Friday, March 08, 2013

Public Radio 2018: Radio Still Rules

This is part two in our series on what public radio is likely to look like in 2018.  You can read part one by clicking here. In this posting, why public radio stations will still be, by far, the most significant source of listening to public radio content in 2018.

Simply put, listening to public radio stations dwarfs listening to public radio content digitally.   Let’s do the numbers.
  • In Spring 2012 more than 37 million people tuned in to public radio.^
  • The average number of weekly tune-ins per listener is around 7.5. +
  • That means public radio listeners chose to listen to public radio stations more than 13.5 billion times in 2012.
  • All of those tune-ins translated into more than 8 billion hours of listening.
  • Morning Edition was the biggest draw, attracting 12.3 million listeners per week.
  • More than a dozen public radio programs have weekly audience of 1 million or more.
By comparison:

  • This American Life claims to have one of the largest weekly podcast audiences with around 700,000 downloads per week.
  • While there’s no single source of web and mobile statistics, the most optimistic estimate today is that streaming listening equals 3% to 5% of radio listening.*
In rough numbers, digital-based listening would to double every year for the next five years to equal the amount of radio listening that public radio earns today.   That is – the web-based audience would have to increase 100% over the previous year, every year, for five years.

There’s no doubt that digital-based listening in all of its forms will play an important role in growing public radio’s audience.   But the idea that digital-based listening will become public radio’s leading source of audience by 2018 isn’t realistic.

Business strategies built on the assumption that radio audiences will be less important in 2018 than they are today are likely to be failed strategies.

^Source: NPR Audience Insight & Research
+Tune-in and TSL estimates with assistance from Audience Research Analysis
* NPR reported that in June 2012, the average aggregated web streaming audience to 88 stations it tracks was just under 7,200 people.  That means that the average streaming audience to any one station was less than 100 listeners.  It does not include mobile listening. We reached our conclusion using reasonable extrapolations to all public radio stations with mobile listening included.  Got better numbers? Please share them.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

On the Value of Radio

TV and Print consume people's time.  Radio makes the time people spend doing other things more valuable.