Loyal Audience, New technology

For most of NHPR’s history, audience growth has occurred as a result of improved quality and richness of our program offerings, in conjunction with our signal expansion efforts.

While that model has served us well, it is important to acknowledge that the rapidly changing media and technology landscape means we must work to grow our audience through new and emerging platforms, as well as to use those platforms to better serve our current audience.

As we move forward, we must consider the new environment in which we find ourselves and commit to strategies that leverage new technologies and platforms without compromising our core values and mission.

A digital explosion

  1. New Platforms for our content. NHPR listeners have cell phones (95%), smartphones (63%), and tablets (55%); listen to internet radio (47%); are on Facebook (70%); text (65%); listen to the radio (82%); and read a daily newspaper (71%).
  2. Unlimited access to information. News consumers can find information around the clock, and from around the world.
  3. By-Pass. In a world where multi-platform distribution is the name of the game, consumers are not wedded to getting information from their local public radio station. They can by-pass the local news producers to access podcasts, apps, and NPR One, among other sources. As a counter-weight to this availability of information, stations are turning to increasing and improving local news and program production.
  4. Competition. We don’t have an exclusive relationship with even our most ardent listeners; countless organizations are using digital platforms to market and fundraise – every non-profit, every political candidate, every retailer is selling something. We also face competition from local and national media, as well as emerging digital outlets.  

The Changing Role of Radio

  1. Gen X-ers and Millennials are the first generations to grow up listening from the back seat, yet they don’t typically own radios. They listen to podcasts, streaming audio, apps, and in their cars they connect to their mobile devices using Bluetooth.
  2.  Car radios have long been the primary way that Public Radio listeners access our programming, develop a sense of loyalty to their local station, and hear our calls for support through on-air pledge drives. Today, manufacturers are introducing “connected cars” – cars equipped with internet access. While traditional AM and FM radio options will be offered and NPR will be prominently featured on entertainment dashboards, we anticipate that traditional radio listening habits will change over time.   

Engagement & Podcasts

NHPR has made a commitment to engage with our audience where they live, both in the real world and online. According to a January 2015 report by Pew Research, 71% of adult internet users – or 58% of the entire adult population – regularly use Facebook. Among those users, the fastest-growing age segment by far is 50 and older.

While we are currently leveraging platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share NHPR content, it’s critical to keep an eye on the places that same audience is looking to discover and access new content, especially the on-demand audio files more commonly known as podcasts. 

In February 2015, NPR announced that its program Invisibilia, which launched less than a month prior, surpassed ten million plays via podcast alone. In just weeks, the show – which is also available in radio format as a weekly program – ranked among NPR’s most popular programs of all time.

NPR and its member stations are acknowledging the importance of podcasts because download statistics reveal that podcasting is the fastest-growing audio access platform across all age groups, but especially among younger listeners. As we move forward, it is a platform for which we must innovate as we develop and create new audio content.

Related: Click to read the New Yorker's article Invisibilia and the Evolving Art of Radio

According to iTunes’ top download charts, public radio-produced podcasts comprise the lion’s share of the most popular podcast content, so we know we are in a position to create the product this rapidly growing audience wants. In the past two years, we have begun to create content designed to reach this new audience, launching Outside/In, Civics 101, and the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop as discrete podcast content.

In Fiscal Year 2017 alone, these three shows were downloaded more than four million times by listeners all over the world, and created unique opportunities to engage with an audience we couldn't otherwise reach. 

The nine podcasts featured in this slideshow all have origins in public radio. All are regularly featured on iTunes' Top 10 chart.