Friday, October 7, 2016


I’ve heard that phrase many times over my years in the business. It’s just as true today. “Weekly Cumulative Persons” in Nielsen Audio reports is the official way to say “Weekly Cume” and “Weekly Listeners.” (Nielsen Audio now also measures Daily Cumulative Persons in PPM markets.)

Weekly Cume is a powerful metric. It is the estimated number of people who enter your business and stay for the minimum time (typically five minutes).  Week cume is sort of a head count. It is similar to “circulation” in the print world and “unique visitors” in digital usage analysis.

I usually cite Weekly Cume data for two reasons:

(1.) It is a powerful metric.

(2.) As a journalist, most Nielsen Audio data is not available to me. Stations, producers and networks who are subscribers get much, much more information from Nielsen Audio.

I am bringing up Weekly Cume today because a couple of readers told me off-the-record that station folks don’t pay much attention to it. AQH is what they want and what they use. So, when you read my stuff please keep in mind, I am talking about Weekly Cume.

Several readers told me confidentially that they were surprised by what I’ve been reporting the last two days.  They had no idea that Weekly Cumes for some of the biggest NPR News stations had seen substantial declines when I compared estimated Weekly Cume from March 2016 and September 2016.

Nielsen subscribers get detailed information via Radio Research Consortium (RRC) such as quarter hourly listening in all hours and dayparts, tune-ins, tune-outs, duration of listening.  One station programmer told me NPR News nationally has had 10 straight months of AQH growth in PPM markets. Well and good, but the size of the “listener lake” in some places is getting smaller.

One reader pointed out that picking six months is arbitrary and random.  Yes it us. So is any other comparison over time.  I choose six months because it would keep the continuity of the election cycle. Another reader pointed out that ratings “are just numbers” and lack context.  True, but this is what we’ve got.

I imagine when I reported the declines, I surprised the folks at WBEZ because I did not hear back from them. I have always had wonderful associations with folks at WBEZ.  A few years ago I did marketing work for Sound Opinions. Perhaps they didn’t know that their Weekly Cume has fallen for six straight months.


As I mentioned in Wednesday’s story, 10 of 13 (77%) NPR News stations in the list of the top twenty noncommercial stations ranked by Weekly Cume saw the number of weekly listeners decline between March 2016 and September 2016. Nielsen Audio estimated Weekly Cume data for 10 of 13 (77%) NPR News stations lost weekly listeners. Four stations – WBEZ, WBUR, KPCC & KCRW combined lost almost 600,000 weekly listeners in the six month period. KPCC’s Weekly Cume dropped 21%, WBUR dropped 27%, WBEZ lost 22% and KCRW lost 19%.

I choose to use WBEZ for a closer look yesterday in part because they are the sole NPR News voice in the market. Therefore there likely are no competing stations with same or very similar programming.  Today we have six month trends by month for KPCC, KCRW and WBUR.  I’ve added a chart to WGBH to keep WBUR in context. 

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