Mar 20, 2011

SRG assesses latest audience gains against 10-year goals

How much progress has public radio made toward its goal of growing its audience by 50 percent by 2020? There are bright spots in the first follow-up to Station Resource Group's 2010 report that laid out aspirational goals and tactics for increasing the use, reach and diversity of public radio listenership, but also some set-backs.

"In 2010 more people tuned in a public radio station in a typical week and more people used public media’s online services than ever before," write Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas, SRG co-directors and co-authors of the CPB-backed research project. "But the amount of listening – the average audience at any one time – declined significantly, principally due to changes in measurement methodology. Compared to 2008, the percentage of Black listeners in the average audience declined and the percentage of Hispanic listeners grew." Download their first progress report here.

The switch to Arbitron's portable people meters make apples-to-apples ratings comparisons difficult, but in the top 30 metro markets where radio listening was measured by PPM in both fall 2009 and fall 2010, the average audience grew 5.2 percent to 559,100, a gain that exceeds the annual growth rate needed to meet the 10-year goal.

Latest Nightly Business Report owner mulling options, including selling the show

Mykalai Kontilai, whose controversial past stoked headlines when he bought Nightly Business Report last August, has hired Paramount Media Advisors to explore options "from selling a minority stake up to selling the entire company," the New York Times is reporting. Sources familiar with the situation says Kontilai's company, NBR Worldwide, is exploring a strategic alliance with a bigger partner through a minority investment, although a sale of Nightly Business Report "would also be considered."

Media writer Howard Kurtz ponders if NPR is actually its own worst enemy

Is NPR's "complete lack of a strategy to save itself" in the current crisis what's actually doing the most damage to the network? Media analyst Howard Kurtz explores that possibility for Newsweek today (Sunday March 20). He said that NPR staffers flown in for a recent meeting in Washington "groaned when executives said it would be too risky for them to aggressively defend NPR, and that perhaps they should get media training for Joyce Slocum, who took over on an interim basis after the firing of CEO Vivian Schiller" (Current, March 9).

This American Life host Ira Glass also criticized NPR's reaction — or, rather, the lack of it. "Public radio is being hit with a barrage of criticism that it’s left-wing media — biased, reprehensible — and we’re doing nothing to stand up for our brand,” he said. “They’re not responding like a multimedia organization that’s actually growing and superpopular.”

One bit of good news from Patrick Butler, head of the Association of Public Television Stations and its new offshoot partnership with NPR, the Public Media Association. Butler said he is "encouraged by the fact that our friends are still our friends” in Congress, adding, "people are not deserting me in droves as I might have feared.”

Difference between public and commercial radio? Just take a listen

Bob Davis, editor of the Anniston (Ala.) Star, undertook an experiment to determine if the "enlightened" broadcasting content that President Lyndon Johnson envisioned when he signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 is being provided by commercial radio, thus eliminating the need for NPR. "Friday morning, I probed this idea by randomly scanning the radio dial, something my family can attest is a specialty of mine," Davis said. What he found may not be surprising, but it is amusing.

S.C. governor replaces entire pubcasting oversight board, prompting concerns

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's decision last week to replace the entire seven-member Educational Television Commission has pubcasting supporters worried, reports The State newspaper. "What worries me is if people go in there thinking they know what ETV means, thinking it's just Masterpiece Theater, and they make decisions without being educated," Caroline Whitson, president of Columbia College and the fundraising ETV Endowment Board, told the paper. "They could make decisions that long-term have very detrimental effects on this state without realizing what they've done." ETV, created in 1960, operates a statewide network of 11 television stations, eight radio stations and a closed-circuit telecommunications system used by schools, government agencies and businesses, the paper said.