NPR Growth Continues, Reinforcing the Idea that “It’s the Content, Stupid”

Newly released NPR numbers help to support the idea that there’s nothing wrong with radio as a medium, only the product…

npr logoBy Paul Marszalek

In my day job, which involves distributing news and information programming worldwide, I’m fond of saying, “Nothing solves a distribution problem faster than great content.”

It sounds really simple, but it’s also very true – create amazing content, and people will figure out a way to consume it. Visit an illegal download site and you’ll see the best content ever made rise to the top; content so good people steal it.

Unlike many media companies, which work very hard on distribution, but not very hard on the product, NPR has it right.

Commercial radio takes a beating in the popular press, and that trickles down to the ad agencies, resulting in a specious argument that no one listens any more. That’s always been wrong, but the argument persists due to commercial radio’s chronic lack of investment in buzz-worthy content.

NPR, on the other hand, invests heavily in rich news and information content and, unlike its commercial counterparts, has methodically rolled out updated digital products, adapted to social feeds, and launched an array of podcasts.

Not all of it is stellar. Some news stories drag on for too long, podcasts can be hit or miss, and NPR Music arguably focuses too much on tiny hipster bands and coffeehouse artists. But these are criticisms that are to be expected.

Overall, NPR does amazing work, and the audience numbers back it up.

In terms of audience reach, NPR touted a cross-platform audience of “at least 99 million people every month.” I have a heavy research background, and that number feels a little bit fuzzy. There is no way to de-duplicate a cross-platform audience. In other words, some of those 99 million may be using more than one platform, and are therefore counted more than once. But let’s call it what it is, an estimate, and assume that the actual number of unique monthly users is somewhat smaller.

That said, the other numbers that pile up on behalf of NPR tell a great story.

Five consecutive quarters of growth, with radio alone reaching 37.7 million on a weekly basis. Newsmags Morning Edition and All Things Considered have audiences in excess of 14.5 million listeners, according to Nielsen. The podcast slate has 15.5 million unique monthly users, and gets traffic to the tune of 37 million visitors per month.

But it gets even better for NPR: Combine Millennials and Gen Xers, and more than a quarter of all US 25-54 year-olds listened to an NPR member station in the past month. That’s staggering, and a testament to the great work local stations do in addition to the NPR content.

Further, there’s double digit growth among African Americans and Hispanics for the aforementioned news magazines.

Nielsen watchers know that NPR stations in Portland, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and San Diego are not only the top news stations in the market, they’re often the top station in the market.

There’s a reason for this. Content.

Filed Under: Actual NewsFeaturedNewsRadio and Records


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