‘The Pub’ #28: A Martínez on how KPCC doubled its Latino audience

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Martínez and his Take Two co-host, Alex Cohen, in KPCC‘s studios. (Photo: Southern California Public Radio)

Martínez and his Take Two co-host, Alex Cohen, in KPCC‘s studios. (Photo: Southern California Public Radio)

Southern California Public Radio’s recently concluded, three-year, $6 million CPB-funded quest to court Latino audiences met with its share of criticism along the way.

“[T]he station’s managers have been forced to defend their expansion plans — and the very idea of older white men designing programming meant to appeal to Latinos,” Tessa Stuart wrote in a 2012 LA Weekly article about SCPR’s hiring of ESPN Radio commentator A Martínez and the ensuing departure of host Madeline Brand.

But now that the numbers are in, it’s clear that the strategy worked. From 2009 to 2014, Latino listenership to KPCC (SCPR’s Pasadena-based flagship station) doubled, while the station managed to hold its white audience, resulting in a 27 percent overall increase in audience size and equally dramatic gains in membership.

How KPCC did it is the subject of the “Brown Paper,” a research report from the Latino Public Radio Consortium in which Martínez is portrayed as playing a key role for his crossover appeal to new audiences.

“Marketers and radio stations all around the country don’t know exactly what to do with this Latin-American market,” Martínez told me on The Pub. “They have no idea — like, ‘Well what do we do, do we put a lot of soccer on, and then are they going to like that?’ No, you put interesting things on. You put things [on] that are exciting, that people want to be a part of.”

Martínez joins me on the show this week with his colleague Edgar Aguirre, whom SCPR hired at this beginning of this process to handle multiethnic outreach. They both insist other stations can duplicate at least a bit of their success, even without $6 million in CPB money.

Also this week:

  • Mike Pesca, former NPR sports correspondent and now host of Slate’s daily podcast The Gist, rebuts the argument from last week’s show that there are certain words we shouldn’t say on the air.
  • Undaunted by Pesca’s argument, Pub listeners point out some of the words that are common on the air now that we should think about purging from our lexicons.
  • I question the fairness of media watchdog FAIR’s recent studies criticizing the lack of diversity on station boards and in regular commentator segments on NPR.

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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.