Thursday, July 26, 2018


Jarl Mohn at the 2014 PRPD Conference
Powered by the growth of estimated weekly listeners to stations in the top twenty radio markets, the audience for NPR News/Talk stations grew 5% between June 2016 and June 2018. 

Plus, two out of three of the 48 full-time NPR News/Talk stations in Nielsen Audio PPM markets had more weekly listeners in 2018 compared to 2016.

The gain in weekly listeners is particularly notable because it was expected that listening would drop back to pre-election numbers after the November 2016 election. Now, 19 months after the election, it is clear that the majority of NPR News/Talk stations had more estimated weekly listeners in June 2018 than they had in June 2016, five months prior to the election.

NPR News/Talk stations in the top twenty markets led the pattern of growth, increasing their estimated weekly listeners by over 7%. WNYC-FM, New York, led the gains, growing their weekly listeners by 173,200 new weekly listeners (19%) in June 2018, compared to June 2016. Other top twenty stations that contributed double-digit gains included WBUR, WGBH, WABE, KNOW, KERA, KOPB and KJZZ.

Of the 48 full-time NPR News/Talk stations, 32 (67%) has more estimated weekly listeners in June 2018 than they did in June 2016. 

The number of weekly listeners to the 48 stations in June 2018 was 12,738,900, compared to 12,110,400 in June 2016.

However, not all of the 48 stations contributed to the bounty.   

WDET, Detroit, lost 80,000 estimated weekly listeners during the period, down 43%. 

Also, WUSF, Tampa lost 62,300 weekly listeners in 2018, a 29% loss.

Stations with the largest percentage growth over the period were in smaller PPM markets. Torey Malatia’s WELH a/k/a Rhode Island Public Radio, increased their number of estimated weekly from June 2016 to June 2018 by 60%.  Also, there were major gains in a market where NPR News has historically under-performed: KVCR, Riverside/San Bernardino.

The picture was different for seven stations with dual-formats in PPM markets. 

Only KNKX, Seattle and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s WRAS in Atlanta increased their number of estimated weekly listeners between June 2016 and June 2018.

The other five dual-format stations lost weekly listeners led by KCRW with a loss of 122,700 weekly listeners during the period.

There are two other news/talk stations that were hard to classify. WHAD in Milwaukee, part of the Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) Ideas Network, had a 34% gain in weekly listeners during the period.   

This is a model that other stations can adopt.

KCPW, Salt Lake City, remains the outlier.  The community station makes ample use of syndicated programming such as BBC World Service and CBC from Canada. Perhaps KPCW should concentrate of local versions of shows like 1A and replicate WPR’s talk menu.

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