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Listening, More or Less
Part 2 of "Changing Media Use"

Having a bad day?  Wondering whether all the hard work is worth it?

AUDIENCE 98 has some good news for you.  Your listeners appreciate your efforts and they’re showing you in a way that counts:

They’re listening more.

Six out of every ten listeners say they're listening more to public radio today than they were a few years ago.

With the next three-in-ten you’re earning the same level of listening as in recent years.  And just one in that crowd is spending less time with you (only eight percent of your audience, to be precise).

Though they didn’t tell us directly why they’re listening more, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s something you’re doing.

Perhaps it’s your more highly-focused format.  Or the improvements in your on-air sound.  Or maybe the development of hits like Car Talk or Marketplace are causing people to listen more.

Whatever the reasons, your programming and public service have earned your station a larger role in listeners' lives.

Who's Listening More?

While increased listening comes from nearly all segments of the audience, Actualizers are more apt to be spending additional time with you. These active, ambitious, intellectually curious VALSTM 2 personalities make up more than a third of public radio’s cume.

Though Actualizers tend to favor news and information over other programming,

those listening more to public radio are listening more to all major formats, including news, classical music and jazz.  Every format is benefiting.

Are you ready for some more good news?

Don Imus may talk to Cokie, but he's not stealing your audience.   Howard Stern may call himself the "King of All Media" but he does not rule public radio’s listeners.

Sure, there are a few people who are listening less to public radio and more to commercial radio.  But

for every one of these listeners, 12 are spending less time with commercial radio and more time with you.

That doesn’t mean your listeners aren’t checking out Imus, Stern or other commercial personalities.  Most public radio listeners – even those in your core – tune in to other stations during the week.  Like a spouse or a lover they may favor you the most, but they don’t want to spend all their time with you.

So far, worried speculation about wholesale listener defections is just cocktail party talk.

Fears about commercial radio, including mega-groups taking over your market, have yet to be manifest by listener attitudes and behavior.

In fact, if there is a discernable trend, it’s that public radio listeners are spending less time with commercial media.

For every listener who says he’s listening less to public radio and watching more commercial TV, 30 listeners say they’re spending less time with commercial TV and more time with public radio.

If he watches TV, the typical listener tuning more to public radio is doing his viewing with public television.

Who's Listening Less?

Who is that one listener in ten who says he’s been spending less time with you in the past few years?

Those listening less are more likely to be retired, unemployed, or have no more than a high school education.

These attributes fit the descriptions of Strugglers and Believers – the VALS types who tend to be listening less. As the name suggests, Strugglers are constantly engaged in a fight to make ends meet.  Believers’ attitudes and lifestyles make them, in many ways, the opposites of Actualizers.

But this isn't a big deal: these two groups combined comprise less than 10 percent of public radio’s cume.

Why Listen Less?

We don't know exactly what causes people to listen less.  Previous studies have identified changes in lifestyle as the primary culprit.  Perhaps commercial media's news and entertainment are more attractive to a few folks, especially those outside of public radio's well-educated appeal.  It may be both lifestyle and competition, or neither, and it may not be under your control.

We do know this:

The only factor AUDIENCE 98 can find that is directly connected to less public radio listening is your on-air fund drives.

People who are listening less these days to public radio are less likely to stay tuned during on-air fund drives and less likely to agree that on-air drives are easier to listen to than in the past.

If on-air fund drives are driving away the audience, what can you do?

Some professionals in our industry are working on the problem right now. You can help by being open to these new ideas and testing them on your air.  As AUDIENCE 98 progresses, information about listeners’ attitudes and behavior will inform these experiments.

If you’re back to having a bad day, you’re missing a very important point.

Because you control what you broadcast, you can find a way to give listeners one less reason to listen less to you.

Or one more reason to listen more.

– Michael Arnold
Program Director, WUNC
AUDIENCE 98 Associate


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For More Information

Hyperlinks whisk you to key findings and further thinking about people in public radio's audience who are listening more or less.

Commercial radio and television seem to have lost their attraction to persons listening more to public radio than they were a few years ago, as demonstrated by their Changes in Electronic Media Use.

The "creeping commercialism" of underwriting is often accused of causing people to listen less.  Leslie Peters and Michael Arnold ask the question, Is Public Radio Getting Too Commercial?

Some fear the Internet is displacing public radio use among existing listeners.   Michael Arnold finds It Ain't Net-cessarily So.


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Navigate the Report

arrow.gif (139 bytes)     Listening, More or Less
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes)     Changes in Electronic Media Use
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Is Public Radio Getting Too Commercial?
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) It Ain't Net-cessarily So

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Examine the Statistical Analyses Behind the Report
(60 pages; 143,005 bytes)

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All statistical files require Adobe Acrobat Reader

Audience Research Analysis
Copyright ARA and CPB.  All rights reserved.
Revised: September 01, 2000 12:38 PM.