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A Community of Characters
The VALS of Public Radio's Audience

Public radio is like any community: it depends on a core group of citizens to give it life and support.

We’ve known for some time that listeners with certain characteristics – VALS2 Actualizers and Fulfilleds – are well represented in our community.  Together they form the foundation of our public service and support. They account for 72% of all listening and over 80% of all listener income.

Now AUDIENCE 98 adds a third dimension to our understanding:

The confluence of these personality types – a "micro-segment" of Actualizer-Fulfilleds – seems to be at the center of public radio’s appeal.

Actualizer-Fulfilleds: Leading Citizens

No more can we say an Actualizer is an Actualizer is an Actualizer. In VALS parlance there are two types of Actualizer:

An Actualizer-Fulfilled has the secondary traits of a Fulfilled.

An Actualizer-Other has the secondary traits of some other VALS type.

Actualizer-Fulfilleds are public radio’s leading citizens, the heart of our core.

Actualizer-Fulfilleds listen more, give more, and are more likely to have a "sense of community" for public radio than any other listener.

They are served by programming that informs and entertains educated listeners. Seven-in-10 have advanced degrees, and virtually all have graduated from college.

Actualizer-Fulfilleds amplify the shared characteristics of Actualizers and Fulfilleds, so it’s no surprise that their strong sense of civic responsibility makes them the most likely listeners to support their public radio community.

Fully half are current givers, and of these two-thirds contribute at least $50 per year.

Leading citizens that they are, Actualizer-Fulfilleds give us two out of every five listener dollars. They can afford it: These middle-aged listeners (average age: 50) have an average annual household income over $100,000.

Every time we open a mike, they’re one-in-three listening.

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The extraordinary educational attainment of public radio’s primary VALS types is shown above. The size of each circle represents the amount of listening done by each type of listener.  The crosshairs mark the average across the entire public radio system.

Actualizer-Others: Reliable Residents

Public radio’s other Actualizers are actually a group of assorted VALS "micro-segments", all with the primary identification of Actualizer and a variety of secondary types.

Actualizer-Others don’t listen as much as Actualizer-Fulfilleds, but they consider public radio nearly as important in their lives. These are solid, dependable citizens. They may not frequent the community center as much as Actualizer-Fulfilleds but they certainly appreciate the need for it.

Their strong sense of social commitment leads one-in-three to contribute.

Ten years younger than Actualizer-Fulfilleds, with somewhat fewer resources, Actualizer-Others are still more loyal and responsive than many other listeners.

We don’t know for sure, but many seem on their ways to becoming Actualizer-Fulfilleds. Give them a few years to earn their advanced degrees and good salaries and they’ll have the resources to move into the Actualizer-Fulfilleds’ neighborhoods.

Fulfilleds: Active Community Participants

Although they’re more than three out of every 10 listening at this moment, Fulfilleds seem to be the least known and appreciated VALS type.

Maybe it’s because they’re a little older and earn less money than either kind of Actualizer. Maybe it’s because their gifts to public radio are smaller. But one-in-three gives, and their gifts represent almost a third of all listener income.

Fulfilleds are active participants in public radio’s community. They listen nearly 10 hours a week – two-and-a-half hours more than listeners outside the dominant VALS types. Half are in our core.

One of their chief characteristics is their lifelong thirst for knowledge; our programming feeds their keen interests in world events, social issues and the arts. One of their most satisfying pastimes is listening to classical music.

Many Fulfilleds are retired – which accounts for their smaller incomes. They are public radio’s elders – vibrant, involved seniors who lend maturity and balance to our community.

On the Outskirts of Town

The rest of public radio’s listeners are scattered among six other VALS types, none of which exceeds 6% of the audience. Together, they do slightly more than a quarter of the listening; one-in-five contributes. But on average they listen less each week than any of the three dominant VALS types.

They live in our community and we’d be poorer without them. But because of their small numbers the force of their personalities is virtually nonexistent.

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

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For More Information

Actualizers and Fulfilleds share a number of characteristics, including an interest in current events and an appreciation of music and culture.  But certain format choices exert stronger pulls on the various VALS types.  Dr. George Bailey presages a subsequent report, High Resolution, in his lecture and demonstration, The Psychographic Consequences of Station Format.

VALS is a nuanced market segmentation scheme, as AUDIENCE 98 Core Team Member Leslie Peters points out in Fulfilled's Other Flavor.

Fellow Core Team Member, Jay Youngclaus shows how the Stairway to Given is a good way to start Comparing VALS Types. Leslie Peters, navigates through the finer points of VALS and explains why the trip is worth it in her VALS Notes.

She then offers some thoughtful opinions informed by her extended immersion in VALS and AUDIENCE 98.   She believes that Evaluating VALS is something we should do seriously and soon – both for our own sake and for the sake of our listeners.

Descriptions of the eight VALS categories in VALS: An Abbreviated Guide (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).   We emphasize the types who listen to public radio over those who don’t.


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Navigate the Report

arrow.gif (139 bytes)     A Community of Characters
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes)     The Psychographic Consequences of Station Format
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Fulfilled's Other Flavor
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Stairway to Given
navblue.jpg (647 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Comparing VALS Types
  VALS Notes
  transpxl.gif (67 bytes) transpxl.gif (67 bytes) Evaluating VALS
  VALS: An Abbreviated Guide

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Examine the Statistical Analyses Behind the Report
(66 pages; 267,652 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.