It’s time for public radio stations to stop over-programming weekends

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Your station’s weekends are over-programmed. Fixing this can free up a massive amount of resources, as well as grow your audience.

Over-programming isn’t a recent development. It has been going on for decades. 

When I was a young producer at WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, I talked the station manager into letting me go to my first Public Radio Program Directors Association conference. I was so excited to be around those who were leading the industry I was trying to become a part of. 

The first morning of the first day at that conference, I attended a session called “It’s Time to Fix the Weekends.”

This was 1994.

At that time, station weekend schedules were a patchwork of different formats, styles and audience appeal. Some stations even aired programs in different languages throughout a weekend.

In the 26 years since that conference session, the audience served by public radio has more than doubled on the whole. But the weekend programming practices of stations have only marginally improved. Any increases in weekend audience have been passive. Consistent scheduling practices have emerged on Saturday mornings, the weekend daypart with the highest potential audience. But the rest of the weekends haven’t changed all that much.

Who do you serve? 

One problem is the number of different programs that stations air over a weekend. I reviewed the program schedules for the top 100 news and information stations based on audience size. The average number of unduplicated shows aired over Saturdays and Sundays is 25. 

Do all those programs help build audience? Station listeners — including even core listeners who love your station and are its heaviest users — usually listen for a total of one or two hours every weekend. By scheduling so many programs, most stations are offering a multiple of 10 times the amount of programming that most listeners will ever hear.

If this programming so drastically overshoots that audience’s ability to consume it, why is it in your schedule?  

This leads to a bigger question: Who are weekends programmed for? They certainly aren’t programmed for listeners. 

Programs that deserve airtime 

As an industry, public radio invests far too much into weekend programs that do not deserve their places in station schedules. Most of these programs do not generate enough public service to justify that investment.

Across the entire schedule — weekdays and weekends — there are more than 400 distributed programs available for acquisition by stations. But just 20 acquired programs attract 80% of all listening to stations. That means the other 380 programs account for only the remaining 20% of all listening to national programs.

Granted, because this list of 400-plus programs includes weekend and weekday syndicated programs, most of those top 20 shows are weekday programs. They include NPR’s newsmagazines and other widely carried midday programs. Only four of the 20 are weekend shows: Weekend Edition Saturday, Weekend Edition Sunday, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, and This American Life

The 200 programs on the bottom of that list account for just 0.4% of all listening to acquired programs. That bears repeating: 200 programs combined account for less than half of one percent of listening.

The bottom 200 programs are almost entirely weekend programs.

If they generate so little listening and just create glut, my question isn’t “Why do these programs exist?” Instead, I want to know why your station is airing them. 

Without fail, every station ranked within the top 100 list airs at least one of those underperforming programs. Every. Single. One.

To expand our “top programs” list to include more than four weekend shows, I broadened the definition of “success” on weekends. The list expanded to 16 weekend shows. It includes the four shows I mentioned earlier — Weekend Edition Saturday, Weekend Edition Sunday, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, and This American Life — as well as Radiolab, Weekend All Things Considered (Saturday), TED Radio Hour, On the Media, Moth Radio Hour, Weekend All Things Considered (Sunday), Ask Me Another, The New Yorker Radio Hour, Reveal, Snap Judgment, Hidden Brain and It’s Been a Minute.

 

The shows on this list are the only public radio syndicated weekend programs that, individually, achieve a minimum of one-quarter of one percent of national listening. Not a terribly high bar.

‘Hide it on the weekend’ is a cop-out

A number of station programmers will defend their choices to schedule so many shows, saying that they want to offer variety and give a place for lesser-known producers and niche programming.

This is disingenuous at best. Look at the weekend evenings or early morning hours on most public radio stations. You’ll find the shows that a programmer felt obligated to air yet wasn’t committed enough to schedule when any meaningful percentage of listeners might actually hear them. 

If a programmer isn’t willing to put something on in prime time, then the show shouldn’t be on the station at all. It is a waste of everyone’s time: the station’s, the producer’s and the listener’s.

The “hide it on the weekend” approach to programming goes against the fundamentals of radio. Radio is finite. There are a finite number of stations with a finite number of programming hours. Stations do best when they air programming that generates the most significant public service for the most significant audience.

There is a place for niche programs. It is called podcasting.

And before you dismiss that statement as a blow-off, remember that niche programs thrive in podcasting. If you choose not to air them, that doesn’t mean they’ll go silent. In fact, it will probably amplify them. 

By focusing more attention on a platform like podcasting, where they can succeed, producers of these programs can grow their audience. They’ll generate more revenue, get more support from listeners and have more impact. Producers have more creative options and more control over their destinies. Compared to a timeslot of 11 p.m. on Sunday, podcasting is the right way for them to find and serve an audience, not broadcast radio.

The problem with program glut

Public radio producers and distributors create a lot of programs, but instead of learning what works and focusing on the shows that generate the most public service and listening, the list of syndicated programs just keeps expanding. 

Over the past 20 years, the number of syndicated programs has grown by 83. That’s a net increase, as many shows have gone away during that time, too.

You might ask, “What’s the harm? A lot of the programs don’t attract enough listeners to provide significant public service. If I’m not airing most of them, what’s the problem?”

Here’s your answer: It’s a stunning waste of resources. Let’s not think about the programming dollars at your station, or the operational resources you use to manage and promote all this ineffective programming. Let’s instead focus on the investments made in creating all of them.

Sometime around 2010, while I was working in program development at NPR, I was asked by executives in the NPR C-suite why there was so little money available for program development in public radio. 

To explain, I wrote a white paper that was shared only inside of NPR. It made a similar case to what I’m laying out in this column: The public radio system wastes much of its resources on programs that don’t deliver. Here’s an excerpt: 

If you assume that each of these programs has a budget of $150,000 (knowing that some cost far more and many far less), the low/no audience programs eat up almost $50 million dollars a year in system resources. That’s more than the budgets of Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, both days of Weekend Edition, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me — combined. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if all these programs went away and their resources corralled, our system could create a new entity with NPR-like resources, without spending an additional penny above what we invest in programming today.

In hindsight, I was probably overly generous in estimating that the average budget for these shows is $150,000. It’s probably half that, if not less. However, even at half, that’s still $25 million in wasted resources that could be better used on other things.

The solution rests with local stations

Have you ever heard a variation on the joke where a man walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doc, it hurts when I raise my arm in the air.” The doctor replies, “Well, stop raising your arm in the air.”

The solution to over-programming sounds a lot like that joke: Stop doing the thing that causes the pain.

If your station airs 25 different programs over the weekend, stop. This is not a problem with a national solution. The answer lies with local stations. In other words — with you. All you need to do is select a few programs that generate the most listening and air each one multiple times.

This isn’t a new idea. In fact, it is decades old, going back to when stations did what was then considered radical. They scheduled a repeat of A Prairie Home Companion on Sundays and quickly learned that the second broadcast attracted more audience than the Saturday night original. 

For a contemporary example, take Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Many stations air it twice a weekend. Considering how well WWDTM performs pretty much anywhere in the schedule, why isn’t it airing six times a weekend? 

And before you say I’m crazy, some stations now air WWDTM four times a weekend. KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., is one of them. Several more air it three times. Why isn’t there a second feed of classic/evergreen WWDTM episodes offered every weekend? If I were you, I would be pushing for that today.

While cable television isn’t often a source of inspiration, its programmers have deployed this strategy effectively for years: Pick your hottest shows and repeat them often on your linear schedule. Whenever viewers tune in, they get your very best stuff.

Start with the building blocks

If you want more of a game plan for how to do this, I recommend that station programmers keep the weekend newsmagazines as the building blocks of the new schedule.  Then make a list of four best-performing non–news magazine programs. Repeat them throughout the weekend and promote the hell out of them. 

Go from 25 weekend shows to eight (four newsmags and four others). You’ll end up with 68% fewer programs and almost certainly more listening. You’ll spend less of your budget on program acquisition and less of your time on operational maneuvering. With that savings, you can invest in your station’s future or an innovation fund to support risk-taking programming ventures.

The shows you select may be different from those aired by other stations based on your audience, but choosing them shouldn’t require a lot of effort. (AudiGraphics, for example, has a number of ways to help inform a list for your station.)

“Remember, to the vast majority of your audience, you are not taking away programs. … Rather, you are making the best of your programming more accessible by airing each show at times when they can hear it. ”

This scheduling strategy sets off a virtuous cycle for public radio as a whole. If more stations air their weekend shows more often, their ratings will increase. More underwriting dollars and other resources will become available to them. This enables producers to invest in making the shows better and better (and could possibly lower program fees for stations).

Make your station’s list today — as in right now. We’ll wait.

If you can’t see a way to focus on a short list of programs, then try coming at this from the opposite direction. 

Look at your weekend schedule. Which one or two programs can you let go of this month? Replace them with repeats of programs that have already proven they can deliver listeners for your station. You are already paying for these programs. Any hour that features your best stuff will make your weekends better. It will drive up AQH and additional tune-ins because listeners find programs they like when they tune in.

Remember, to the vast majority of your audience, you are not taking away programs. They never heard many of your weekend programs in the first place. Rather, you are making the best of your programming more accessible by airing each show at times when they can hear it.

Same as it ever was

I got the inspiration to focus on this issue a few months ago, when I read a post about weekend programming in the Facebook PRPD group. The comments and reactions were the exact same arguments, theories and approaches that I heard in that 1994 conference session. To me, it was like reading a 27-year-old transcript. The only things that had changed were the venue and show names. 

Given public radio’s challenges in 2021, job one for everyone is to stop arguing over the same tired actions and expecting different results. Successful programming on weekends is not as difficult to achieve as almost every programmer makes it out to be.

Besides inspiring you to make big or small changes to your station’s weekend schedule, I expect this column will generate three other types of reactions. Two of these are understandable, and one is not.

Producers and distributors will be upset that their programs didn’t make the list of 16. They will make the case that their programs matter and should be included. Of course their programs matter.

But if a program doesn’t generate sufficient audience to merit placement on an FM radio station, the producers should pursue other audio-distribution strategies. Their program will reach more people, and they will be happier with the end result. The other option for producers would be to change their program so that it can attract a more significant audience and climb into the list of top-performing shows. 

Others may claim that efforts like this lead to a homogenization of public radio. Weekend scheduling will become a popularity contest in which everything sounds the same or features similar voices.

Neither of these criticisms is valid. The list of the 16 top weekend programs speaks for itself. Additionally, seven of the 16 shows are hosted by women, and nine of the 16 (a majority) are hosted by people of color. Weekend programming has often led the way with new audience, new voices and new ideas. This list demonstrates that.

The reaction that isn’t understandable —or acceptable — is doing nothing. 

Almost as bad is the course of action that’s been repeated for decades — arbitrarily rearranging weekend programs and crossing fingers for a different result. Minimal or no action just delays the inevitable and kicks the can of meaningful change down the road for another year … or decade. Can your station afford to wait that long? 

As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, this solution isn’t the answer to your existential questions about the future, but it helps you build muscle. It shows that meaningful, audience-focused, forward-leaning change is possible, achieves results and is the opening salvo for future changes that will have bigger impact.

Have fun making your list. I’ll be listening.

Eric Nuzum (eric@magnificentnoise.com) is the co-founder of Magnificent Noise, a podcast production and consulting company. He also provides strategic advice to public radio programs and stations and writes about radio and digital audio in his newsletter The Audio Insurgent. His latest book, Make Noise: A Creator’s Guide to Podcasting and Great Audio Storytelling, was published in December 2019.

22 thoughts on “It’s time for public radio stations to stop over-programming weekends

  1. re: If a programmer isn’t willing to put something on in prime time, then the show shouldn’t be on the station at all. It is a waste of everyone’s time: the station’s, the producer’s and the listener’s.

    I can’t agree. Would you say this about TV programming, that only prime-time worthy TV shows should run at every hour of the day??? Oh, yeah, you did say that: “While cable television isn’t often a source of inspiration, its programmers have deployed this strategy effectively for years: Pick your hottest shows and repeat them often on your linear schedule. Whenever viewers tune in, they get your very best stuff.”

    While not a source of inspiration, apparently you do think that cable TV should be imitated.

    BTW, does your podcast rank in the top 20 of all podcasts by any metric?

    • Hi Kenneth–

      Reading this makes me so sad. Sorry you disagree. I’d respond to WHY you don’t agree, but you don’t really offer much discourse here. The only thing you are doing is quoting me, saying you don’t agree, then failing to insult me.

      –Eric

  2. Interesting argument, but we’ve heard it before too: ‘the top-selling menu items should be the only menu items.’

    And what about music programs like American Routes? Is there no place for music on the weekends? Music programs can’t podcast thanks to the restrictions of copyright law. I think a lot of people would rather enhance their weekend dining, romance and other relaxation time with great music shows instead of newsmagazines, comedy programs or investigative reports. There’s room for both music and talk, no?

  3. I think the answer to your question of whether or not there is room for both music and talk…if the station is a news/info/talk station, then it has set an intention to be that–and it should deliver that whenever a listener tunes in. So, to be very clear, in my opinion, the answer is that no, there really isn’t room.

    The idea that “music shows can’t podcast” isn’t entirely true, either. Spotify has come up with a clever solve for this (albeit that the resulting podcast can only be played on Spotify) and a number of music podcasts, like Song Exploder and All Songs Considered (among many other examples) clear rights for the songs they offer and do so completely on the up and up.

    –Eric

    • You’re right Eric, the survey was just of News & Information stations. I missed that detail, though thank goodness some N&E stations still air some music specialty shows on weekends — ratings be damned. As for podcasting music shows on Spotify — being dependent on a specific, private, unnamed, experimental “pay radio” product is not the same thing. “Song Exploder” is a Netflix series that deconstructs one song using samples in an educational manner. And “All Songs Considered” just airs unknown and unsigned bands — pretty easy to clear!

    • You’re right Eric, the survey was just of News & Talk stations…I missed that detail. But as for podcasting, that Spotify experiment in pay-radio doesn’t fall within the general definition of podcasting. Song Exploder clears samples from one song to dissect it and ASC just plays unknown and unsigned artists (easy to clear).

      Having said that, let me add that I greatly enjoy your articles and the way that they rattle the radio cage!

  4. Eric
    Thanks for publishing this. I’ve been on the sidelines for a while now, but I still understand what you’re writing about in this column. Repeating what works, works for radio. My first gig for public radio was for a station that had a heavy jazz presence. Afternoon and evenings were filled with jazz. This was before Morning Edition , WESAT and WESUN. The station hadn’t started to carry APHC. Jazz and All Things Considered drove audience numbers.

    I was tasked with retooling a jazz shift on Saturday afternoon that would lead into All Things Considered. I got lots of advice about what I should schedule. It should be something new, or I should find a whole new way to present the music. Instead I turned toward audience data. The station I was volunteering for was measuring audience response. I looked at the numbers. Since the jazz shifts were filled with volunteers from the community and students, I was able to easily tell what was working. As host, I needed to stay out of the way of the music, and music the audience preferred was mainstream, leaning heavily on the Blue Note library. It worked. The audience figures popped on Saturday afternoon. I’m not saying a four hour jazz program would work now, unless you’re a jazz station. I’m saying this is all about your audience. Make your decisions based on why they come to your spot on the dial.

    I listen to weekends now as an armchair PD and think to myself, I’ve got some easy fixes for you, but I’m not sure anybody would listen.

  5. Most public radio program directors don’t have a vision for what they want to air on the weekend. Granted, 10 years ago, your incumbent shows were a hodgepodge of the weekend newsmags, Car Talk, Wait Wait and APHC. It was hard to organize those into a vision.

    Now that we don’t talk about the 1972 Dodge Dart or Powder Milk Biscuits on public radio, there’s an opportunity to create a vision.

    A reasonable vision is to focus on intellectual curiosity. In Cleveland, they call themselves “Ideastream”, and that’s what I have in mind.

    I’d recommend NPR should create weekend “Best Of” programs from Morning Edition, ATC. Call it “Morning Edition Weekly” or “ATC Weekly”. It would cost practically nothing to produce, and they could be attractive for the 6 and 7 AM hours, before Weekend Edition, after WATC, or replacing some late-night hours of BBC World.

    Start your “key broadcast” day with Weekend Edition. End it with WATC. Forget about programming weekend evenings and overnights, which are the lowest of the low-listenership dayparts. Reruns or BBC World are perfectly adequate.

  6. Why must it be binary? Even if stations need to repeat top shows for revenue purposes, leaving space for smaller shows seems like the purpose of public radio. My local station, WKPB/WKYU, produces shows that I’m more passionate about than “Wait, wait…”. I never miss “Old Scratchy Records” and “Barren River Breakdown”, and would be crushed if they disappeared for an endless loop of Weekend Edition.

  7. This reminds me a bit of the rock radio consultants who pare back playlists over and over until you’re left with just 250 songs. It sounds obvious that you should focus on your strongest shows. But where do tomorrow’s strong shows come from? You’ll never know if you don’t take some chances today.

    • I’ll step past the rock consultant comparison (which critics have used for decades) and answer your question about where new successful shows come from. Every new entrant on that “Sweet 16” list in the past fifteen years started as a podcast.

    • Now, I feel the door’s been opened for me. :-) Rock consultant that I am, this is a different conversation. Eric’s point (in my opinion) is that low-rated, nichey, specialty shows dilute the audience, steer resources away from shows that need it/deserve it, and are often “buried on the weekends.”

      As at-work listening has faded during COVID, but the news cycle is still careening along at Mach 3, I keep seeing indicators public radio fans don’t just want fluff and “long tail” shows on the weekend – many use Saturday & Sundays to catch up on the week that was (similarly to how network & cable TV use Sundays, in particular, whether it’s “Meet the Press,” “60 Minutes,” or the many news shows devoted to providing weekend perspective.

      Eric’s article reinforces his place as “change agent” in the public radio system. He is asking probing questions, challenging “programmers” to re-examine the givens that have been passed down for generations as the rules of the public radio road.

      As for Classic Rock stations, “Sweet Home Alabama” will only get you so far for so long. Secondary tracks, “chocolate chip” records, and special programming (stripped across weekdays or slotted on weekends) serve an important strategic purpose, reshuffling the deck and keeping stations sounding fresh and interesting.

      And they do nothing to dilute a station’s programming mission because they all support the main position. Used effectively and skillfully, they enhance a station brand. They are all part of the Classic Rock ecosystem, whether they are “Sweet Emotion” or “Sweet Leaf.”

      Thanks again, Eric, for a much-needed shakeup.

  8. I have to say that I 100% disagree with this prescription. Part of what I enjoy most as a listener about weekend programming is the wide variety of shows that are generally on the air. I get the same news and magazine shows repeated endlessly already on weekdays, and they quickly become repetitive and lead me to turn off. There’s only so many ways you can hear talking heads pontificating on the news of the day.

    The variety on the weekends provides a needed break, often focussing on the arts or other more cerebral shows that provide welcome relief from the monotony of the week. I may listen for an hour Saturday morning, an hour while cooking dinner, and and a half hour at bedtime. If I think I’m likely to hear the same show at all those time or even a couple of them I guarantee I’ll spend less time listening to the station.

    While I appreciate the anchor big name shows, I’m love stumbling across episodes of Afro-Pop Worldwide, or Irish folk, or a more obscure cooking show. That broad variety and unexpectedness is what helps make the weekends interesting and separate them from the drudgery of the week.

    And I may be wrong here, but to me part of Public Radio’s charter and reason for being is not to try to maximize audience, but rather to be freed from the monetary dictates of the commercial market so they can serve smaller niches that might not get served by commercial radio otherwise.

    So rather than repeating their big money maker shows endlessly, they should really be earning their non-profit status and doubling down on niche programming that wouldn’t get on the air any other way. So what if a show at 2am on Sunday only reaches 100 people. If it enriches and changes the lives of those 100 people, then that public radio station is fulfilling its mission.

  9. I do not disagree with programming guru Eric Nuzum that maximizing audience is and should be the prime goal of program scheduling. But, close behind it is a goal of offering diversity of ideas and sound to the audience. Not all of Bill Siemering’s original mission statement has been abandoned in the mindless goal of maximizing the audience for … underwriters?

  10. Eric, thank you for the article. It points out all that has happened to turn the nonprofit arts and nonprofit broadcasting model on its head. Maximizing audience is one thing and it’s currently the prime manner in which public broadcasting is funded in most towns. But it has nothing to do with the mission of the company that runs the station, whatever that might be. One of our larger NPR affiliates, KUOW, has, as its mission: “KUOW’s mission is to create and serve a more informed public. Our vision is to broaden conversations and deepen understanding. KUOW is committed to acquiring a diversity of perspectives and voices to realize our aspirations.” You cannot broaden conversations and acquire a diversity of perspectives if you become the NPR version of Nick at Nite. The other large station in town, KNKX, has this: KNKX’s mission is to inform, entertain, and educate the public to increase knowledge of the world, appreciation of the arts, and understanding of the human condition. It uses jazz and news to accomplish that. But it also requires a diversity of prisms from which to do that. Both stations carry ATC and WE, both weekday and weekend, and some of the weekend shows, and perhaps they should parse them out somehow. But that’s irrelevant to the notion of executing a mission that is inclusive, equitable to all kinds of new voices, and diverse – and that’s necessary in a NPR world that has, as its audience base, older white men and women. In short: mission comes first; programming follows.

    • Many commenters act as if public radio has a monopoly on public service in audio. 50 years ago, that was the case. It isn’t today. So what is public radio’s role in a world of plentiful, ubiquitous, and free choices?

      A lot of these comments confuse a patchwork of programming with success at public service. I don’t see how that is true. If you Balkanize programs at the perifory of your weekend schedule, where few people hear it. What is the point? 50 years of experiences proves this actually doesn’t serve anyone well. Much better to pick fewer programs, run them more often, and reach more people. Again, I’ve I’ve said multiple times here, you can pick ANY programs–so if you want to elevate of take risks with new programs/talent/ideas–GREAT! Just set a clear timeline or metric to decide if that risk is providing public service or not–make make that less than 50 years.

  11. I’m not necessarily saying that Mr. Nuzum is saying this, nor am I saying that it’s something that should be done.

    But the logical extreme to this concept would seem to me to result in the following weekend schedule:

    12mid – 6am = BBC World Service, or maybe PRX Remix
    6am – 8am = Mix Block 1
    8am – 10am = WESAT/WESUN
    10am – 12n = Mix Block 2
    12n – 2pm = WESAT/WESUN (repeat)
    2pm – 5pm = BBC World Service
    5pm – 6pm = WATC
    6pm – 8pm = BBC World Service
    8pm – 9pm = WATC (repeat)
    9pm – 12mid = BBC World Service

    The “Mix Blocks” would be eight hours of the top “weekend shows” like WWDTM, On the Media, This American Life, Latino USA, and a few others. Exactly which would depend somewhat on the individual station, of course. And in theory you could repeat some of them within the Mix Blocks on Sat vs Sun, or even replace some the BBC in the afternoon with repeats of the best of the Mix Blocks.

    As I said: I don’t think this schedule is necessarily a bad thing. I do, however, caution that the BBC has gotten *highly* repetitive in recent years; you often hear the same four or five stories covered ad nauseam over each newscast and again in each hour or half-hour programme.

    The flip side to this is something I had a bit of an epiphany on a while back, when I was running WEOS in upstate NY. We had this oddball show called “The Metallic Onslaught” on Friday nights from 10pm until 3am. And they’d play heavy metal, sure, but they also had a lot of goofy comedy bits and tons of interviews…mostly in the local wrestling scene (think WWE). They’d been doing the show for free (all volunteers) over 20 years and had a small but solid following. I even worked with them a bit to solicit some donations using real soft asks and goofy requests (keeping in the theme of the show) during pledge drives and a few checks did indeed come in. They had fun and they were fun to listen to (and work with).

    And while it had absolutely zero flow with anything else the station did, I found myself hard-pressed to imagine what other programming could possibly attract a larger audience at that hour? Or as dedicated an audience, for that matter?

    I think that’s something that needs to be asked when it comes to replacing a lot of these “patchwork” programs on the weekends. There’s value in Nuzum’s strategy, to be sure, but even he expressly notes that the weekends are not a monolith; they’re like a dozen different listening blocks over two days every week. Each needs to be evaluated on its own merits as well as part of a larger whole.

  12. Hi Eric,

    I saw you deliver a version of this idea at a conference last year, and I appreciate your think-outside-the-box approach. I’m curious, do you have any data from stations that have tried this approach? Did it actually lead to increased weekend listening?

    My hunch is that weekend listening is always going to be minimal and sporadic compared to weekdays because broadcast radio listening tends to be so heavily tied to routine. For most stations that are experimenting with new programming (especially locally-produced programs) it doesn’t take much extra effort or cost to put the show in a weekend slot (in addition to a podcast feed).

    My last point is again about audience feedback and data. We hear all the time from listeners during pledge drives and random phone calls who praise us for our “electric” programing or the “wide variety” of programs we air. This may represent a small fraction of our listeners, but it’s a hard data point that’s hard for programmers to ignore (especially when it’s tied to a donation). Which leads back to my original question. Have we seen this approach work anywhere in the real world? If we could point to a station that grew their weekend numbers or reached a new audience by simplifying the weekend, it would make it an easier sell. Because right now, I think a lot of folks are responding to that anecdotal evidence that suggests *some* listeners appreciate the “eclectic” approach.

    Thanks again for this thought-provoking article! Would love to hear your responses to those questions.

    Chris Maccini
    Spokane Public Radio

    P.S. I will echo what others have said about this idea not applying well to music or dual-format stations. Sound Exploder and All Songs (and shows like them) get away with podcasting because they are using small numbers of songs or excerpts often in a “critical” way, rather than spinning records. An eclectic approach to music broadcasting is what separates public and non-commercial music radio stations from their commercial music counterparts, and the discovery of new and surprising music not heard elsewhere is why listeners seek them out.

    • Weekend changes will always have less impact than weekdays because (a) there is often less listening on Sat/Sun than weekdays and (b) a weekday program change affects five days, while weekend changes only affect one or two days.

      And yes, the plural of anecdote is not data. Those people you hear from during a pledge drive are not representative of the vast majority of your audience. And there is a big difference between praising the variety of your programming schedule vs. actually listening to it.

  13. ON August 5, 2021 WSHU (Sacred Heart University’s) CT announced in an email that they would be changing their Saturday afternoon line up from news type programs (the ones listed in your article) to classical music.
    Their sibling radio station WSUF AM and FM is also changing their Sunday morning line up.

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