Return to AUDIENCE 98 Main Page

Public Radio's
Older Audience

Many in our industry are quick to take for granted our older listeners. Programming that serves them is dismissed as a dead end, with a presumed life expectancy as limited as its listeners.

Concern is often focused on younger listeners, as though the older audience had already outlived its usefulness.

The fact is, not only is public radio important in the lives of many older listeners, these listeners are important to the life of public radio.

They Are Prevalent

When we open our collective mike,

nearly half of our adult listeners were born before or during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

These are the "Swing" and "World War II" generations – the parents and grandparents of the Baby Boomers. Nearly one-quarter were born between 1933 and 1945, and one-fifth before 1933.

Together these groups comprise 39 percent of public radio’s national adult cume and 44 percent of its AQH audience.

Classical music programmers know them well: They are the substantial majority of the classical music audience. One-in-four listeners to a classical piece is between 53 and 65; and one-in-three is 65 or older.

They Are Different

Older listeners distinguish themselves from their contemporaries in the same way younger listeners distinguish themselves from theirs:

They are much better educated.

The education gap between older listeners and their peers is even greater than for younger listeners and their age cohorts.

Fifteen percent of all Americans in the WWII generation have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Compare that to 50 percent of public radio’s WWII audience, and 62 percent of its Swing audience.

More pointedly than younger listeners, older listeners demonstrate the common denominator of public radio’s appeal – higher education.

They Are Loyal

Older listeners rely more on public radio than any other cohort of listeners. They are more loyal, listen longer, and most likely to listen on both weekdays and weekends.

The fact is, older listeners rely heavily on our service. And because they do, they’re as likely to give as Baby Boomers, and more apt to contribute than Generation X listeners.

Here Today, Here Tomorrow

Older listeners’ loyalty and support are assets that aren’t about to die away. Actuarial tables tell us that serving this audience will pay off for many years to come.

Half of today’s 65 year-olds will live to be older than 82. Half of today’s 75 year-olds will live to be older than 86. Given their resources our well-educated listeners are likely to live even longer.

Thought of another way,

In 2015 half of today’s listeners over 65 years-old will still be of this world.

It’s a little too early to worry about format obsolescence through audience attrition. And it’s certainly premature to jettison classical music because younger listeners are currently less interested in it – especially since they seem to grow into it with age.

More important, though, is recognizing the primacy of public radio’s older listeners. There’s more listening, more loyalty, and more life in this audience than many would assume.

Our older listeners plan to be with us for some time. We can plan on that, too.

– David Giovannoni        
– Jay Youngclaus       
– Leslie Peters       
UDIENCE 98 Core Team       

bluepixl.gif (77 bytes)

For More Information

AUDIENCE 98 Associate Peter Dominowski sees parallels between Gen Xers and The Old Folks At Home.

Older listeners are both Willing And Able to give. Their age offers extra fundraising potential.

In a graphic essay AUDIENCE 98’s core team compares and contrasts Four Generations of Listening and Giving. Listeners of all ages are more alike than they are different. However, generational distinctions do exist, and understanding them can help us better serve any particular generation.


bluepixl.gif (77 bytes)

Navigate the Report

arrow.gif (139 bytes)     Public Radio's Older Audience
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes)     The Old Folks At Home
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Willing And Able
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Four Generations of Listening and Giving

bluepixl.gif (77 bytes)

Examine the Statistical Analyses Behind the Report
(56 pages; 159,145 bytes)

adobe.gif (712 bytes)
All statistical files require Adobe Acrobat Reader

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