Study of NPR’s Spark Initiative shows stations getting Morning Edition boost

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A recent study of 57 public radio stations, many of which have been heavily promoting NPR’s Morning Edition, found that more than half saw an increase in listenership to the show during a 10-week period ending March 25 compared to the same period last year.

The study, conducted by NPR, the Radio Research Consortium and the Public Radio Program Directors Association, aimed to gauge the effectiveness of the Spark Initiative, a systemwide promotional effort spearheaded by NPR to increase average–quarter-hour audience metrics for the show. The study found that 17 stations reported increases in listenership of at least 20 percent, including KALW in San Francisco; KUT in Austin, Texas; WBEZ in Chicago; WGBH in Boston; and KNPR in Las Vegas.

Another 15 reported increases of up to 20 percent.

However, 16 stations had a decrease in AQH of more than 20 percent, including WYPR in Baltimore, KUOW in Seattle and KUHF in Houston. Another 8 saw decreases of up to of 20 percent.

NPR launched Spark Jan. 14 with the aim of increasing Morning Edition’s average–quarter-hour audience by 10 percent through heavy on-air promotion by stations. Introducing the initiative, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn said increased listenership for the flagship newsmagazines would help NPR and stations secure underwriting.

Participating stations are airing 100 Morning Edition promotional spots weekly from Jan. 14 to June 26, highlighting local and national stories airing within the newsmagazine. A second phase scheduled for July through December will focus on promotion of All Things Considered.

Program directors: Beyond the metrics, how is Spark working for you?

Update: NPR CEO Jarl Mohn said in a statement that the next planned promotional push, this time for All Things Considered, would take place in the fall after reviewing how Spark fared.

“We’re learning a lot from our work together on Morning Edition,” Mohn said. “We want to allow time to consider the results, the successes and challenges stations had, and then apply those things in support of All Things Considered.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story included incorrect call letters for KUHF in Houston, and had an incorrect date for the end of Spark.

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