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Changing listening patterns in public radio

June 11, 2015

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Nieman Lab has an interesting report on the digital listening habits of the audience for public radio stations. It appears that people are listening to less live radio, and instead want public radio on demand.

Total live streaming hours fell 6 percent in the first quarter of 2015 from the same period in 2014. But on-demand listening — which for NPR includes podcasts and individual segments that were initially broadcast on air — seems to be growing by a few different metrics, NPR said.

The data comes from NPR Digital Services, which monitored 239 different public radio streams.

Steve Mulder, NPR’s senior director of audience insights, told Nieman Lab,

“This reflects the larger consumer trend that we see across all media, which is live consumption of any media, including television, shifting to on-demand, self-curated experiences.”

Here are some other notable points from the data.

• On-demand listening now accounts for one-third of all digital listening hours for station content, NPR said.

• On average, users download 40 minutes of audio each month, according to an NPR study of 161 member stations.

• In April, nearly twp million hours of on-demand audio were downloaded from local stations.

• The new NPR One app, which allows users to select the national and local audio they want to hear, has about 150,000 users, with about 75,000 returning each month. They’re spending about 80 minutes a week on the app.

With NPR stations in every corner of the United States, this is an easy story for local reporting. Talk to your news director or station general manager for their views on what this might mean to the future of your station. You also might ask how they think on-demand listening might affect fundraising.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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