Pew Research Center, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has become a standard for public opinion research and data analysis, last week released a new State of the News Media report focused public radio news listening [link]. Pew went gaga over the dramatic increase of estimated weekly listeners to NPR News/Talk stations in the past three years.
This is not “new” news to folks who work in public radio or frequent readers of Spark News. On May 24th [link] we published a similar report about four-year Nielsen Audio trends that provided more detailed information. Our conclusion was the same as Pew’s – NPR News has been making notable gains in listening in the past few years.
The report is important because of Pew’s wide distribution and stamp of validity. That said, we were disappointed by flaws in Pew’s methodology. We will cite examples in red and report these deficiencies to Pew.
NATIONAL REACH OF NPR NEWS
Pew says that the top 20 NPR-affiliated public radio stations had an average total weekly audience of 11 million in 2017, up from 10 million in 2016. As the chart on the right shows, weekly listeners to these 20 stations grew from 8,724,100 in 2015 to 10,212,600 in 2016 and 11,210,500 in 2017. Pew doesn’t not list the in-tab stations.
Pew also widened their analysis by looking at 123 stations they categorize as “mainly news” providers. Again, Pew doesn’t list the in-tab stations or define what “mainly news” means.
Ratings data for the 123 stations that Pew designated as “mainly news” had around 30 million weekly listeners in 2017 – up a bit from 2015 and about the same in 2017.
LISTENING BY NETWORK
Pew provides estimates of audience for NPR, American Public Media (APM) and Public Radio International (PRI) but omits data for programs from PRX. PRX revolutionized how public radio programming is distributed and not listing them is major flaw of this report.
According to Pew, NPR is the network with the largest reach in 2017 with 30.1 million estimated weekly listeners. APM has 20.5 million and PRI has 8.8 million.
Pew never makes it clear that stations can, and do, air programming from all three networks during the same week. Is Pew reporting listening to all programs from each network or “mainly news” programs? They don’t tell you which programs are included in their data.
INVESTMENT IN LOCAL NEWS
On the left are two charts from the Pew report that show revenue and expenses for the 123 “news oriented” stations from 2008 to 2016.
Pew claims that local stations are investing more in news programming.
Anecdotally this seems true. But Pew uses total station revenue and expenses to make their point.
But revenue and expense numbers aren’t the same as investments in local news.
KEN SAYS: It is surprising that Pew Research Institute will let such sloppy work out the door.
Next time Pew, please hire someone who has first-hand knowledge of public radio system to vet reports about public radio.
NIELSEN AUDIO MAY PPM TRENDS FOR THE TOP FOUR RADIO MARKETS
Today we begin reporting on just-released Nielsen Audio PPM ratings for May 2018. For perspective, we are comparing May 2018 with May 2017. WNYC-FM increased their number of weekly listeners by 130,000.
In New York both WNYC-FM and WNYC-AM increased their estimated weekly listeners by sizable percentages since May 2017.
Also it is nice to see both WFUV and WBGO show gains in weekly listeners.
There has been a big swing in listening to the two rated Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) stations. WAWZ from north New Jersey is live, local and on the street meeting listeners. WKLV is satellite-fed K-Love with no actual human beings locally involved.
The May PPM ratings show nice growth for APM’s KPCC. But KCRW’s estimated weekly listeners, compared to May 2017, were down by double digits.
We are waiting for Sky Daniels at KCSN/88.5 to subscribe to Nielsen so 88.5’s numbers can be shown.
In Chicago WBEZ had its best “book” in two years, increasing weekly listeners by almost 100,000 people.
May 2018 is the first full month for K-Love on WCKL, the station that recently replaced The Loop. I know The Loop and you are no Loop, K-Love.
Despite losing almost 60,000 estimated weekly listeners between May 2017 and May 2018, KQED continues to dominate the Bay Area ratings.
KQED’s AQH share (8.1%) is almost double Entercom-owned KCBS-AM/KFRC-FM combo.