Audience Estimates

Public Radio's Unique Place in Radio Ratings: Part 2

Following on from the previous post, given the change in how Arbitron measures radio listening, it’s inevitable that our understanding of metrics such as a cume listener will change too.

One study from Coleman Insights - Real Panelists Tell All - suggests that we need to change the way we think about a listener in the new PPM world.  It’s worth noting that this Coleman study was recently re-released in the wake of the brouhaha within the radio industry about a San Francisco Chronicle article which highlighted how a PPM panelist did not feel at ease about always wearing the meter.

Getting back to the study...Coleman Insights identified three forms of a cume listener:

  • An Invisible listener, who has no recollection whatsoever of listening to a station, but appears in the audience ratings as a listener.  The listening to the station is real, but the person cannot recall when it happened.
  • An Incidental listener who passively listens to a station by being in the proximity of a radio - for example, hearing a station being played in a nearby work cubicle or being forced to listen to a station chosen by someone else whilst driving in a car.
  • An Intentional listener - a listener who chooses to listen to a station frequently and has a relationship with that station.

The study’s findings helped highlight the big difference in how a listener values a station when they spend maybe two songs per week listening compared to a listener who listens to that station regularly, often, and who holds a relationship with that station.  Typically a listener will be most loyal and passionate about their favorite station.  This is where the audience of many NPR News stations shines in comparison to the rest of radio.

When we rank stations on the proportion of the audience who are P1/Core or Intentional – in other words, the station with whom they listen to the most - then NPR News stations rise to the top in nearly every PPM market.  Overall, nearly half (48%) of the audience to a local NPR News station are P1 listeners to that station.

At the market level in the Fall audience ratings, an NPR News station ranked either #1 or #2 for the proportion of audience that are P1/Core listeners in 22 of 29 PPM measured markets (Based on Fall 2009 Arbitron Tapscan ratings, Total Week, Persons aged 12+).

So while Public stations did not gain the boost that other stations did, the PPM has again drawn attention to the value, commitment, and passion of the public radio audience.

Ben Robins is the Research Manager for NPR Programming

* For full disclosure, NPR uses the research services of Coleman Insights

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