percentage of low-to-middle-income households in the potential ratings pool, eager to have additional dollars coming in.

This should serve as a reminder that your spring contest is still relevant, if positioned in the right way. You might even want to bring together the giveaway concept with helping neighbors – and give winners the chance to take half their prize and give it to a deserving family member, friend or worthwhile organization. When you win, they win. It’s a concept that’s worked well for stations in the past. Our marketing gurus would be glad to walk you through the specifics. Drop them a line at

Remember also that the new, hastily-created crop of telecommuters will be figuring out what to listen to while they work. NuVoodoo’s Mike O’Connor suggests adding branding as your market’s “Work from Home Station.” Other sources have fewer commercials and deeper playlists, but radio has people. Hearing the jocks and other voices from the community can help us feel less isolated, less alone. And that’s powerful.

With the shrinking number of radios at home – and the increasing likelihood that work-at-home listening may be done using a computer, smartphone app or Smart Speaker – it’s critical to make sure all of those pathways are at the ready. Listeners should know exactly what to say to get Alexa (or “Hey Google”) to play your station. We’re advocates for Total Line Reporting (unless your station already has a proven way to monetize your digital streaming inventory at broadcast-CPM levels).

Radio is at its best in a crisis, and this is a crisis of unimaginable scope. Radio will focus on the changing needs of its listeners and its communities – as it has for decades. Keep your head. And wash your hands.