Grow the Audience: By the Numbers
1. Increase the average audience – the number of people using public radio at any given moment – to half again as large as it is today.
2. Double the number of people who use public radio every week – on-air, online, and on other platforms.
3. Triple the amount of listening by people of color.
The numbers are intentionally vague at this time because of Arbitron's transition from diaries to PPM measurement, and that's appropriate. Still, the concepts adopted by the project leaders point to very specific actions required to meet the goals.
The first goal, increasing the average audience, validates public radio's multi-decade strategy of increasing audience loyalty through strengthening programming. Average audience grows when the current audience chooses to listen to public radio more times per week.
To meet this goal, stations are going to have to jettison underperforming programs. The challenge facing the SRG and CPB is developing a compelling case for change at stations that have chosen to ignore best programming practices for the last decade or more. Additionally, the networks have to improve or discard programs that are average or below average performers. There is no room for "good enough" on the network level.
The second goal, doubling the weekly audience across all platforms, will prove tricky to measure. Currently, there is no measurement of unduplicated broadcast, streaming, and time-shifted audience. The weekly broadcast broadcast audience will increase significantly if the "average audience" goal is achieved, but it will not double.
The on-line audience, streaming or time-shifted (on-demand or podcasting), will most certainly double in the next decade. That won't be difficult to achieve. Determining how many of these on-line listeners are new to public radio will prove difficult. It might require proprietary, and expensive, research to measure this.
The third goal is tripling the amount of listening by people of color. For the first time on a national level, a diversity goal is properly stated. The non-white audience must grow faster than the white audience for public radio to diversify. Anything less is status quo.
As we've written before on this blog, that will be extremely expensive. The cost to create an hour of listening from a new target audience is always more expensive than the cost of creating an hour of listening from the current audience.
Tripling the number of minority listeners to public radio stations will cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the ten years envisioned by SRG and CPB. The costs could be lower if most of that new listening is on-line or through media partners with existing minority audiences. Still, the cost of growing the minority audience faster than the white audience will be great.
CPB's past investments in minority audience growth have been too little to make a measurable difference in minority audience growth. Projects such as Talent Quest are a move in the right direction, but fall far short of the amount of content needed to meet the growth goals.
On the whole, the Grow the Audience goals are spot on. There aren't enough resources to meet them all so priority-setting becomes critical. And the Grow the Audience report was a bit vague on the lines of accountability for meeting these goals. That will be the topic of our next post.