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Observations: Public Radio Technology Survey 2008


♦ There is incredible loyalty for Public Radio among these station database members. They are willing to support the programming financially and are enthusiastic about recommending stations to family and friends. The economic downturn, however, is worthy of attention because of its sweeping impact on family finances and general well-being.

♦ The NPR brand – especially as it relates to news coverage – performs admirably in this study. However, the NPR website and local station web efforts are very much in the background as Public Radio

listeners searched for political information during the election past. Given how the Internet has become such a dominant part of the media/technology landscape, local stations and NPR need to be cognizant of changing news priorities and source usage.

♦ Clearly, there’s a division within the Public Radio audience that transcends format. The younger and emerging demographic profiles quite differently from the 55+ core (which still makes up more than half this sample). Understanding and catering to changing media and technology habits and tastes provide a challenge to any traditional media organization, much less one that has typically appealed to a more mature listener. Younger listeners are increasingly using news and newspaper websites, rather than the print edition – just one example of transitioning media usage.

♦ The iPod – and the podcasts that it hosts – are both an opportunity and a threat. A large number of Public Radio listeners own a personal mp3 player, and many are drifting away from radio (for music) as a result. Yet, podcasting usage is impressive, and there is generally an openness to the concept of sponsor messaging. This provides Public Radio stations – and NPR – with great potential to allow listeners to “time shift” their programming, while generating sponsorship revenue in the process.

♦ Satellite radio has unique challenges, and does not appear to be much of a threat to terrestrial broadcasters at this time. By the same token, the HD Radio initiative’s impact is miniscule, and fraught with several practical barriers that may hamper future growth.

♦ Cell phone ownership and its many uses and applications also provide both potential and fragmentation. As consumers avail themselves of many different functions on these devices, it will be imperative that Public Radio streaming efforts, as well as related digital products, be available on these gadgets that are rapidly become handheld computers.

♦ Technology adoption and use is a unique dynamic that has impacted traditional media consumption, and this study underscores its impact. Annual tracking surveys will be very revealing for understanding how technology and new media change over time.