While the past few decades have been successful ones for public radio organizations and stations, significant evolutionary forces are conspiring to create headwinds that need to be confronted to ensure future success and sustainability. This great run by public radio has been driven by its excellence in journalism, content, programming and adherence to its outstanding core values. An impressive audience has been nurtured, and their loyalty has been measured not only in their listening, but also in their financial support.
But in spite of serious, well-intentioned efforts to grow and diversify audiences, public radio listeners remain primarily Caucasian and older. While some of the explanation can be attributed to a lack of programming inertia, the absence of a strategy-based understanding of the “next adjacent” audience and how to reach them may be the underlying problem.
In late July, the Station Resource Group, Greater Public, and the Public Radio Program Directors Association jointly issued a “Public Radio Playbook,” a smart effort designed to highlight the challenges to growth as well as the research necessary to help provide the answers. The “Playbook” identified many of the issues we have seen in our local station research. As well as our 15 Public Radio Techsurveys. Regarding audience, here's a direct quote from the “Playbook”:
“A purely demographic focus on age, race, and ethnicity assumes that these segments – ‘young’ adults or BIPOC audiences – think and act monolithically. If the goal of audience growth for Public Media is to engage with members of the general public who are not currently engaged with Public Radio, but have the high potential to do so, the strategies to achieve this should focus instead on thinking about the population psychographically – in other words, looking for people who share the same values and interests, and whose values and interests align closely with Public Radio.”
Research and consulting firms Jacobs Media and Mark Ramsey Research announce the launch of a bold strategic research initiative designed for public radio stations to help identify the next generation of public radio listeners and how to effectively connect with them.
In discussions with public radio clients and colleagues, we hear a lot of aspirational talk about audience expansion and diversification, but oftentimes, guesswork overshadows a strong strategic approach. The greatest thinkers need laser-focused research tools to help guide their decision-making.
We have created an innovative, affordable research solution that identifies the optimal audience expansion pathway for stations and public radio organizations in their respective marketplaces.
Our approach adheres to the core suggestions in the “Playbook’s” findings and recommendations. The research, combined with our decades of experience in the space, will identify “next adjacent audiences” and develop communications strategies that create meaningful connections with them.
Our white paper is available for download with more details about the project, how it has been applied at Maine Public, and examples of its output.
Download the White Paper