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. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Public radio used to have several competitions to recognize its best work. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) sponsored an annual awards presentation at the Public Radio Conference (PRC) and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) had the annual Golden Reels competition. CPB’s event disappeared when the PRC went away in the early 2000’s. NFCB ended the Golden Reels a couple of years later.

These days the Public Radio News Directors (PRNDI) sponsor the only system-wide competition – the PRNDI Awards – which focuses exclusively on newsroom output.

There is another competition with a wider view: The Third Coast International Audio Festival, {link] conducted each year in Chicago. Third Coast invites entries from folks outside the US, podcasters and audio storytellers, in addition to producers at US noncom stations. The result is an eclectic mix of topics that provide a feast for the ears. 2016 is no exception. 


Anna Sale

Third Coast just announced the finalists for this year’s Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition with a twist.  All of the announced entries are already “winners” but no one knows who won what category.  That will be known at the November 13th Awards Ceremony in Chicago. The host will be Anna Sale, host and managing editor of WNYC’s Death, Sex & Money.

According to a press release from Third Coast, there were 552 entries from 17 countries, a record high. Third Coast has made audio of all of the finalists/winners available at [link].

Here is the list of the winners:

Samantha Broun

 A Life Sentence: Victims, Offenders, Justice, and My Mother 
Country: USA
Produced by Samantha Broun and Jay Allison for

Dead Mom Talking
Country: Canada
Produced by Rachel Matlow for CBC Radio One

Country: France
Produced by Jamil for Jungala Radio

Country: USA
Produced by Kaitlin Prest & Mitra Kaboli for The Heart 

Lindsey Smith

Not Safe To Drink
Country: USA
Produced by Lindsey Smith for Michigan Radio

Sentencing Hearing
Country: USA
Produced by Emily Forman for WNOV and WUWM

Country: Denmark
Produced by Thomas Arent Anderson for Third Ear X Politiken

Violación de un Sueño: Jornada Nocturna 
Country: USA
Produced by Bernice Yeung, Sasha Khokha & Daffodil Altan for Reveal, KQED, the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, Frontline, and Univision

Hillary Frank

W. Kamau Bell Talks to His Mom About Sex
Country: USA
Produced by Hillary Frank with Abigail Keel for The Longest Shortest Time

Why Do I Stay? 
Country: USA
Produced by Rainy and Courtney Stein for Radio Rookies

The Third Coast International Audio Festival is a non-profit arts organization that was founded by WBEZ, Chicago in 2000.


Yesterday’s post about the decline of weekly cumulative listeners between March 2016 and September 2016 by several NPR News stations caused a stir in some quarters. 

Ten of the 13 news stations (77%) with the largest number of weekly listeners declined during this period.  WBEZ lost 22% of its weekly listeners. Almost 600,000 weekly listeners were lost by WBEZ and three other stations: KPCC, KCRW and WBUR.

The losses appear to challenge the narrative of NPR News stations getting a bump in listeners during a hot political season.

We contacted Ben Calhoun, Heidi Goldfein and Jake Fenske at WBEZ for comments.  We had not heard from them at the time this story was posted.  If/when we hear from them, we will update this story.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


While compiling today’s list of the Top 20 noncom stations ranked by weekly cumulative listeners I saw an unexpected trend: Many of the NPR News stations lost weekly listeners over the six months between March 2016 and September 2016. Nielsen Audio estimated weekly listener data shows 10 of 13 (77%) NPR News stations lost weekly listeners.

Some of the declines were more than “wobbles.” KPCC had an estimated 170,000 (21%) fewer weekly listeners in September compared with March. WBUR lost around 152,000 (27%), WBEZ lost 136,000 (22%) and KCRW lost 131,000 (19%). These four stations combined lost a total of 589,000 weekly listeners.

The losses appear to challenge the theory that NPR News stations tend to gain weekly listeners during political seasons. I will leave it to another time to examine why this may be happening, but this is a trend worth watching.

Not all NPR News stations lost listeners.  WAMU’s estimated weekly listeners grew approximately 100,000 between March 2016 and September 2016. WAMU now has the most estimated weekly cumulative listeners at noncommercial stations measured by Nielsen Audio PPM. KQED and KNOW also added listeners during the same period.

Let’s look stations #1 - #10:

NPR News stations dominate the top twenty will 13 of the 20 stations. The list also includes 3 Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) stations, 2 Classical stations, 2 Jazz stations and 1 Triple A (KCRW was counted twice because of their dual format).

Jazz station WBGO had the biggest gain in weekly listeners, up over 70,000 (27%) when comparing March and September.

Influential CCM station WGTS lost around 114,000 (21%) of its weekly listeners during the same period.

Overall, 15 of the top 20 noncom stations lost estimated weekly listeners; 5 gained listeners.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


According to Nielsen Audio PPM data for September 2016, WAMU can claim a couple of notable achievements. WAMU’s estimated weekly cumulative listeners hit 832,100, a record high. WAMU also edged out commercial news giant WTOP in average-quarter-hour share: WAMU 9.0% – WTOP 8.7%.  WTOP’s weekly cume was 1,179,300.

WTOP is consistently one of the top performers for commercial radio revenue. Analysts at financial data firm BIA/Kelsey estimate WTOP’s current annual revenue is $65 million. In case you are interested, the most recent top ten commercial station revenues are on the right.

 WAMU also has a significant number of weekly listeners in the Baltimore metro.


Though KUNC and KJAC are located outside of the Denver metro market, they both attract sizable listening in the metro.  The estimated number of KCFR’s weekly listeners fell by 9% between March 2016 and September 2016.

The competition is tighter for two Triple A noncoms.  In the September PPM ratings KJAC a/k/a 105.5 The Colorado Sound almost doubled its number of weekly listeners between the station’s first book in March 20016 and September 2016 within the Denver metro. 

All four of the stations have many additional weekly listeners beyond Denver.

FYI – Modern Rock commercial station KTCL (also licensed to Ft. Collins) had 660,600 estimated weekly listeners. Heritage commercial Triple A KBCO had 542,500 weekly cume listeners.


In Detroit WUOM and WDET are using different programming strategies and both are reaching more estimated weekly listeners.  WUOM is straight-ahead news and has many more listeners outside of the Detroit metro. WDET has added a new Triple A-ish midday program. Both seem to be doing well.

Atlanta’s battle between WABE and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s WRAS seems to prove the notion that same-format competition tends to increase the numbers for both stations.   

WRAS continues to gain weekly listeners even though they share their broadcast day with College Rock programming by students.


KNKS is now operating with new, independent ownership. Now get ready for an epic noncom battle with KUOW. 

Radio everywhere should be as exciting as it is in Seattle!

Monday, October 3, 2016


Sean O’Mealy
Less than two years ago the future of WNKU looked so bright folks Cincinnati broke out the shades.  WNKU, licensed to Northern Kentucky University (NKU), hired Sean O’Mealy, a proven commercial radio programmer, to manage WNKU.  O’Mealy arrived and focused the station’s sound around the “music discovery” approach that is doing so well in Dallas (KXT), Minneapolis (89.3 The Current) and Denver (105.5 The Colorado Sound).  Then the roof fell in.

WNKU experienced a perfect storm of problems: debt incurred by previous management, budget cuts to higher education and the lack of desire by NKU to be in the mass communication business. Then WNKU was put up for sale earlier this year, O’Mealy and others at WNKU became lame ducks heading towards an uncertain future. It is tough to be at any business while it is for sale. It is especially difficult when you are in the public eye.

Last week O’Mealy decided to put some certainty back in his life by leaving WNKU to join a small but progressive commercial station group in “Happy Valley” Pennsylvania. Who can blame him?

O'Mealy’s term as WNKU’s GM will end on October 7th. He told local media:

"With the future of WNKU up in the air I couldn’t not pass up an opportunity to join a stable and growing media company back home."


The success of folks from commercial media in noncom has been mixed. Some just don’t get listener-supported public media. Others, like O’Mealy, understand noncom’s mission, sensibility and one-to-one relationship with listeners.

I left commercial radio for public broadcasting over two decades ago because I wanted to work in an environment where public service, mission and authenticity matter. Let’s hope the wheel of life brings O’Mealy back to public media.

BTW – WNKU is still for sale. So far SAVE WNKU efforts have failed to gain significant traction.


 WBAA AM/FM, based at Purdue University in West Lafayette, is looking for a Corporate Support Representative. WBAA has been building a reputation as an up-and-coming shop in recent years. They are making an investment in the future by bringing in bright new folks.   

GM Mike Savage and Content Director Greg Kostraba have been upgrading WBAA’s programming and building relationships with businesses, foundations and WFYI in Indianapolis. Though the job is essentially a “sales” position, the new Corporate Support Representative will be a 100% salaried position.

The WBAA job looks like a good opportunity for someone who is looking to make a career in public media in a place where staff are recognized, nurtured and appreciated. The balance between work and life is important at WBAA. According to Forbes Magazine [link] Lafayette is the second best small city in the nation for starting new businesses and advancing careers.

To learn more about this opportunity go to [link].


Mark & Judy Handley
One of public media’s most admired leaders, Mark Handley, passed away on September 11th after a five-year battle with cancer. Handley made many contributions to public media but he is best known for taking New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) from being a sleepy mom-and-pop operation to become a statewide news network.

Handley retired from NHPR in 2005 to embarked with his wife on a trip around the world on the Windbird, their sailboat.

Betsy Gardella, current president and CEO of NHPR, told the New Hampshire Sunday News [link] that Handley “…was an ethical, kind, very, very thoughtful man who was extraordinary at building relationships." 

Handley served as chairman of the NPR board.  He loved public radio news because "it's better if more people can share in the same common base of knowledge.”