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
- More than a dozen public radio programs have weekly audience of 1 million or
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.
- 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
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.
NPR Audience Insight & Research
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.