New Study Shows I Was Wrong
For decades, everything I’ve blogged about and presented at conferences – wrong. Every single recommendation as NPR Research Director and as a station consultant – you might as well just believe the opposite. Some highlights from the study:
Listeners actually love pledge drives. Foremost, they treasure the break from regular programming, especially when the news is hard to take. Survey comments show that nothing relieves the tension of ongoing wars and economic woes more than hearing about a new stainless steel travel mug. As one 44 year old female respondent put it, “I often turn the radio up during the pledge break because the announcers are so entertaining as they debate the hue of the station logo. You need that after hearing the tragic stories of tiny children in war-torn countries.” The study also shows that 98% of donors do believe the sweatshirt alone is worth the $150 they spent on it.
Contradictory to everything I thought I knew, listeners, including most young listeners, love opera and any other broadcast aimed at the highest common denominator. In fact, they value and commend public radio for raising the common denominator to record levels. It keeps the low-lifes out of the audience. This point was especially strong among listeners with at least 3 post-graduate degrees whose parents forced them to take singing lessons through high school.
Listeners also like self-indulgent correspondents and hosts who talk in the first person, inject personal references into their stories and use the phrase “If you’re like me.” The study shows that most listeners (83%) really do want to be just like the person they are listening to at that exact moment, even though they’ve never seen them. And that bring us to the most stunning finding of all, the one where I was most wrong.
There are way more Black and Hispanics listening to public radio than I ever thought. Tons more. It turns out that listening to public radio’s elite and highbrow announcers make minority listeners feel “just like them” – White! So when Arbitron asks about their ethnicity...
Not me. I was wrong.
Looking ahead to future posts -- why trying to attract more public radio listeners using first person reporting and satire might be a bad idea.