One of the exciting things about having an engaged audience advisory panel and working in a creative organization is that you get to ask questions on topics that haven't been asked before. Over the past two years, Weekend Edition has been developing its social media presence with Facebook updates and tweets from the show staff, including hosts Scott Simon and Liane Hansen. This led the research group to work closely with the Weekend Edition staff to better understand if and how their social media efforts have had an impact with the show's audience.
The results provided us with a first look at how social media is not only changing the way that news organizations report the news, but how some listeners are learning to engage in new and different ways. As Scott and Liane expressed on-air, listeners have "alerted us to stories, suggested questions for guests and become a part of our program in ways that weren't possible just a year ago."
Social media engagement with one show can reap wider benefits. We also found that the longer listeners follow Weekend Edition on Facebook and/or Twitter, the more engaged with NPR they become. Weekend Edition blogged about the findings when the results were released back in January (as did the folks at research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey), but the full report, which we have not made public until now, is embedded below.
These are exciting results, but we're not getting carried away. We recognize that Facebook updates and tweets aren't for everyone - and listeners had no qualms in telling us that. However, the dynamics between news outlets and their audiences are changing quickly. This research confirmed the power of radio, but also made clear that our digital offerings can complement and strengthen listener engagement.
If you have thoughts or questions about this project, please let us know in the comments.
Ben Robins is Research Manager for Programming and Sandra Lozano is a Research Analyst. Both work in NPR's Audience Insight & Research group.