In the first piece in a new series, Thunderfoot talks to Corey Lian from Megaphone about adapting to working from home and driving market insights during the COVID-19 outbreak.
COVID-19 is redefining “business as usual” in New York City and around the world. With professionals across the US currently confined to their homes, businesses and organizations are finding new ways to serve their customers and clients while managing changes to internal operations.
In our new interview series, Thunderfoot takes a look at how innovative companies and business leaders are adapting to respond to the crisis. This week, we spoke to Corey Lian, a Columbia Business School alumnus and Senior Product Manager of Innovation at the podcast technology company Megaphone.
Working from Home & the New Normal
As one of the country’s biggest podcasting platforms, Megaphone is a pioneer in virtual communication. Megaphone provides hosting, technology, and ad sales for many of the biggest names in podcasting today and boasts 600 million downloads every month. But how has the company adapted to the challenges posed by COVID-19?
Lian observes that Megaphone was “as ready as any company could be for the pandemic.” Megaphone already manages workflow with a number of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, including Slack and Google Suite. In the pre-COVID era, employees were already accustomed to video-conferencing with colleagues in other offices and remote clients. And as the situation in New York began to shift, Megaphone was one of the first companies to implement a work from home policy — well before the official stay-at-home order.
Although Megaphone employees are adept at maintaining productivity by using cloud-based technologies, its leadership knew it needed additional activities to support a vibrant company culture. “You hire people because they do excellent work, but what encourages them to stay is the environment,” Lian explained. “This is even more important when you’re working remotely.”
To boost morale and support connections between colleagues remotely, Megaphone runs weekly “virtual happy hours” with randomly-generated groups of 6 to 8 employees. “We’re focusing on not just turning to coworkers for work, but keeping that culture and spirit of the company going, too,” Lian says.
Podcasting During a Pandemic
In addition to maintaining connections internally, Megaphone is closely monitoring changes in listening trends and leveraging new market data to reassure clients and enhance client service. As soon as stay-at-home orders spread across the US, Megaphone’s clients began voicing concerns about whether people were still listening to podcasts and whether, in uncertain economic climes, advertisers would begin to pull spending.
“Every week, a colleague and I have been releasing data on podcast trends for the industry to see,” Lian explains. After initial concerns about changes in listenership without the daily commute, Megaphone breathed a sigh of relief when their internal research found that podcasting is still going strong. “People miss interpersonal relationships, which might be something podcasts can help with,” Lian speculates. “A podcast is almost like having a conversation with a friend.”
COVID-19 is likely to significantly impact every industry, but the pandemic’s immediate impact on podcasting listenership is still unclear. “Our reports have shown that podcasting is still growing in keeping with the steady trend we predicted back in December,” Lian explains. “People are still listening to podcasts — just when they would usually be going to work. Interestingly, without a commute, there’s actually more steady listening throughout the day.”
Lian also noticed that, while listenership dropped slightly in the New York metropolitan area, it rose in Westchester, Connecticut, and New Jersey as commuters began to work from home. Lian is hoping that notable changes in trends will translate into innovative advertising solutions for Megaphone and its clients — as he puts it, his leading responsibility is “to know where the customers are.”
Megaphone is just one New York-based company that’s innovating to adapt to a rapidly changing market. In the coming weeks, keep up with the Thunderfoot blog to learn how other businesses are adapting to a changing world.