Friday, October 10, 2008

Grow the Audience: Black and Hispanic Listening and Accountability

The Grow the Audience project has released a new report on listening by Black and Hispanic College Graduates. You can find the PDF here.

It's an informative report and, surprisingly, one of the few published reports with any Black and Hispanic audience numbers for public radio.

One would think that with all of the time and money invested in growing Black and Hispanic audiences over the past decade that it would be easy to find reports with actual audience numbers in them.

There are lots of reports on what was done and how money was spent doing it, but virtually nothing on the audience outcomes of those investments. In other words, public radio was measuring its success based on what was created, not on how much it was heard.

It's no wonder the audiences didn't grow. The measurement of success (programming investment) wasn't in alignment with the stated goal (audience growth). One is an input, the other is an output. Under this configuration, there has been no accountability for results.

JSA submitted a commentary to the Grow the Audience project web site to address this issue. It is republished below.

Grow the Audience: Clear Goals, Sufficient Funding, and Accountability Are a Must

At the Public Radio Program Director's conference, Tom Thomas stated that the Grow the Audience project's goal is to increase the broadcast audience for public radio.

That's a strong and welcome statement about the intent of the project. Radio isn't dead. There's room to grow our public service through radio listening and there should be specific growth goals, especially among Black and Hispanic listeners.

Those growth goals should be sufficiently funded based on existing programming economic models. We know the range of financial investment required to generate an hour of broadcast listening today. Getting new listening, especially from previously unserved audiences, will cost as much or more. Anything less sets the project up to fail.

Finally, someone must be held accountable for these audience growth goals. Goals tend to be missed if they have no champion. A lack of accountability for results is among the reasons past efforts to diversify the audience have failed.

Someone needs to be in charge and needs to have incentives to succeed. That's a standard business practice on the fundraising side. Missing substantial goals gets you fired. Making them has rewards. Applying similar standards to meeting audience goals increases the likelihood they will be met.

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