Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grow the Audience Update

The Grow the Audience Project just released a new audience report and the first in a series of "Thinking Audience" pieces.

As noted in a previous posting on this blog, the project has been short on the vision/mission component of growing the audience. The Thinking Audience pieces appear to be trying to address that. You can find the first of those pieces here.

The audience report confirms again that education and personal values and beliefs play a significant role in determining who does and does not listen to public radio today.

Based on the audience report, it appears the project is leaning towards Cume Rating and Share as public service metrics of the future. More on why this probably isn't a good idea later this week.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Now That You Give a...

Early indications are that interest in the election and the economy could translate into strong audience gains for public radio news stations. We shouldn't be surprised if gains among younger listeners are substantial.

The same thing happened after 9/11. We called it the "Now that you give a... darn" effect.

Many people knew about NPR and their local stations, but the news leading up to 9/11 didn't affect them enough to result in regular listening. Events changed that and they came to public radio in record numbers.

Unlike the cable news networks, public radio listeners stayed as war news became daily news. Some of that had to do with the nature of radio and cable usage. Most of it had to do with good programming and promotion around the news programs. The talk and entertainment programs provided additional value to listeners seeking news. Loyalty went up. News listeners became station listeners.

The same opportunity is before public radio today. Listeners who are in the audience for election and economic coverage can become loyal station listeners with strong programming choices, superior on-air execution, and smart cross promotion. We can't know for sure, but a surge in audience now could lead to a multi-year run of audience growth.

The window of opportunity to keep these listeners is probably small. That makes the next week a good week to take stock of your station's programming and promotion fundamentals. If it's broke, don't wait to fix it. The benefits of acting now could pay off for several years.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Voting and Public Radio Giving

Yesterday's voter turnout represents a 10% to 12% increase in voters over the record set in 2004, depending on which numbers are used.

Yet the AP reports that turnout was down in some states such as Wyoming and South Dakota and possibly among Republicans in general. The reason given -- they were discouraged.

It's a good reminder that human nature is the most powerful force guiding human action. People who believed that the outcome of this election affected them personally and that their individual action could make a difference turned out to vote.

It works that way in public radio too. People who believe public radio is personally important and that their individual contribution makes a difference contribute.

It's no wonder then that many NPR News stations reported record numbers of new donors during their fall membership drives. Public radio's coverage of the election and the economy has been exceptional. It made a difference in listeners' lives.

The next time you're in a conversation about why a minority of listeners give or how to get more donors for your station, think back to this Election Day.

It's not the tote bag, coffee mug, sweepstakes prize, or challenge grant that converts a listener to a giver. It's whether or not that listener believes his or her individual action makes a positive difference. It's basic human nature.

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