Friday, November 15, 2019


We will get to the research findings in a minute. But first, we want to praise this webinar that happened on Tuesday (11/12).

NPR and Edison Research published the Spoken Word Audio Report and hosted the webinar. Spoken Word audio includes news, talk and sports on both over-the-air radio and streaming audio. The definition of Spoken Word also includes podcasts and audiobooks.

Meg Goldthwaite
This excellent webinar is a template for how to do presentations of this type. 

The presenters and hosts were Meg Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing Officer at NPR and Megan Lazovick, VP of Edison Research. 

The webinar was mainly live with some short prerecorded segments. 

The platform was GoToWebinar.

Here are some of the things we liked the most about this show:

• The pacing was just right. It moved quickly but it never felt rushed.

• It didn’t waste our time. A lot of information provided was presented In 45-minutes.

Megan Lazovick
• The presentation was scripted. The presenters had obviously rehearsed the show before it happened.

• There were no technical glitches.

• The content was tightly focused and the takeaways were clear.

• We asked a question in the chat box and we quickly got an answer.

• Meg and Megan sounded personable and there was never too much insider tech talk.

We have only one negative comment: The two presenters not only have similar names, they have similar vocal styles. We could never tell who was speaking.


The researchers define Spoken Word as the audio heard from radio, podcasts and audiobooks. These are what we believe are the key findings:

People are spending more time listening to Spoken Word Audio and less time listening 
to music.

• Listening to Spoken Word audio is growing in all demographic categories. The fastest growing segment of the population that listens to Spoken Word audio is younger people. 


• Mobile devices are the fastest growing way that people use to hear Spoken Word audio.

• Listeners say that Spoken Word audio provides them with deep connections and increased involvement in the content.

You can download the complete report here. For more information contact Meg Goldthwaite at

Charts from the Spoken Word Audio Report speak for themselves.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


In early October, we featured the upcoming debut of WLVR, a new NPR News/Talk station that serves Allentown-Bethlehem [link]. WLVR signed on November 1st, just as promised.

We reached out to Christine Dempsey, the Senior Vice President, Radio at Lehigh Valley Public Media, to see how things at WLVR [link] are going.

(Scroll down to learn more about a job opening at WLVR.)

Dempsey told us that WLVR was on the air prior to the official date in a testing mode. Since then, Dempsey and her team have been added national programs to the schedule [link]. The schedule is now nearly complete.

Christine Dempsey
Spark News: What was the first big challenge WLVR faced?

 Christine Dempsey: “We were very ambitious and decided to go live with local election coverage just 4 days after WLVR was launched. It was the first time that Lehigh Valley Public Media had different live, local coverage on three platforms – radio, TV, digital – simultaneously.”

SN: We asked Dempsey about community response to the new station?

Dempsey: “The anecdotal feedback from the community has been positive. A handful of folks missed having the college music station on 91.3 FM. We informed college station listeners that they could still access music on-line and soon on a mobile app that we are developing.”

“When we launched, we had not yet introduced our local hosts for the national shows. My goal was to get the station on the air a full year ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election.”

SN: When is the first pledge drive?

Dempsey: “We are planning on having on having our first drive in Spring 2020.  Before that, we are seeking Charter Members through on-air spots.”

SN: Early in your career, you worked at Allentown’s community station WDIY when they started. Isn’t this somewhat ironic?

Dempsey: “As someone who has been in public broadcasting for 30 years, I feel very fortunate to have experienced starting a new station twice in the same market! Building WLVR is a rare and rewarding opportunity for me.”

SN: Who are some of the people who are already on the station staff?

Dempsey: “Our team is growing. Brad Klein is our Morning Edition Host and Reporter. Brad has worked at NPR, WNYC, and MSNBC. He also ran his own media company, Twangbox Productions.”

“At NPR, Brad was the leader of the team that conceived and produced the national Peabody Award winning program Heat.”

“Our News Director is Jen Rehill. She brings over 15 years of media experience to our organization.  She has been a program producer, reporter, podcast producer, host and she was State Capitol Bureau Chief. Jen has worked at WHYY, WITF, WHP and reported for WVIA, WQLN and WDUQ. During the events of 9/11, NPR relied on Jen as their field reporter from the crash site near Shanksville.

Map of WLVR’s primary coverage area
SN: Tell us about the job that is now open at WLVR?

Dempsey:  We are looking for an energetic, personable, relatable radio Host/Reporter for PM Drive. This person will be WLVR’s local host for ATC, Marketplace and The Daily.”

In the past, Allentown-Bethlehem has been an underserved news market. We need someone who can engage with our community both at events and on social media. Previous experience with multi-platform reporting is important to us.”

People who are interested in applying should send an email to Please put “Local PM Host-Reporter” in the subject line.


So far, we have found only a handful of NPR News stations in markets that use Nielsen’s diary methodology that subscribe to the ratings.

We have heard that when Nielsen publishes the November numbers we will see AQH Shares for more noncom stations.

The data for the “November” book will reflect listening during the months of September, October and November.  We will likely call the next batch of numbers a Fall Quarter Report.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Sky Daniels, now retired, brought KCSN to prominence in LA
and engineered the collaboration that created 88.5 FM
The future of Adult Alternative 88.5 FM is again up in the air. 

California State University – Northridge (“CSUN”), the licensee of KCSN, has issued a Request for Qualification (“RFQ”) to solicit proposals from noncom public media organizations to manage and program 88.5 FM, a duopoly the covers most of the Los Angeles metro area.

KCSN’s partner in the project is KSBR, owned by South Orange County Community College District. KSBR is licensed to Mission Viejo and operates from offices and studios on the campus of Saddleback Community College.

KCSN and KSBR started a programming collaboration in 2017 to increase the audience size of 88.5 FM, the frequency on which both stations operate. The collaboration ended years of disputes between the two stations. Expansion of coverage by either station was was impossible.

CSUN is taking the lead to establish a Public Service Operating Agreement (PSOA) for 88.5 FM. Both institutions will continue to own the FCC licenses if/when the PSOA agreement is finalized.

The process appears to be moving quickly. According to the RFQ, interested organizations must file Requests for Information by Wednesday, November 20th. Responses to the Requests are due on December 11th.

Full formal proposals are due on January 10, 2020. In-person interviews and discussions will be conducted through January 31, 2020. Finalist(s) will be notified by February 7th. Then negotiations on the PSOA will begin. CSUN hopes the process will be concluded by March 15, 2020.

Organizations that want to review the RFQ should email Deborah Wallace at


88.5 FM is viewed as big success, particularly in Nielsen Audio’s monthly PPM ratings. 

According to Nielsen, the two signals combined reached 181,200 estimated weekly listeners in October and had a 0.4 AQH share. 

Neither station could have reached this many listeners without the other partner.

But, 88.5 FM's revenue has not grown as fast as its audience success. 

88.5 FM is seeking a PSOA with a larger noncommercial operator.

Neither station receives support from CPB. KCSN was once was CPB-qualified. They lost their CPB funding a couple of decades ago when CSUN turned down CPB’s request that tKCSN adopt a Spanish language format.

CSUN and Saddleback want to fwork with an organization that has deep pockets resources to take 88.5 FM to the next level – becoming a major player in the nation’s top radio market.

Speculation is that PBS So Cal, a partnership between KCET-TV and KOCE-TV, will likely be a contender. The PBS stations want to add a public radio station to their cluster that will provide a new source of revenue. If PBS So Cal is chosen it might lead to a format change.

American Public Media (APM) operates NPR News/Talk KPCC via a PSOA. APM also owns The Current in St. Paul, perhaps the nation's most successful noncom Adult Alternative station in both ratings and revenue.

KCRW has expressed interest in the past about purchasing KCSN. KCRW needs a second signal in order to compete with KPCC.

It is possible that Saul Levine’s Mt. Wilson Broadcasting might be interested. They operate Jazz KKJZ via a PSOA with Cal State Long Beach, a university with many similarities to CSUN.