Friday, April 28, 2017


Which music radio format talks the most about taking drugs and drinking way too much alcohol? You might have guessed Rap or Hard Rock but a new study has found that it is actually Country music. For every God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood, there is a world of cheatin’, drinkin’, druggin’ and rehabin’ goin’ on with Country music folks. News of the survey was recently published in Newsweek [link].  

That was the conclusion of a new study published by They are a for-profit business that specializes in matching the addicted with treatment centers, for a fee, of course. does not provide the methodology of the study but someone spent a lot of time listening to several popular music formats counting the references to drugs and heavy drinking.

According to their research, the type of music that mentioned drugs the most is Country, followed by Jazz, Pop, Electronic, Rock, Folk and Rap respectively.   

The first chart on the right is from the study. Without knowing the survey methodology, it is hard to know what exactly it means.

If you are wondering about the relatively low mention of drug references in the Rap genre, Logan Freedman, a data scientist at, said more research needed to be done to determine why rappers aren’t talking about drugs as it seems they used to.

KEN SAYS: From my unofficial observation, the people who talk the most about drugs are people that don’t have them.  Conversely, people who seldom talk about drugs are the ones who have the best stuff.

Marijuana is the most frequently mentioned drug, as you can see in the second chart on the right. Researcher Freedman explains why this may be true:

"It’s really amazing, I think because marijuana has become more normalized in our culture, a lot of country artists are singing about it more often than ever. 

We did this study to raise awareness about how drug references in music on the radio may interact with addiction, and to alert people in case they want to avoid hearing about drugs in their everyday music."


This coming October 1st, I will have been working, in one-way or another, in the radio biz. Fifty years earlier, on October 1, 1967 at Midnight, I became a “KISD Good Guy.” KISD-AM, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was a hot Top 40 station that sounded much bigger than the market. 

I quickly moved up to a full-time gig, 7pm – Midnight. This was a great place to start a career.

I’ve been very fortunate to have a career that almost never has seemed like work. From time to time I will be sharing pages from my career as October approaches.  Today I have two short YouTube films:

The first is I’m Getting Kissed in Siouxland, which tells the true story of how I started in the biz, the people I worked with, changes in society and when I met my first love.

The second is The Wayward Wind, how I first got interested in radio. It all started with my mom when I was a little kid.  She always had the radio on.  The film is based on a memory of the first time a voice on the radio took me away and I never returned to earth.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Today we have good news about three content competitions – Regional Murrow Awards, Peabody Awards and Webby Awards – where public media folks have done very, very well. Though it is nice to get praise from the organizations that sponsor these awards, public radio, TV and online producers do not have a national competition.  Because of this fact, there is lots of good work that does not get the credit it deserves.

Current awards competitions are fine but they reflect only a sliver of worthy content made by stations, national networks, indies, bloggers and podcasters. For instance, the PRNDI Awards only accept submissions from members; the Third Coast Festival often salutes international producers with “beauty contest” categories; and the National Student Electronic Media Convention’s  College Broadcaster Awards are an excellent competition by and for college broadcasters and webcasters.

Washington DC Hilton site of many PRCs
Public radio used to have two awards contests with a national scope. CPB sponsored an annual competition and honored the winners at the old Public Radio Conference (PRC). About 20-years ago the PRC folded and CPB wanted to look as lean as possible, so they cancelled their contest.

The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) had an annual awards competition – The Golden Reels – until the early 2000s. Then NFCB went through financial and governance upheavals and dropped the contest.

DISCLOSURE: Three years ago I was talking with representatives of a public radio organization about partnering with them on a system wide awards competition. That organization eventually passed but I amassed some very useful information about these types of contests. I am still interesting in partnering with another organization on an awards project.  Please contact me if you want more information.

Why would sponsoring a public media awards contest be attractive to a nonprofit organization with national credibility?

• Properly run, awards contests are moneymakers.

• Competitions position the sponsor as a system leader whose credibility and gravitas is equal to NPR or any other national program producers.

• Awards contests are high visibility events. They enhance the sense of community. They also provide visibility for newer producers on their way up.


WBUR, Boston and KBIA, Columbia, Missouri led the winners with 10 awards each.  WLRN, Miami won nine. KERA-FM, Dallas won won eight “Murrows.”

There were 751 awards in 16 categories. Regional winners now advance to the national competition.  The national Murrow Award winners will be announced in June and will be honored in New York on October 9th.

You can see a complete list of regional winners by clicking here.


Winners include three public media organizations, two podcasters and one national radio program. Peabody Award winners this year were American Public Media’s In the Dark podcast; This American Life’s Anatomy of a Doubt podcast; and NPR's reporting on the Wells Fargo consumer fraud scandal.

The Peabody Awards will be handed out on May 20th in New York.

You can see a complete list of the winners here.


The Webby Awards honor “the best of the internet” in many different categories, including podcasts.

This years podcasting winners include:

• Radiotopia/PRX for Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible in the People’s Voice category

• WNYC and Freakonomics Radio for Is The Internet Being Ruined? In the Best Individual Episode category

Marketplace for Codebreaker in the People’s Voice category

• American Public Media for The Hilarious World of Depression

The Kitchen Sisters for The Kitchen Sisters Present

Reveal from PRX and the Center for Investigative Reporting for Voting Rights and Wrongs

• NPR for Hidden Brain

The Webbys will be presented on May 16th in a ceremony to be streamed on YouTube. You can the list of winners here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Dee Alexander
Dan Bindert, station manager of WDCB, likes to build bridges in Chicago.   

He has crafted an unusual partnership with WFMT Radio Network to bring Sunday Jazz with Dee Alexander, to Chicago area listeners. 

According to a post by Robert Feder [link], the program will premiere on WDCB Sunday May 7th from 8pm – 10pm. 

Legendary Chicago jazz vocalist Dee Alexander is the host. The debut on WDCB is notable because it is the first show to air locally from WFMT Radio Network’s newly rebranded Jazz Network. Bindert told Feder:

Dan Bindert
“We’re ecstatic to have an artist of Dee Alexander’s stature joining our radio lineup. Dee’s wonderful voice and warm personality, combined with her unique insights and deep knowledge of the music – that’s an unbeatable combination for a jazz radio program.”

Bindert said WDCB’s arrangement with WFMT not a large scale partnership, but rather collaborative friendship built in recent years:

We’ve already had a good, friendly handshake type relationship with WFMT for several years now. We’ve cooperated with them on ISDN and other tech setups, for instance, that allowed us to broadcast live portions of the Chicago Jazz Festival from the Chicago Cultural Center for the last few years.

And we’ve also had a great relationship with Dee Alexander for years as a prominent Chicago musician performing at our jazz events and on-air as a guest or a guest host for occasional in-studio radio projects.  

Bindert said that WDCB wants to work with WFMT in the future on occasional projects that will that will be enjoyed by Chicago listeners.


Israel Smith
Israel Smith, NPR’s Senior Director of Promotion & Audience Development, posted a notice that NPR is looking for a creative fundraising pro to become Assistant Producer for Programming Fundraising. Smith describes a key attribute of the person NPR is looking for:

A person who wakes up most mornings thinking about how to engage audiences in new ways. Come join Team NPR and amplify public radio's story in America.

The person chosen will assist the production of fundraising material for use by stations and NPR on broadcast and digital platforms. The successful candidate will be a creative, collaborative producer who can successfully initiate content and strategies based on the news cycle and how NPR fits into listener’s lives.

The new Assistant Producer for Programming Fundraising will have plenty of contact with member stations and actively participate in public media fundraising discussions.  Perhaps most importantly, the successful candidate needs a “listener-focused approach.”

If this sounds like you or someone you know, more information is available here.


The folks producing the upcoming Worldwide Radio Summit 17 [link] have released another drop of information from Fred Jacobs’ presentation of Tech Survey 13, scheduled for Thursday, May 4th at the commercial broadcasters conference. Tech Survey 13 is the commercial radio cousin of the Public Radio Tech Survey 9 which will be presented in August at the PRPD Content Conference.

click to enlarge
The sneak peek from Tech Survey 13 answers the question: What Are Consumers Doing When They’re Listening To Audio On Headphones? 

As you might know, headphone listening has been a big topic in recent months because Nielsen Audio PPM devices can’t “hear” encoding information embedded in station signals. Therefore, the listening may not be included in the ratings.

Tech Survey 13 probed the use of headphones and “earbuds” by survey respondents. The chart above on the right shows some of what Jacobs learned. About half of the sample said they frequently or occasionally wear headphones while listening to audio while working out. More than three in ten respondents use headphones/earbuds while at work.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Jacobs Media’s Tech Surveys have become an annual status report of how radio listeners are adapting to, and using, digital platforms and devices.  Jacobs does two major Tech Surveys each year – one measuring commercial radio listeners and the other examining noncommercial public radio listeners. (Jacobs has also done periodic surveys of religious noncom listeners.)

On Thursday, May 4th, Jacobs will unveil Tech Survey 13 at the World Wide Radio Summit 2017, a global commercial radio conference, next week in Los Angeles.  Tech Survey 13 looks at media habits and preferences of more 51,000 commercial radio listeners from over 300 stations. The research was conducted in January and February 2017.

Ever the forward promoters, Jacobs released a few factoids from Tech Survey 13 yesterday. The headline is Millennials Finally Have Their Own Social Media Platform. It is Snapchat and Instagram. The study finds decreasing interest in Facebook, which seems to be becoming the place where your parents hang out.

Fred Jacobs commented in a press release:

click to enlarge
"Digging a bit deeper, Millennials with a Snapchat profile are up 10 percentage points from last year.  And their daily usage of the app is also on the rise.  INSTAGRAM is also showing strong increases, an indicator this generation is finally getting social networks of their own."

On the right is a chart from Tech Survey 13 showing Millenial’s use of Social Media sites.

Tech Survey 13 is the older cousin of Jacobs Public Radio Tech Survey 9, which is being conducted now and will be released at the PRPD Content Conference in August. You can see the results of Tech Survey 12 here and Public Radio Tech Survey 8 here.


We’ve been looking for a concise way to monitor estimated weekly listeners to NPR News stations over time.  As you have read here and elsewhere, news stations are seeing record number of weekly listeners because, in part, the 2016 election and subsequent events thatseem to be creating intense interest in news and analysis. Observers are watching to see if the impressive gains in listening to NPR News stations will continue through 2017.

Today we look at six bell-weather stations over a period of five years. All five have seen remarkable growth since 2012: Estimated weekly cumulative listeners are up 21% at KQED, 28% at WAMU, 23% at WNYC-FM, 20% at KPCC, 22% WBUR and an incredible 45% jump at WGBH.

Please let me know what you think of the charts and analysis at publicradio at I’d appreciate your feedback.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Frank Dominguez (Photo: Charlotte Magazine)
Last week The Charlotte Observer ran a fascinating article [link] about the continued success of WDAV, Charlotte, and General Manager Frank Dominguez. Since Dominguez became GM over a decade ago, WDAV has become one of the most successful Classical music stations in the nation.  

 The ratings are strong and the station’s $1.8 million annual budget is self-sustaining.

The article explores reasons for WDAV’s recent success. One big factor, according to Dominguez, is WDAV’s “oasis effect.” This “oasis” is created by a continuous flow of music, a non-contentious style and building a haven away from a society that seems to be increasingly filled with political and social rancor.

Dominguez told The Observer:

“Part of it is probably the times we live in. It causes people to seek an oasis that they might not have sought two years ago. Everyone needs an oasis to decompress or recharge.”

Dominguez cites the reaction of listeners to WDAV’s decision in 2015 to eliminate hourly NPR newscasts. Overall listening rose almost immediately. Dominguez thought there might some backlash about not airing news, but he says over 90% of the listeners he has encountered like the change. Dominguez realized that WDAV wasn’t a news destination. So he is focusing on what works: Classical music with very few interruptions, locally-based hosts that provide loving curation of the music and station engagement with Charlotte’s music scene.

Perhaps the key to Dominguez's success is WDAV’s ability to be both an oasis and a community organizer at the same time.


Source: Walrus Research
If Dominguez’s description of the “oasis effect” rings a bell, it is because around 15 years ago research George Bailey labeled these listeners Classical Music Monks. In Bailey’s chart on the right, he compares characteristics of NPR News listeners and what he calls Classical music “monk” listeners.

Bailey’s terminology was criticized as a simplistic stereotype but what he saw could not be denied:  A sizable portion radio listeners only want music. And, they don’t want to be disturbed. Bailey wrote in 2004:

Most importantly, we found that classical music listeners, in sharp contrast to NPR Activists who engage with the troubled world, use the classical music format to relieve stress—an escape from contemporary problems. The classical listening experience was described in meditative, interior phrases such as "A necessity for my soul,"
"Relaxing, calming, sailing,"
and "A quiet forest meadow on a spring day."

According to The Observer article, Dominguez has found the “secret sauce” to appeal to older, passive listeners and younger, more engaged listeners. He points out that while half of WDAV’s listeners are older than 55, a quarter of the station’s listeners are under 35.


WDAV’s estimated weekly listeners were down a bit from February 2017. NPR News station WFAE continues to ride the news listening wave. Look at the showing by South Carolina Public Radio’s WNSE.  They are 24/7 news and talk and they put a terrific signal into metro Charlotte and their estimated weekly listeners continues to grow.

In Austin, NPR News KUT was down slightly from February. KUT may have set a record high number of weekly listeners in February.  KDRP’s performance shows they have some powerful mojo on the rise.

NOTE TO WMOT: If you haven’t done it already, investigate why KDRP is growing audience and you seem stuck in reverse. WMOT is a close cousin of KDRP.

KOPB, Portland continues to set new records for the estimated number of weekly listeners. KOPB is also #2 in AQH share percentage.  Nice to see KBOO’s number of weekly listeners is growing. They are one of the very few old-dchool community stations that subscribe to Nielsen.