Wednesday, September 28, 2016


In an earlier post [link] we said that Tuesday morning (9/20) at the PRPD Content Conference in Phoenix was going to be NUMBERS-PALOOZA! Indeed, it was. 

Three back-to-back presentations that painted a detailed portrait of public radio station listening consumer behavior of listeners.

Dave Sullivan
Today we will focus on baseline information provided by Dave Sullivan, Manager of Client Services for Radio Research Consortium (RRC). 

Sullivan shared his presentation slides from his presentation which were not for publication. (We will have complete reports of the other two NUMBERS-PALOOZA! studies next week.)

Sullivan called his presentation the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


Public radio’s four main formats have more estimated weekly listeners now than they did five years ago! Jazz stations led the pack with a 14% increase in weekly listeners.

NPR News Stations: Time Spent Listening (TSL) comparing Spring 2012 and Spring 2016 remained even. Average Quarter Hour persons (AQH) were also up.

Classical Stations: TSL remained even of the past five years. AQH reached an all-time high.

Triple A Stations: TSL remained even. AQH was up to a five-year high.

Jazz Stations: TSL has stopped recent declines. AQH is flat.

During his remarks at the Content Conference, Sullivan added a cautionary note: Improvements in Nielsen’s technology are causing PPM numbers to rise.  After the “Voltair incident,” Nielsen made improvements to make its data collection more robust. The amount of the bump is unknown, but it is a for-real consideration.


OLDER LISTENERS: Three of the four formats have audiences in which the majority of listeners are age 55 and older.  I expected the Classical audience to skew old but I didn’t expect much the same pattern for Jazz listeners.

To me being over 55 and still listening to public radio is not “bad.”  After all, I am in the 55+ demo. So lets not turn our backs on these listeners.

FAVORITE STATION: “P-1” indicates the percentage of weekly listeners who listen to a station more than any other station. “P-1” is often referred to as “loyalty” or “first choice station.”

Only one of the four public radio formats has a strong percentage of P-1 listeners. 

A larger percentage of Classical, Jazz and Triple A listeners make the station their second or third choice. This may indicate lower perceived value of support for the station.


I didn’t see anything in the RRC Report that was truly “ugly.” However, we need to keep in mind that the size of radio’s “listener lake” is slowly sinking. That is why “flat is the new up.”

1 comment:

  1. Having a lot of 55+ aged listeners is "bad" in the sense that it's exceedingly difficult to deliver programming content that appeals to BOTH the 55+ demo AND the 25-35 demo, nevermind the 18-24 demo.

    Accordingly, since the 55+ demo tends to have more money to spend, it's very easy to fall into a trap of over-serving the old demo while ignoring the young demo. Everything looks great for a while, but eventually the 55+ demo, well, starts dying out...literally. And then, since you haven't cultivated new listeners from younger demos, you're left with no listeners.

    Obviously this is something of an oversimplification, but it's a very real problem for a LOT of public radio. Especially in the classical and jazz crowds, but also the news/talk, too. This is why so many programming experts are flogging podcasts-podcasts-podcasts-podcasts-podcasts-podcasts-podcasts-podcasts all the time...because pubradio is lucky enough that the content (news/talk/storytelling) is (broadly speaking) fairly attractive to younger demos...but the delivery mechanism (AM/FM) is less so.

    So at least there's actually a reasonably easy option for pubradio to service both older and younger demos. The trick is doing so in a way that doesn't disrupt a carefully-constructed (and not terribly flexible) funding model.