Friday, March 11, 2016



What sense from research colleagues do you have about the validity of the comparisons you posted today?  I’ve always been taught you can’t compare the two methodologies?  Is there new thinking about that?

KEN’S COMMENTS: I asked several research colleagues and they aren’t sure about the validity of the comparisons I made. There has been speculation that some formats do better than others in PPM versus Diary. I asked  veteran public radio consultant Craig Oliver’s whether he had additional information about specific performance.  He said:  

Craig Oliver
 This is not a quick question.  I don’t have the answer easily at my disposal, but you might find some format breakouts at  Comparing these to 2000 may be more difficult in terms of finding differences.

I made certain to say several times in the article that Diary and PPM methodologies are different.  Some of the trends may be partially due to the different system of obtaining data. However, some of the changes noted such as higher number of weekly listeners in 2015 for KPCC and KQAC seem to be because of changes in their programming. So, I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide the validity of the comparison.



Cool analysis, Ken! Is there enough data to do something similar for college radio stations, too?


Thank you for the praise.  I wish it was possible to do a similar comparison of estimated weekly listeners to college stations. Data is available from 2000 for many college stations because, at that time, the Radio Research Consortium (RRC) published results from noncoms that did not subscribe to the ratings.

When Nielsen acquired Arbitron a few years ago they changed the policy. Only data for subscribing stations is now published by RRC.



The reason Whad’ Ya Know lost so many stations is that it is old, tired, and uninspired. I didn’t think it ever was that great, there just wasn’t much else to compete for Saturday morning carriage and it takes public radio PDs forever to decide to drop a program.

Since WYK launched, This American Life, Radiolab, Ted Radio, and lots of other more compelling shows have become available. Most importantly, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me has come along to not just steal audience, but to create a whole new audience. It is more interesting, funnier, and better produced. Even though Wait, Wait is not really live, it still has more urgency, spontaneity, and quality audience participation than WYK.

Sorry, but listeners voted with their ears long ago. Michael Feldman can be a funny and engaging host, but judging from quotes in Wisconsin media stories about the cancellation, he’s really in denial about why this show is ending.


“Anonymous” appears to be a current or recent station programmer who is very familiar with public radio landscape. His view is the same as every person I spoke with regarding WPR’s cancellation of Whad ‘Ya Know. In show biz terms, 31 years is a long time for any “act” to last.  Thank you Michael Feldman for your work over the years. Turn the page, Michael.



Here is one example:

For purposes of discussion, I would define “college radio” more as a format than an ownership schema, and would specifically exclude any CPB-funded station. But the licensee should be an accredited institution of higher education whenever possible.


“College Radio” is one of several ambiguous terms we have in our industry. Its vagueness is similar to “public radio,” “community radio," and “Triple A music.” The definition is in the mind of the beholder and my definition may be different than your definition. Here is how I define some common industry terms:

“College radio” is a station this is licensed to a university or school, primarily operated by students, often has an instructional purpose, and is typically funded all or in part by student activity fees.

“College rock” and “CMJ Rock” are college station that air contemporary rock music that is of interest to younger listeners. Frequently these stations report their playlists to College Media Journal (CMJ) a trade publication that tracks airplay on college rock stations, and use CMJ charts to determine what tunes to play.

“Community stations” are licensed to 501c3 nonprofit organizations and program advocacy shows, volunteer music shows and Pacifica programs such as Democracy Now! For example WNYC and WBAI are both licensed to nonprofit owners but I would only call WBAI a “Community station.”

“Triple A” is a radio format that is primarily contemporary music, most often rock, that is considered “progressive” and “hip” by listeners. “Music Discovery” is an apt description but it is more difficult to use that term to describe a format. I use the term “Triple A” because everyone else uses it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


If you work in noncommercial radio, today’s post will probably make your day. I compared the number of weekly cumulative listeners between Fall 2000 and Fall 2015 for stations that exemplify each of the five major noncom formats. I am truly amazed by the results. Many noncom radio stations have experienced solid, even dramatic, growth in estimated weekly listeners over the past 15 years.

Important note: The 2000 data comes from Arbitron via Diary methodology. The 2015 data comes from Nielsen Audio via PPM methodology (except where noted). The two methods are very different.  Some of the comparisons may reflect changes due to the different methodologies.

Here is the big news, of the 28 stations I examined 24 of them (85%) increased weekly listeners between 2000 and 2015. Some of gains were truly amazing: KPCC in LA grew 279%, KQAC in Portland grew 141%, KKJZ in LA grew 97%, KEXP in Seattle/Tacoma grew 141%, and WPOZ in Orlando grew an awesome 327%

To make this an apples-to-apples comparison I looked at noncom stations that had “pure” formats in 2000 with one exception noted below. Scroll down for comments on stations in each of the five major noncom formats.

The 2000 data preceded American Public Media's (APM) operation of KPCC. WNYC-AM’s big drop in weekly listeners is probably due to erosion of overall AM listening. A friend of mine in Pittsburgh told me the old WDUQ is out-performing WESA.  It turns out he correct.

 Industry observers know that KQAC is a far better sounding station that its predecessor KBPS. The margin of growth in weekly listeners is remarkable, a sign of KQAC’s excellent approach.

 KKJZ has shown marvelous growth in weekly listeners since it upgraded from KLON.

 Take a look at the growth of weekly listeners at WFPK in Louisville. Great programming increases music discovery.

There were fewer CCM stations that subscribed to the ratings in 2000.

Provided by RRC, Inc. for use by subscribers only
© Radio Research Consortium, Inc. // //
These data are provided for use by Nielsen Audio subscribers ONLY, in accordance with
RRC's limited license with Nielsen Audio.
Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+ (Diary markets)
Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 6+ (PPM markets)
Data Copyright Nielsen Audio.
Format designations are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.

Fall 2000 Arbitron estimates are Persons 12+
Monday-Sunday 6AM-12M © Arbitron

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Nielsen Audio and the Radio Research Consortium (RRC) have begun releasing results for February in PPM markets. Not all subscribing stations are shown because RRC is finalizing paperwork with some clients because of RRC's new four-year deal with Nielsen.

Today we have estimated results for six of the nation’s largest radio markets. Below we compare February 2016 results with February 2015 and look at one-year trends in Weekly Cumulative Listeners.

Something amazing is going on at KCRW in Santa Monica. In the past year KCRW has added over 200,000 weekly listeners – up 33% in the always competitive Los Angeles market.  How are they doing it? It appears KCRW is providing more news programming from NPR and other sources.

Weekdays from 3:00am to 8:00pm KCRW is solid news and talk. The one exception isf Morning Becomes Eclectic with Jason Bentley which still airs from 9:00am to Noon.

KCRW’s Triple A-ish music mix continues overnight 8:00pm to 3:00am. KCRW has made a considerable investment in the program Press Play with Madeline Brand.  It airs twice daily at Noon and a rollover at 7:00pm.

Other stations making notable gains include KERA, Dallas (up 26%) and WXPN, Philadelphia (up 14%).  Scroll down to see results for all six markets and further analysis.


 Jazz continues to perform well in the largest markets.  WBGO added 11% more weekly listeners in the past year. WFUV was down a bit but still reaches a substantial number of weekly listeners. WNYC-AM had the biggest decline, 28% fewer weekly listeners in one year. Perhaps it is a reflection of AM in general.  Maybe WNYC-AM should get a FM translator.

Jazz continues to perform very, very well at KKJZ – estimated weekly listeners are up 13% over the past year. KPCC held its own versus KCRW.

KQED came back strong after recent declines in estimated weekly listeners. NPR News stations typically draw more listening during competitive political campaigns, so this may be responsible for part of KQED’s gains.

This is another awesome performance by KERA.  They added over 100,000 weekly listeners from February 2015.

There appears to be an interesting Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) battle happening in the Metroplex. The stations are competing: Locally owned KCBI is the traditional leader. KVRK is satellite delivered Way FM. 

KJRN is a very sophisticated operation.  I love the brand name.  The Adventists are doing some great radio.

This is the last book for Classical KUHA.  KSBJ brought the frequency and it is re-emerging with a Christian Hip Hop station. Good luck with that...

Nice gains by WXPN. WHYY may have gotten a “political bump.


This is an updated version of a column originally posted Monday, February 2, 2015.

A little over a year ago I reported on the dismal situation regarding HD Radio at CPB-funded stations and CPB’s role is this fiasco. I am not blaming CPB or anyone else. CPB’s plan was hatched at a time in the early 2000s when future adaptation of HD technology was unknown. 
Source: Jacobs Media
As we now know, virtually all consumers have rejected HD Radio. Aside from cheery company-sponsored news releases in Radio World there is little conversation now about HD. Stations that accepted CPB’S offer of start-up money to create HD channels are mandated to keep the channels going regardless of the cost and lack of listeners.

To the best of my knowledge every HD channel has appeared in Nielsen Audio’s ratings does so because the HD programming is repeated on FM translators.  When someone is listening to HD on FM, they are listening to FM.
Source: Jacobs Media

In February 2015 I asked for comments about HD Radio on the PubRadio list. I received over 40 replies. Below are station folk’s comments from a year ago. Has anything changed over the past year. I don’t think so.

In 2015 one NPR station manager advised:
To understand what is going on with CPB, iBiquity 
and HD Radio, follow the money.

How much money has CPB invested in HD Radio? 

I asked CPB but they never replied.  Maybe CPB doesn’t even know.

CPB made it easy to get into HD. A highly respected station manager, who asked me to keep his name confidential, put it this way:

CPB's HD grants were the fastest and easiest $75,000 anyone in public radio ever came by.
 [CPB’s] HD radio campaign was a stimulus for spending money on hardware. CPB temporarily assumed PTFP's role of subsidizing equipment replacement. Many stations justify HD adoption because they replaced aging analog transmitters.

There have been enormous opportunity costs for HD. CPB's millions might have been better sunk into stimulating journalism. Untold staff hours were wasted on HD - logistics, installation, promotion, programming.


Here is my guesstimate of the investment in HD Radio by CPB and CPB-funded stations as shown in public documents:

• A CPB press release said approximately 300 stations participated in CPB’s HD Radio digital conversion. 

• The average cost to establish HD Radio capability was around $130,000 per station. 

• CPB paid $75,000, or 70% of the project cost to entice stations to build HD channels. Minority service stations and hardship cases got more even more money and/or a higher percentage of funding from CPB.

• Lets say CPB spent $75,000 for 200 stations to move into HD Radio; and $85,000 for 100 stations to the same purpose. Assuming these figures are correct, CPB’s investment to stations into the HD Radio business is at least $23,500,000.

Other reports said CPB's investment is even more than $23,500,000:

To date, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has given member-stations approximately $50 million in HD Radio “upgrade” grants (some of them of the matching variety). [link]

These estimates do not include station investments, licensing fees paid to iBiquity, programming or operating expenses. 


As part of the agreement with CPB for stations to build HD capacity, the stations made a long-term promise to continue operating their HD channels or they had pay back the money.

One station manager described the situation this way:

Pity the poor stations that are still touting their HD service that no one listens to.
 To this day, NPR still exploits station's HD innocence by charging $3,000 / year to run NPR on HD. How many stations flush $3,000 down that rat hole?

Nothing has changed in the year since February 2015. Stations continue to subsidize HD channels that reach virtually no listeners. This is a waste of valuable public service funding.


One of the few benefits of station investment in HD Radio is that it provides a cost-effective way to feed FM translators. We reported on one example in January 2016 [link].

American Public Media’s (APM) 89.3 The Current is expanding its reach with a new Instant FM Station covering the Duluth/Superior metro area. The new Triple A outlet debuts on February 1, 2016 at 90.9 FM. 90.9 will become a repeater of APM’s WSCN-HD2 signal.  This is the way new Instant FM Stations are created these days.

APM set the stage for the new station last year when they bought FM translator W215CG from declining religious owner Family Stations for $45,000. APM upgraded it 99-watts at an awesome tower site giving the new 90.9 solid coverage of the entire metro. This is what HD Radio success looks like.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


As you probably have heard, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) has pulled the plug on Michael Feldman’s Whad ‘Ya Know after 31 years.  Some folks seem surprised but industry observers have seen this coming for quite a while.  The reason why WPR cancelled the show was that it had too few “billables.”

Billables is an insider term that means “stations that pay carriage fees.”  In noncom public radio, billables are very, very important.

Promoters of nationally syndicated programs often brag they are on hundreds of stations.  But who and what are these “stations”? Typically many are repeater stations and FM translators that simulcast programming from a Primary station.   

For example: WAMC, Albany has three dozen “repeaters” around New England.  So should WAMC count as one station or three dozen stations?

What matters in noncom syndication is the number of Primary stations – the billables – who receive and pay invoices for a program’s carriage fees.

Noncommercial national programs operate differently than commercial radio.  In commercial radio many national programs are “bartered” with affiliates; stations get the programs free but they are required to carry a specific number of commercials in compensation. 

Noncommercial stations don’t have commercials, so the barter system doesn’t work for them. Noncoms depend on stations paying fees to networks and other distributors.  Many programs distributed by NPR, PRX, APM and PRI require stations to play carriage fees. Stations that pay these fees are called “billables.”


According to a report in Current, Whad ‘Ya Know’s carriage peaked in 2003 at 322 stations. But carriage had dropped to 106 stations as of spring 2015. The 106 stations includes many repeaters and translators who do not pay fees. I heard that Whad ‘Ya Know had only 37 billables – paying customers – as of January 1, 2016.

Every year PRI and other networks provide a price list to stations with carriage fees for the programs they carry. A recent PRI rate sheet indicates stations were paying between $3,756 and $687 per quarter for Whad ‘Ya Know.  Stations with the biggest budgets pay the highest fees.

To determine the estimated amount of revenue the program generates, I take a middle number to balance the highest and lowest fees.  For this exercise I am using $2,094 per quarter – which is “level D” on PRI’s rate sheet. There are lots of stations in this category.

Let’s do the numbers:

$2,094 per quarter equals $8,376 per year. Thirty-seven billables at this amount means the total annual carriage fees for Whad ‘Ya Know are around $310,000. The network, in this case PRI, takes a percentage of these fees and the rest goes to the program’s producers.

The report in Current said Whad ‘Ya Know was on 322 stations in 2003. This means there were roughly 120 billables then. So, Whad ‘Ya Know likely generated around $1,000,000 in carriage fees in 2003.

Considering that Whad ‘Ya Know costs around $700,000 per year (my guess-timate), continuing the program became unsustainable for WPR. So they are cutting their losses and are moving on.


Niala Boodhoo

Illinois Public Media (IPM), based in Urbana, has announced a new weekday Talk & Interview program is The 21st, will begin on March 14, 2016. IPM is making The 21st available to other Illinois public radio stations.  In addition to WILL-AM, The 21st will also debut on WUIS, Springfield.

Veteran journalist and public radio host Niala Boodhoo is the host and executive producer of the new hour-long show will air Monday - Friday at 11 a.m.

According to IPM, The 21st is “21st-century radio for the 21st state.” IPM promises that The 21st will provide listeners “a mix of interviews and conversations [including] farmers, business people, artists, politicians, and residents across Illinois — everything from news to politics to arts, culture and everyday life.

Scott Cameron, formerly senior producer of NPR’s Talk of the Nation (and currently Illinois Public Media’s director of news and public affairs) is a co-executive producer. 

Meanwhile, CPB announced they are awarding IPM $715,600 for the Illinois Newsroom, a new regional journalism center in association with seven other Illinois stations.

Monday, March 7, 2016


WFYI, Indianapolis, WBAA AM/FM, West Lafayette and WFIU have joined together to build a regional broadcast of All Things Considered (ATC) in central Indiana. The stations are working together through Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations (IPRS), a consortium of Indiana’s public broadcasters.

The plan, according to Mike Savage, GM of WBAA, is for a central host/producer to be based at WFYI.  All three stations will use fiber-optic connections to interact and assemble regional ATC content. All three stations will be “live” during ATC. The collaboration will be identified on-air as “IPBS” but the goal is to sound as local as possible on each station.

The collaboration is now searching for a host/producer. The position description calls for the host/producer to anchor the regional ATC broadcasts and plan segments, help generate content and conduct two-way interviews and live coverage.

The new host/producer will replace current ATC hosts at each of three stations.  More information about the job is available at
According to Savage, NPR News stations across the country are watching the regional ATC project, as they should. If it works as expected, this type of collaboration can be replicated in many other places.

Savage says folks at all three stations believe investing funds in local content is more important that duplicating an ATC host at each station. The three stations cover areas that are experiencing dynamic growth in population and commerce. Indianapolis is the place where Boilermakers and Hoosiers meet on common ground. It is becoming sort of a mega-city, not yet as cohesive as Colorado’s Front Range but this is where the action is.

The three stations are on or near the “I-65 corridor” – the main artery from Chicago to Louisville and points south. Where the Interstate goes, population follows. The I-65 corridor in Indiana is becoming a regional powerhouse. At right is a map showing the area’s urban density. 

Note that signals for the three stations fit together like hand and glove. They offer consistent coverage of the entire West Lafayette-Indianapolis-Bloomington triad.  My best guess-timate (based in part of Nielsen Audio data) is that WFYI, WBAA and WFIU together have a combined weekly cumulative audience of more than 200,000 listeners.
So, let’s take a trip down I-65 and examine the reach of the combined coverage.

Funding and support for the Indiana ATC collaboration comes from IPBS and the three stations. No Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funding is involved at this time. To me, this is a gutsy effort that demonstrates leadership by the partner organizations – public radio at its best.
Non-Hoosier readers should be careful not to confuse the ATC collaboration with another Indiana project that has a similar name and a somewhat similar mission.
CPB recently announced that it awarded $609,000 to form the Indiana News Collaboration. Eleven Indiana public radio and TV stations, led by WFIU and WTIU in Bloomington (including WBAA and WFYI) are participating. This Indiana “network” is using the title IPB News. The CPB grant will support the hiring of eight journalists at the partner media outlets for two years.

The IPBS and IPB projects are not related.