Jacobs Media Releases Public Radio Tech Survey 5
August 21, 2013

Jacobs Media has released the results of its fifth annual Public Radio Tech Survey, finding that the value of trending is on display as gadget acquisition and digital media usage continues its growth curve. Describing the Public Radio audience as "extremely well-educated," they are "actively accessing information from a growing variety of media sources- and changing the way that media outlets provide their content." 

Partnered with the Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD), Jacobs' Public Radio Tech Survey continues to track the rapidly changing landscape of media usage and gadgetry among Public Radio listeners. This year’s study cross-tabulates the audience among chronological generations, providing a unique picture of how different types of Public Radio listeners access content and interface with these stations.

The core of Public Radio's audience is made up of Baby Boomers, but a nearly equal portion of is comprised of the "Silent Generation" (67 years of age and older) and those who fall in Generation X and the Millennial groupings (those between the ages of 21 and 39). Each of these formidable groups profiles very differently, providing Public Radio managers with both opportunities and challenges with the delivery of new and traditional media, as well as emerging platforms and technologies.  

Arthur Cohen, President of PRPD comments, "Generationally, there are big stories in PRTS5. Our stakeholder stations now have a playbook to help guide their strategic planning as the world of technology undergoes rapid change." 

Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs notes, "Mobile and mobility continue to have steep upward trajectories while on-demand programming is becoming even more popular. Public radio’s great content is tailor-made for digital consumption."

Some of the key takeaways from PRTS5 include: 

  • Going mobile – Public Radio listeners are increasingly purchasing mobile devices.  Now more than six in ten own a smartphone, while half now carry a tablet. iPads and similar devices account for an amazing 63 percent increase from PRTS4. This strongly suggests that more and more, Public Radio partisans enjoy taking their content and media sources with them.
  • Twitter on the move – While Twitter’s reach is still dwarfed by Facebook, its footprint continues to grow. Now, more than one-fifth (21 percent) of respondents use the platform, especially fans of Triple A stations and Gen X and Y respondents.
  • On-demand in demand – In PRTS5, nearly half (46 percent) engage in time-shifted programming, often in the form of podcasts. Once again, the younger public generations are in the vanguard, along with fans of Public Radio’s News/Talk stations. 
  • The generation gap – While Baby Boomers represent the center lane of Public Radio partisanship and usage, it is the emerging Generation X and Millennial audiences that are making waves. Nine in ten of them use social networks, eight in ten own a smartphone, and six in ten stream on a weekly basis or more often. This "new guard" of Public Radio listener requires tracking and dedicated content initiatives by stations affected by their listenership and membership.

Other highlights from PRTS5:

  • Net Promoter recommendation scores continue to be spectacular for Public Radio stations, while social sharing continues to grow. This combination is potentially very powerful for Public Radio stations able to engage and harness it.
  • In-car listening continues to play a major role in Public Radio consumption. Now, half of PRTS5 respondents are able to connect a phone or MP3 player into their vehicles.
  • When it comes to smartphones and tablets, the Apple platform continues to dominate Public Radio hardware choices.
  • Local Public Radio stations are the go-to destinations for both breaking and news stories that provide more perspective. Notably, Generations X and Y are the most apt to turn to local Public Radio outlets to glean perspective and additional information after a story first breaks.

Fred Jacobs will moderate a special session at the Public Radio Program Directors Convention in Atlanta on Tuesday, September 17 at 4pm – "PRTS5  Unplugged – Not By The Numbers" – a conversation about what this study means beyond the data. For more information on the conference, click here.

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Mark Adams
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