Researchers take pride in providing answers to questions and explaining why. In this case, I have the answer, but cannot explain the why. So it's time for me take a step back and ask for some wisdom, insights and best guesses from our readers.
The question was simple enough: which day of the week has the largest broadcast audience for NPR News stations? Back in the diary days, ratings geeks determined that Thursday had the highest ratings, but this bump was largely explained away because Thursday was also the first day of the week for the paper diary. The thinking went that on the first day, diarykeepers were more likely to be thorough about recording their radio listening and less so at the end of the week.
Today, Arbitron's Portable People Meter can side-step that potential bias as meter carriers can start carrying the meter any day of the week. After some quick digging in Arbitron's dataset, I determined that in PPM-measured markets, audience ratings for NPR News-Talk stations during the recent Spring 2011 survey (an average of 12 consecutive weeks) peaked on Tuesdays – admittedly by only a small 1-2% margin over the weekday average.
Why Tuesday? If the programming is almost the same for each weekday, why would ratings peak for NPR News stations on a Tuesday? That's the question that I cannot answer. And maybe in this case, there is no specific reason why.
I dug deeper and found more surprises. On the commercial side for News stations, ratings peaked on a Thursday, and curiously for all radio – commercial, public, FM & AM, HD and streaming, audience ratings peaked on Friday.
Got any ideas? Please add your comments below.
Ben Robins is the Research Manager for NPR Programming.