Thursday, May 24, 2018


Today we are looking at Nielsen Audio trends for 20 representative NPR News/Talk stations from April 2014 to April 2018. We have two thesis questions:

• Have these 20 stations experienced audience growth since 2014?

• Have these stations maintained or grown their audience since the November 2016?

We are using two of Nielsen’s most basic metrics: Average-Quarter-Hour (AQH) share and weekly cumulative listeners, often called the “cume.”

We won’t hold you in suspense.  The answers to our questions are: Yes, these stations have increased there AQH and number or weekly listeners since 2014.  Yes, almost all of the 20 stations are holding their peak audiences since the election.

For reading clarity, the charts as a full page followed by discussion.  What you will be seeing is an incredible American radio success story during a time when most radio stations and formats are in decline.

All 20 stations increased their number of estimated weekly listeners between April 2014 and April 2018.  The average gain was 16.0%.

The stations that gained the largest percentages were KUT in Austin (up 35%) and KUOW in Seattle and WGBH in Boston (both up 34%).

Note the numbers highlighted on the chart. Green highlight identifies the Nielsen survey month when a station had the largest number of weekly listeners during the four-year period. Yellow highlight identifies the month when a station had the lowest number of weekly listeners.

Seventeen of the 20 stations (85%) had their lowest number of weekly listeners in April 2014 or April 2015.

Twelve of the 20 stations (60%) had their highest number of weekly listeners in two most recent surveys October 2017 or April 2018.

Nineteen of the 20 stations (95%) increased their AQH share percentage between April 2014 and April 2018.  The average gain was 27.6%. WUOM, Ann Arbor/Detroit was the only station that experienced an AQH decline.

The gains in AQH was remarkable at some of the stations. WBUR in Boston increased its AQH share 59% between April 2014 and April 2018.  KUT increased its AQH by 49%. WBEZ was up 43%.  Both WNYC-FM and WHYY increased their AQH by 41%.

We do not have words to describe the importance of these trends. The gains are likely the greatest increases in AQH by stations of any format in recent years. The gains in AQH share by NPR News Stations fly in the faces of those who say traditional radio is dying.

Note the numbers highlighted on the chart. Green highlight identifies the Nielsen survey month when a station had the highest AQH share during the four-year period. Yellow highlight identifies the survey month when a station had the lowest number of weekly listeners


In our post last Tuesday [link] about Jacobs Media’s 2018 Techsurvey, we wrote:

The self-recruited sample [used by Jacobs] makes it difficult to compare the Tech Surveys to research that is based on random samples. Tech Surveys can only be compared with other Tech Surveys.

Seth Resler, Digital Strategist at Jacobs Media, sent us this comment:

Seth Resler
“Edison does very good work, so I am inclined to believe in their results. The primary difference between Edison’s study and our annual Techsurvey is that Edison is a small phone sample of the general population, and we are a large email survey of radio fans.”

“So while our results frequently mirror Edison’s, we tend to see higher streaming numbers because we are measuring people that have signed up for a radio station’s email database.”

We did point out the differences in methodology in our story but we didn’t compare the value of the two methodologies.  In fact, as broadcasters, we think Jacobs’ annual surveys are more actionable than surveys that reflect the general population.

The reason is the importance of knowing a station’s core listeners, the “P-1s” as they are known in the biz. Not only are these listeners the station’s “best customers” they also include powerful brand advocates who provide the kind of endorsement that money can’t buy.

Resler pointed out in his email that, coincidentally, Fred Jacobs posted about the crucial value of these advocates on his blog [link] the same day as our post.  Jacobs said is his post:

Fred Jacobs in 1986
“From my early days as a researcher, and then as a radio programmer, I’ve been a strong believer in ‘The 80:20 Rule,’ originally coined Pareto’s Principle.  It states that 20% of a population (listeners, sales reps, baseball players) produce 80% of the results (ratings, sales, runs)."

"While it is important not to solely focus on your P1 listeners – at the expense of more casual users of your station – it’s an even bigger mistake not to respect the huge contribution your biggest fans make to the greater good."

Jacobs goes on in his post to discuss “Creating Customer Evangelists” and other ideas to mobilize station fans to generate buzz about a station and its programming components. All of this process starts by getting to know listener’s preferences and habits.  That is something Jacobs’ Techsurveys do very, very well.

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