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Getting to More
with the Concept of Core

If you could pick only one measure of success - one measure, under your control, that reports your station's public service and financial stability - it's the number of core listeners in your audience.

That's why the Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD) initiated The Core Project. The project challenges stations to grow their core cume by four percent each year, through the year 2000, by focusing on the appeal of their programming.

What do these savvy programmers know about the value of core cume? AUDIENCE 98 can explain.

Why We Care About Core

Listeners become part of your core audience when they make you their favorite spot on the dial – that is, they spend more time with you than with any other station.

Like any other relationship, spending time together can strengthen ties. Over time, your core listeners become your station’s best friends – more apt to stick by you and support you.

The concept of core is closely intertwined with loyalty, the measurement which tells you when and how much listeners in your cume are listening to you.

The size of your core depends on how well your programming appeals to your cume listeners in the hours they use radio.

If you consistently inform and entertain in a way that reflects their beliefs and values, they’ll turn to you first whenever they flip on the switch.

What We Know About Core

One way they set themselves apart is the number of days they listen to public radio.

Core listeners use public radio five days a week on average, twice as many days as fringe listeners.

Another prime distinction between core and fringe is the number of tune-in occasions.

On average, core listeners tune in three times more often to public radio each week than the fringe.

The duration of occasion for each group is about the same.

A third, significant way the core defines itself is by listening both weekdays and weekends.

Two-thirds of the core use public radio during both parts of the week. Almost half of all people in the fringe listen to public radio only on weekdays, though they are tuning in to other stations on weekends.

That information supports our industry’s focus on improving weekend programming. Getting listeners to tune in again on Saturdays and Sundays is a strategy to strengthen and increase the core.

What else do we know about these listeners?

Almost half of the core are Actualizers, the high income, principle-centered, community activist VALSTM 2 type that makes up about a third of public radio’s overall audience.

Perhaps for this reason core listeners are a bit more apt to be imbued with "a sense of community" regarding public radio - that is, slightly more likely than the fringe to consider public radio personally important, unique in its news and music programming, and in harmony with their own social and cultural values.

Significantly more than fringe, core listeners are likely to seek out public radio when they travel or move – signifying it as an important element in their lives.

The personal importance they place on their public radio station, combined with their reliance on its service and their ability to give, make core listeners prime supporters.

Just under half of core listeners are current givers to a public radio station.

But since just over half are not giving, core’s pledge potential is far from exhausted.

What We Can Do About More Core

Despite their differences, core and fringe still look a lot alike – and that’s a big advantage when considering how to convert fringe to core. Useful, too, is the fact that fringe listeners are heavier users of radio, spending about a third more time listening each week than core listeners.

If you can serve them better, the fringe may spend more of that time tuned into your public station. They may even make you their favorite. Because you choose the programming on your station, turning fringe into core is something you can strongly influence.

Remember that most fringe listeners tune in to public radio to hear the programming that’s most popular with the core – like the NPR newsmagazines, A Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk and Marketplace. That’s unsurprising because, as noted, core and fringe have a lot in common.

When you "superserve" your core listeners with more programming that's highly focused on their beliefs, interests and lifestyles, you create a more powerful schedule that attracts fringe listeners more often. It may also increase TSL and personal importance among the non-giving core - enough to make them supporters.

But don’t rely too much on national producers to create those programming magnets. Half of all listening to public radio is to local programming.

Eight out of ten core listeners consider local programming personally important, as do seven out of ten fringe listeners.

Your success at creating more core listeners may be determined by a mix of canny national program choices and skillful leadership of your local announcers and producers.

In many ways core is a proxy measurement for public service. Your ability to serve your station’s best friends and most loyalty listeners is reflected in the concept of core.

The more listeners in your core audience, the more effective your public service. The more valued your public service, the more likely your station will attract the financial support that will make you - and public radio - a strong force among media, now and in the future.

 – Israel Smith
AUDIENCE 98 Associate

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For More Information

If core is such a good predictor of giving, why doesn't every core listener support public radio?  David Giovannoni, Carla Henry, and Jay Youngclaus explore the characteristics of the less devoted, less loyal, less generous Rotten Core.

If core is a proxy for public service, how do we better serve fringe listeners to the point where they enter our core?   David Giovannoni writes that it's A Matter of Choice - choices our listeners make; choices we make.


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Examine the Statistical Analyses Behind the Report
(46 pages; 241,640 bytes)

Examine the Analyst Notes
(9 pages; 26,667 bytes)

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