Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This week we are focusing on The State of Triple A Radio as noncommercial station folks, music companies and public radio bigwigs gather in Philadelphia for the 16th Annual NONCOMMvention [link].   

Metrics are an important part of the Triple A noncom story. The public radio system seems to be taking a fresh look at the national impact of the format. Before more stations will jump into Triple A, they need to know that many current stations are sustainable.

We have two topics today:

• The Top 20 Triple A stations ranked by estimated weekly cumulative listeners as measured by Nielsen Audio.

• Carriage of nationally syndicated programs on the Top 20 stations.

I compiled the chart on the left based on the most recent data available. This research is for demonstration purposes only because it uses unorthodox techniques that are necessary to generate the list, including:

• I am using both PPM and Diary market numbers. These two systems of listening assessment have very different methodologies.

• For some station estimates I am combining estimated weekly listeners from multiple stations and (in one case) two audio platforms. Please be aware that there may duplications of listeners from multiple sources.

• There are many more stations airing Triple A music than the ones listed in this report.  I am only using published data from Nielsen Audio.  Some stations don’t subscribe to Nielsen ratings or have so few listeners they don’t show up in the ratings.

• One exception to the above caveats is the inclusion of KCSN which serves a portion of Los Angeles from Northfield. Folks in the media and music industries know that Sky Daniels & company are doing a tremendous job with KCSN.  I was the GM of this station a couple of decades ago and I know the challenges they face. The estimated number of weekly listeners at KCSN was provided to me by a confidential source, not anyone at the station. I feel KCSN is an important part of our corner of the biz, so I decided to include them.

So, please be aware of the limitations of my report.


The programming that seems to work best on Triple A stations is generated locally. Curation, knowledge of the local music scene and direct ties to the artists are best done at home, where the listeners and supporters are.

I don’t have an exact metric showing the decline in carriage of national shows but anecdotally I know this is true.  In fact, I was surprised by the lower number of program “clearances.”  Please keep in mind that the chart below is based on carriage on the Top 20 stations only.  Smaller stations may tend to carry more national programs including some good show not on the list.

This assessment doesn’t mean nationally syndicated programs aren’t valuable. Maybe some of the shows in current syndication are past their expiration date and there are few new programs in the pipeline.

World Café is the one exception to comments above.  It is certainly the only nationally distributed program that comes near to a “must have.”

One note of disclosure: I am paid consultant for American Routes.  Here is the national programs chart:

1 comment:

  1. World Cafe is an excellent show, to be sure. Although I've always wondered if the name of the show and the theme music works against them because it, well, sounds like it's a "world music" show. That can, and does, turn off a lot of people who won't stick around and realize it's an AAA show.

    American Routes is another show that anyone worth their salt will carry. It's EXCELLENT. I just wish it could be on five days a week. :)

    Worth noting, there's a surprising number of really good AAA (or AAA-complimentary) shows out there, mostly on PRX, that aren't necessarily getting a lot of carriage but arguably they should. In a bit of shameless quasi-self promotion, I'm thinking of "Stuck in the Psychedelic Era" which pairs incredibly well with The Grateful Dead Hour. But cruise around PRX a bit and you'll find some more good ones, too.