Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Public Radio 2018

It’s been more than a decade since some media futurists began predicting the demise of public radio in its current form.  While there are ongoing shifts in media usage among public radio listeners, those changes have been more gradual than dramatic. 

Doomsday hasn’t arrived and, as long public radio can avoid severe self-inflicted wounds, doomsday won’t arrive.  

Over the next few postings, RadioSutton will outline what we think the next five years will look like for public radio and why.

Many of the observations might seem self-evident but we believe that they provide a framework for discussing how all of public radio can be strengthened by the very forces that others believe threaten the industry.
 Additional thoughts on each topic will appear in subsequent postings.  

In 2018:
  • Public radio stations will still be, by far, the most significant source of listening to public radio content.
  • The largest cause of any station audience erosion will come from within the public radio industry, not from outside competitors. 
  • Public radio audiences will not be any younger or more diverse.
  • Most public radio stations will be losing money on their digital efforts.  
  • Network programming heard over the radio will still be the most significant source of income for stations and networks alike.
  • Local programming on most news stations will still be losing money and require subsidization to break even.
  • NPR will be raising money directly from listeners and doing it with the belief that is beneficial to its member stations.


Blogger Justin said...

I would disagree somewhat with "The largest cause of any station audience erosion will come from within the public radio industry, not from outside competitors."

Podcasts have replaced almost all non-news programming that I once heard through my local affiliates, and I don't see that erosion slowing down, as more people continue to discover that medium.

It's a much more convenient way to hear programs. The range of topics is almost unlimited. There are no restrictions on expression. The advertising is usually non-existent, easy to skip through, or sometimes as entertaining as the host.

It's to the point now, where if I know I'm going to miss a part of an interesting interview on Fresh Air, I will listen to something else as it airs, and catch it later on the podcast when I know I won't be interrupted.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Aaron Read said...

Public radio audiences will not be any younger or more diverse.

To clarify, you're saying the average age (and demographic, but I'm focusing on age) of the public radio listener will be roughly the same as it is today. Since 2018 is five years in the future, that means that public radio will attract new listeners as they age into pubradio's prime demo.

I certainly would not view that as a terrible thing. It beats the pants off the average listener aging as the current audience stays but no new audience comes into the fold.

BTW, Justin, I think John's talking about erosion at a higher level than the delivery platform. In other words, content coming directly from NPR, et al, (yes, most likely in podcast form) will compete with member stations for audiences. That's all "within the industry".

9:52 AM  
Blogger Aaron Read said...

(forgot to mention, all opinions are my own and do not reflect RIPR's position)

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Chambers said...

I attended a National Federation of Community Broadcasters Association conference in 1987 and was told by NFCB officials that our region had no hopes of obtaining a public radio license. We applied for one two years later. As we were pulling the new station together, we attended another NFCB conference and were told by representatives from PRPD that terrestrial radio would be dead in five years. That was 20 years ago, and if we've learned anything from these and other experiences, it's that the future is never what people predict.

6:23 PM  

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