Jacobs, Mark Ramsey Unveil Public Radio Research Approach
|RADIO ONLINE | Monday, September 18, 2023|
While the past few decades have been successful ones for public radio organizations and stations, significant forces are conspiring to create headwinds that need to be confronted to ensure future success. This great run by public radio has been driven by its excellence in journalism, content and programming. An audience has been nurtured, and their loyalty has been measured not only in their listening, but also in their financial support.
Unfortunately, despite attempts to diversify audience, listeners of NPR and local station programming remains primarily Caucasian and older. This is primarily due to a lack of a strategy-based understanding where the "next adjacent" audience is and how to reach them.
In late July, the Station Resource Group, Greater Public and the Public Radio Program Directors Association jointly issued a "Public Radio Playbook," an effort designed to highlight the challenges to growth and the research necessary to help provide the answers. The "Playbook" identified many of the issues we have seen in our research regarding audience growth, stating:
"A purely demographic focus on age, race, and ethnicity assumes that these segments - 'young' adults or BIPOC audiences - think and act monolithically. If the goal of audience growth for Public Media is to engage with members of the general public who are not currently engaged with Public Radio, but have the high potential to do so, the strategies to achieve this should focus instead on thinking about the population psychographically - in other words, looking for people who share the same values and interests, and whose values and interests align closely with Public Radio."
Research and consulting firms Jacobs Media and Mark Ramsey Research announce the launch of a research initiative for public radio stations to help identify the next generation of listeners. As Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs described, "We speak with a wide variety of public radio stations constantly, and while they all talk about audience expansion and diversification, there's too much guesswork without research to help guide their decisions. We have been able to unlock the mystery behind audience expansion through this innovative research and backed up by the findings and recommendations from the 'Playbook,' we are confident we will be able to identify the next adjacent audiences and develop approaches to grow audiences."
The companies have provided a white paper that details this research approach here. This research process was utilized by Maine Public in 2022. Since that time, Maine Public has been initiating the findings of the work, with great success.
Maine Public Digital Director Rob Holt led the project and commented, "Working in partnership with Mark Ramsey Media and Jacobs Media, we performed an audience segmentation study -- divide the new audiences into several (approximately 5) segments using personae to embody the groups we want to reach. We can now clearly see our entire audience picture -- who is in the audience, and who is not. We're using this data when evaluating new and existing content creation -- deliberately targeting one or more segments. Then we measure the success of those efforts and we have the data to help us better reach our new and existing audiences. This is incredibly useful and actionable data."
Ramsey added, "There's power in understanding the surprising and unique needs, habits, and tastes of audiences new to public media whose interests and values align with those of today's core public media audiences. Mapping the media habits and content preferences of potential new audiences to the tastes of today's fans and our own commitment to public service creates an abundance of opportunities for public media."
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