Deep chat: ‘Kudos to NPR for the 11 percent. My focus is serving the other 89 percent’

For more than 20 years, public radio has followed a winning formula that is often summarized as “super-serve the core.” That is, a station will be most successful with listeners if it picks a specific type of listener — the core audience — and plans its schedule to attract and hold that type throughout the day and the week.Critics of the core audience strategy object that public radio ends up serving only a well-educated and middle-aged slice of the public — recently a cume audience of 11 percent of the population within a week, which is still a large audience by many measures.At a recent NPR Board meeting, Sue Schardt, executive director of the Association of Independents in Radio, made an eloquent plea for public radio leaders to think beyond the current set of program strategies [edited remarks]. To pick up where Schardt left off, Current contributing editor Mark Fuerst pulled together this phone chat among noted producers and programmers who have done their bit to expand the public radio audience. This is an edited transcript. MARK: I’m going to start with one fact, drawn from the headline on Sue’s piece from the March 7 [2011] edition of Current: Public radio is reaching 11 percent of the audience, the American public.