Saturday, August 06, 2011

Digital Revenues and Localism

Years ago, public radio researcher, innovator, and winner of the industry’s Edward R. Murrow award David Giovannoni made the point that “programming causes audience.” To those new to public radio, particularly in those working in digital services, this point might seem so obvious that it isn’t worthy of the industry highest award, but it is.

The entire body of knowledge behind “programming causes audience” helps us understand the relationships among listeners, their listening, and the revenues listeners create for public radio. That knowledge and understanding still applies today, even in the digital space. It is summed up in the Top 10 Truths About Public Radio from Audience Research Analysis (ARA).

ARA’s Top 10 Truths About Public Radio

1. Programming causes audience.
2. Listeners choose programming that resonates with their values, interests, and beliefs.
3. Listeners develop loyalty to a station with consistent appeal.
4. Appeal can transcend program genres and format types.
5. The programming most often chosen by public broadcasters appeals most strongly to well-educated Americans.
6. Public radio listeners generally perceive themselves to be citizens of the world.
7. Public service begets public support.
8. Fundraising is the catalyst that triggers giving, but personal importance and reliance are their primary causes.
9. Listeners trust public radio to be their sanctuary from commercialism.
10. Public support begets public service.

Truths 2, 6 and 7 are particularly important as public radio pursues a digital strategy. The current audience base comes to local public radio stations for their global perspective and their breadth of programming. This is the foundation of stations’ public service and the listener support stations receive.

Local programming, on the other hand, does not generate as much audience loyalty or listening as the top network news and entertainment programs. Listeners place a lower financial value on local programming than the top network news and entertainment programs. This has been researched and verified in multiple studies including Audience 98.

Local programming might make a respectable enhancement to a station’s public service and revenue portfolios. It will never be a substitute or replacement for lost listening to national programming.

That’s why it is vital for stations to offer all of their current content across all media platforms - over air, on-line, mobile, streaming, on-demand - under the same branding model that exists today.

Stations need to be just as important to listeners on the web as they are over the air. That only happens through the programming stations offer today.

- Programming causes audience.
- Listeners choose programming that resonates with their values, interests, and
- Public radio listeners generally perceive themselves to be citizens of the world.
- Public service begets public support.

Any strategy that moves listening to network programming away from stations will harm stations, and ultimately, the networks. Any strategy that assumes local content is the future for public radio stations is a strategy that assumes stations will raise less money in the future. Not only does that mean less money for stations, it ultimately means less money for the networks.

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Blogger CTmediamagr said...

Our goal at when I was at WNPR was to offer local content that had affinity with the national programming. We measured the affinity of the programming and its appeal to our audience by using core loyalty and P1 data. The content creators were given the task to create content that matched the values of the national content. We were successful...sometimes.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

I think it's a balancing act. Our listeners absolutely demand that we provide outstanding national and international coverage. Local stations also have to report on and discuss issues that are important to their region. Community Significance is part of our mission, makes us more valuable to our listeners and increases support. Buying national programming versus local coverage can't be issolated and looked at seperately. It's part of the total package that we provide, but as I said earlier... it's a balancing act.

12:33 PM  

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