Localism emphasis poses risk

Of all the complex and potentially fateful decisions faced by public radio program directors as they navigate the emergence of multiplatform distribution, one of the most significant is the drive to “go local” and produce more local programs, especially news and information. This push signals a strategic shift for public radio, with potentially enormous consequences for growth or decline. Audience 2010, one of a series of landmark research reports on programming trends published in the previous decade, reported that much of the credit for the growth of public radio listenership could be traced to a shift “away from local production toward network production, away from music-based content toward news, information and entertainment.” That shift was extraordinarily successful, representing two decades of impressive audience expansion and financial growth at a time when other parts of the radio industry struggled. Now, it appears that program decision-makers are changing course. But why would dozens of stations move off the path that worked so well and choose another approach that, viewed through the lens of audience research, would seem to be both more costly and less powerful in attracting listenership?

Arbitron reports new benchmark for pubradio news/talk audience

Audiences for news and talk stations delivered more than half of public radio's listening in 2012, according to Arbitron's annual study on public radio audience trends. The average quarter-hour (AQH) share, an Arbitron term describing the percentage of public radio listeners who tune to a specific format, hit 51.7 percent for pubradio news and talk stations last year, an 2.7 percent increase from 2011 and a precedent for the growth of public radio's most powerful format, according to Arbitron's "Public Radio Today 2013." The study, which looked at audience trends across all stations and formats in 2012, found that public radio's total audience remained at 32 million, or 12 percent, of all radio listeners. The number of weekly listeners grew by 7.5 percent, or 1.2 million, to a total of 18 million. Triple-A stations contributed to the gains by boosting the format's weekly cume to 3.4 million listeners, an increase of 8.7 percent.

Nielsen to buy Arbitron in $1.6 billion deal

The landscape of the audience-ratings business began shifting with this morning's announcement that Nielsen Holdings plans to buy Arbitron Inc. in a $1.62 billion all-cash deal. New York-based Nielsen will pay $48 per share under the sales agreement, a 26 percent premium from Maryland-based Arbitron’s closing price on Monday. The deal, announced Tuesday, is supported by the boards of both companies. Bloomberg News reports that the agreement will have to meet antitrust standards of the Federal Trade Commission before the sale can close. “I would expect to see some push back from local customers like local radio and TV operating groups,” Rich Tullo, an analyst at Albert Fried & Co.

PRPD honors a co-founder and presents a special award to a key provider of audience data

The Public Radio Program Directors Association gave its 2012 Don Otto Award to audience researcher Peter Dominowski, who co-founded PRPD in 1987. PRPD bestowed the award Sept. 13 in Las Vegas, where it observed its 25th anniversary as an organization. Dominowski is president of Market Trends Research, a market-research company based in Matheson, Colo. In presenting the award, Jeff Hansen, p.d. at Seattle’s KUOW, cited Dominowski’s many focus groups and research studies, and his work with the Morning Edition Grad School training sessions for stations and as a member of the Strategic Programming Partners consultancy.

Car Talk was still #1 among NPR weekend shows in spring 2012

A new report from Walrus Research shows that NPR’s Car Talk continued its streak as NPR’s most popular weekend program in Spring 2012, with Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! coming in second and Weekend Edition Saturday a more distant third. The report says airing the three shows in sequence is the “ideal scheduling to benefit all three programs.” Car Talk goes into repeats starting next month.

What to do about public radio’s ratings slide?

Now that Arbitron’s new ratings methodology is providing consistent and crunchable year-to-year data on radio listening, public radio programmers and producers are getting a clearer picture of listening trends — and it’s not a cheerful one. Cume and average–quarter-hour audience for NPR News stations has been falling for a year, according to NPR data. AQH began falling in 2008, after stations in the top 48 markets began the switch from diary to Portable People Meter ratings. Weekly cumes remained relatively consistent through spring 2011, then began a sharp decline. The slides have been driven in part by a fall-off in drivetime listening.


Core value of PRPD: ‘Think audience’

When Public Radio Program Directors Association was formed 25 years ago, the idea that programmers should do things for an audience “felt like a complete revolution,” says Marcia Alvar in a Q&A with three of the founders.