Thursday, May 18, 2017


JJ Yore, smiling
JJ Yore is probably smiling today. Since Yore became GM of WAMU in August 2014 the number of weekly cumulative listeners to the station has grown over 200,000, a 24% increase. Yore turned what had been a languishing air sound into the radio heartbeat of DC. He brought a real sense of purpose to the team at WAMU and made WAMU the number one station in the market.

Meanwhile, the number of public radio news listeners in Boston continues to rise thanks to a competitive battle between WBUR and WGBH. The winners in Boston are the listeners to both stations. This fact supports the notion that when two stations with similar formats compete, more listeners tune in.

Today we are examining the track records of six more NPR News stations in Nielsen Audio PPM markets. Using just released ratings estimates from April 2017 we are comparing performance in April with Fall 2016 to detect trends since the elections. To bring additional context to the discussion, we are also comparing April 2017 numbers with Spring 2012 to establish a five-year trend.

On the left is a chart showing estimated weekly listeners in Fall 2016 and April 2017. Of the 14 station’s PPM ratings we have examined so far, almost 80% have either gained weekly listeners, or stayed about the same, between Fall election and April 2017. Only three have lost weekly listeners during the same period.

The chart on the right is equally as amazing. In the five years between Spring 2012 and April 2017 three out of four of the stations examined so far have increased their number of weekly listeners. Considering the media landscape where radio listening is falling about one percent per year and the incredible proliferations of news sources, public radio news is hot commodity.

Let’s look at each of the six stations, listed by market rank:

Since Spring 2012, the number of estimated weekly listeners to WAMU has increased by 238,300 – an increase of 27%. 

For the third consecutive “PPM month” WAMU also has led commercial news/talk powerhouse WTOP in AQH share. 

(WTOP’s weekly cume is still a bit higher than WAMU's.)

Both Boston News/Talk stations have increased their estimated weekly listeners since the fall 2016 election.   

In fact, WBUR has increased the number of weekly listeners 10%.  WGBH’s number of estimated weekly listeners was up 5%. 

This is a big deal in the noncom world.

If you add the weekly listeners to both stations and create a hypothetical single station, there are more NPR News listeners in Boston than the San Francisco Bay area.

WGBH increased their number of weekly listeners by 210,000 between Spring 2012 and April 2017, a gain of 47%.

Meanwhile, KNKX (formerly KPLU) seems to be having problems. Their number of estimated weekly listeners has fallen by 19% since Spring 2012, the worst performance for any of the 14 stations we have examined so far. KNKX is a dual format station – NPR News and Jazz.

KUOW keeps chugging along, particularly since the fall election. 

But, the number of KUOW’s estimated weekly listeners is about the same as it was in Spring 2012.

MPR’s KNOW has positioned itself as “the news of record” in the Twin Cities ever since commercial station WCCO-AM abandoned the position. 

KNOW’s on-air, online and mobile content continues to draw more listeners and viewers.

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