Thursday, January 17, 2019


Tracy K. Smith, host of The Slowdown
American Public Media (APM) is known as one of the most creative shops in the audio/radio business. However, new show ideas can come from anywhere. That is why APM is launching an open call for podcast pitches.

In a press released distributed last Tuesday 1/15, APM said the network is looking for storytellers, producers and new talent from all backgrounds.  APM’s goal is to find two or three new shows to be developed into pilots. If everything clicks, APM’s intention is to produce full seasons of at least six episodes.

The deadline for pitches is February 15th.  More information is available here.  

APM won accolades from around the globe for The Slowdown [link] conceived and performed by American Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith

Each episode of The Slowdown features five minutes of poetry. While the target audience is people who love poetry, APM says The Slowdown is accessible for newcomers to the form

APM’s Podcast Division [link] currently lists 17 shows in its portfolio including In the Dark, a Peabody Award winner in 2016.

APM is often listed on Podtrac’s Top Ten podcast publishers.
 the left is the most recent Podtrac publisher chart from December 2018. 

We decided to compare the December chart with Podtrac’s January 2018 chart to give readers an overview of the past year. APM was listed in the January top ten, but is not listed in December.

NPR continues to be the leader in podcast publishing. iHeartRadio zoomed up 62% from January to December because of their acquisition of the How Stuff Works cluster of shows.

A trend we are watching is the growth in popularity of podcasts published by commercial entities such as iHeart, Wondery and Barstool Sports. In December, only four of the top ten publishers were connected to public media organizations.

The reach of all of the publishers grew between January and December except for WNYC Studios whose Unique Audience dropped 26% in 2018.


We did a double take when we saw the Fall 2018 AQH share and weekly listeners to WNRN in Richmond.  AAA WNRN, a regional player based in Charlottesville, was up 69% in the number of estimated weekly listeners in Fall 2018 compared to Fall 2016. 

WNRN’s AQH share in Richmond more than doubled.

We’ve been fans of WNRN for several years. Richmond in one of four Virginia markets where the station appears in the Nielsen ratings. WNRN has a fulltime repeater station in Richmond.

There have been a number of changes in the Richmond market in the past two years. In Fall 2016 both WCVE and WVRF, based in Roanoke, had dual formats of NPR News and Classical music. In 2017 both WCVE and WVTF switched the stations to 24/7 NPR News/Talk and added a second signal for 24/7 Classical.

This move has worked out well for WCVE.  It’s news/talk station has added 10% more new weekly listeners. WBBT, known on the air as WCVE Music has established a strong presence in the market.

Because of the changes, we did not calculate weekly listener trends for Richmond stations.

Someone should put a 24/7 NPR News/Talk station in Rochester! We are joking because WXXI has it handled. However, NPR News in Rochester lags behind other markets of its size in audience size. We know the folks at WXXI are well aware of this fact, but for now they are stuck on AM. (Morning Edition and ATC are simulcast on WRUR daily.)

Consultants, who look at the situation from 30,000-feet say the answer is easy: Put new/talk on WXXI-FM.  That is easier said than down. WXXI AM, FM and PBS TV have relationships in the Rochester arts world that management feels work best with a fulltime Classical format on WXXI-FM.

The estimated number of weekly listeners to the three stations dropped 3.9% between Fall 2016 and Fall 2018.

Estimated weekly listeners to the five rated noncommercial stations in the Syracuse market fell by 19% in Fall 2018 compared to Fall 2016. 

NPR News/Talk WRVO had 26% fewer estimated weekly listeners in Fall 2018 than two years earlier. 

WRVO’s AQH share also went down.

Syracuse University’s WAER may have picked up some of WRVO’s lost listeners, but without more detailed information it is difficult to be conclusive.

In some ways Syracuse is two markets: The core metro and the large Total Survey Area. Two stations, AAA WITH in Ithaca and NPR News/Talk WSKG based in Binghamton, are listed in the Syracuse market but don’t reach the core metro area.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


CPR CEO Stewart Vanderwilt
On Monday (1/14) Colorado Public Radio's (CPR News) news channel debuted a revamped program schedule that added 17 new shows. 

As Michael Roberts observed in the Denver weekly newspaper Westword [link], CPR did it without dropping any existing programs. The key was avoiding repeats of programs.

Repeating popular programs is SOP at most public radio news/talk stations. Airing shows a second or third time is one way stations leverage shows that are good for pledging. Because stations can play most programs an unlimited number of times for the same carriage fee, there are cost-savings repeating shows.

The upside is listeners get a larger variety of shows but new programming usually needs time to develop and audience. This is probably not the case at CPR News.

CPR CEO Stewart Vanderwilt jokingly told Westword of an alternative plan he wished he could have used: “…we're just going to play everything faster, and that way we can fit it all in. We're going to bend the space-time continuum."

Back in reality, Vanderwilt provided the real reason for the changes:

"We eliminated repeats. For example, ‘Here & Now’ is a two-hour program that we were airing for three hours by recycling a previous hour. We had a lot of recycling throughout the day and on the weekends, and by reducing that recycling, we didn't actually eliminate a single show."

On the right is the new schedule for CPR News. New programs that were added include The Daily, the popular New York Times podcast, that was brought to public radio last year by American Public Media (APM).

Other new weekday shows on CPR News are 1A and The Takeaway. Both are solid hits on many other NPR News/Talk stations.

New weekend programs include How I Built This, Planet Money, Hidden Brain, Reveal, On the Media, Snap Judgment, The Moth and Live Wire.

Vanderwilt told Westword that adding the new programming will cost CPR around $50,000 during the current fiscal year (which ends on June 30th). Vanderwilt believes the additional cost is justified because of the track record of the new weekend show.

KEN SAYS: Vanderwilt is correct when he says the new shows will quickly pay for themselves. However, we were surprised that many of these programs weren’t already on CPR.


Each business day Nielsen Audio, via RRC, releases another batch of ratings from the Fall 2018 survey. In the three markets we have today, Nielsen uses its Diary methodology.

The Fall 2018 Diary and PPM ratings are important because many NPR News/Talk stations had record high listening numbers in Fall 2016.

Spark News is using the data to answer these four questions:

• How are NPR News/Talk stations doing in Fall 2018 compared to Fall 2016?

• Will AAA music stations remain the number three public radio format behind News/Talk and Classical music?

• Will Classical stations keep defying gravity by adding new listeners and maintaining current listening by folks in the older age demos?

• Will noncom stations see the same declines in estimated weekly listeners that are being observed with commercial stations? In other words, were there fewer people listening to radio in noncommercial stations in Fall 2018 than there were in Fall 2016.


Congratulations to the folks at KGOU-FM in Norman, Oklahoma for becoming the top news/talk station – commercial or noncommercial – in the competitive Oklahoma City market. 

KGOU’s 3.3 AQH share led commercial news/talk KTOK-AM (3.1 AQH share) and noncom KOSU (1.4 AQH share).

KOSU did better with Total Survey Area results. Their estimated weekly listeners were up 11% in Fall 2018 over Fall 2016.

Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) station KXTH was up in both metrics. KXTH is known locally as The Love Station, so we guess they are spreading the love a bit wider and deeper.

The estimated number of weekly listeners for the four noncom stations in OKC was up 11% in Fall 2018 compared with Fall 2016.

In New Orleans, both NPR News/Talk WWNO and New Orleans Jazz station WWOZ had slippage in AQH share and estimated weekly listeners. 

Part of the reason may be that there are 5.75% fewer weekly listeners in Fall 2018 than Fall 2016.

WWNO’s Classical music service on WWNO-HD2 channel and a translator at 104.9 FM, was listed for the first time in a Nielsen report. 

However, Nielsen said they had a 0.0 AQH share.

WWNO has a ways to go to catch the commercial news/talk stations. In Fall 2018 WWL-FM had a 6.4 AQH share and all-talk WRNO had a 4.7 AQH share.

The Smooth Jazz format on WNOZ-LP was up in both AQH share and weekly listeners.

All three of the Nielsen Audio rated stations in Louisville are owned and operated by Louisville Public Media (LPM). Of the three stations, only Classical WUOL gained ground in AQH share and weekly listeners.

NPR News/Talk WFPL was down in both AQH share and estimated weekly listeners compared to Fall 2018.  Commercial station WHAS-AM was the top news/talk station in the market with a 7.2 AQH share.

The drop in both metrics by AAA WFPK is perplexing. The estimated weekly listeners to all three stations was down 8.2% in Fall 2018 compared with Fall 2016.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


If you haven't ever been to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), you should do it at least once. CES [link] claims to be the world's largest gathering for people who invent, market and use consumer technologies in many fields. 

Conference topics include health & wellness, automotive, sports and gaming, home entertainment, advertising, Internet and mobile devices. The show even has the latest information about drones.

Often devices that debut at CES become household items in future years. Because CES is all about new trends, many people in the media business go every year. But the show, with 182,000 attendees, 4,400 exhibitors, over 1,000 speakers and 3-million square feet of activities, can be daunting, even for people who attend it frequently.

Fred Jacobs is wears comfortable
shoes when he gives tours at CES
Enter Fred Jacobs. Jacobs is well known in both commercial and public radio. Each year Fred and his brother Paul give in-depth walking tours of CES for attendees who work in the radio and audio industries. They call the tours CES Through a Radio Lens.

Of course the Jacobs brothers want to mingle with current and prospective clients. But, according to Fred Jacobs, the tours are an educational experience and a way to help radio and audio content producers succeed.

Fred Jacobs believes that commercial and public radio people need to get out of their comfort zones and look at radio/audio as a part of a larger ecosystem. Jacobs wants those who work in radio to “get smarter” and be more aware of changes in technology.

Do you want to come along on tour? We can’t transport you to Las Vegas but we can give you Jacobs’ description of what he saw via a podcast provided by Inside Radio.  You can download the podcast here.

Paul Heine
For over 20-minutes Jacobs shares his observations with Paul Heine, the Managing Editor of Inside Radio [link]. Every week Heine publishes a new podcast. They have become “must listens” for us.

Jacobs has posted often about CES on his blog [link], particularly the frequent question: “So, what was the hottest gadget you saw at CES?”

Jacobs said on his bog [link] that there was no obvious “killer gadget” that dominated the show in 2019. To him, CES 2019 was about the confluence of many digital systems that are, or will become, bigger parts of our lives.

Jacobs did find one item that impressed him: the Smart Toilet.  

 It is made by Kohler that sells for around $7,000.


It is difficult to find enough superlatives to describe the performance of NPR News/Talk KERA over the past two years. 

In Fall 2016 KERA had a record high number of estimated weekly listeners. 

Since then KERA has added 15% more weekly listeners.

Plus, KERA’s AQH shares have grown in virtually every “book.” 

Now KERA is the top radio news/talk station in the nation’s fifth largest market. This is a helluva accomplishment.

The number of weekly listeners to the five stations was up 1% in Fall 2018 compared with Fall 2016.

While KERA is much above Fall 2016, KUHF isn’t having that kind of success in Houston-Galveston. KUHF lost around 50,000, over 11%, of its estimated weekly listeners between Fall 2016 and Fall 2019. KUHF’s AQH share also dropped.

Neither Classical music on KUHF-HD2 and satellite-delivered Xponential Radio on KUHF-HD3 are getting much traction with listeners. KUHF needs to find a translator and put Classical on the FM dial where it belongs.

The number of weekly listeners to the four stations was down 1.7% in Fall 2018 compared with Fall 2016.

Just a quick look at the two-year trends for WAMU in Washington, DC tells you why we have written so often about WAMU’s loss of estimated weekly listeners and AQH share. 

According to recent PPM monthly ratings, WAMU has pulled out of its slump.

One possible reason for WAMU’s audience is that the three rated stations in DC lost 5.7% of its weekly listeners between Fall 2016 and Fall 2018. In raw numbers, this means around 100,000 people who listened to these stations in Fall 2016 weren’t listening in Fall 2016.