What Were You Thinking?

Public Radio Today 2010

There are many takes on the new Arbitron Public Radio Today 2010 publication, some of which may be surprising to radio listeners in places like Gainesville, whose WUFT recently lost its classical programming. This post on televisionbroadcast.com, for instance, is titled “Classical Music Still Feels at Home on Public Radio,” though the Gainesville protesters might disagree. The lead paragraph states:

Classical music may be harder to find among commercial stations these days; but the format gained more share of the public radio audience than any other last year, according to the latest “Public Radio Today” report from Arbitron.

The number of stations airing straight classical public music (i.e., excluding those in the “news/classical” combo category) increased 9%, to 109, in late 2009 compared to a year earlier. Classical’s share of the public radio audience increased from 13.7 in 2008 to 15.4 in 2010, the largest of any format in the report. (Meantime, the number of stations in combo category “news/classical” was down 13 to 250 stations, though its share of listening grew a tad.)

Other conclusions therein may not be such a surprise in Boston, where ‘GBH went all-talk, chasing the ratings of already-extant local public-radio talkies:

The study found that overall, news/talk remains the most listened-to public radio format, capturing nearly half of all public radio listening. A dozen stations added that format in 2009; its 12+ audience share and reach are more than twice the next strongest public format. However, its ratings were off from “stellar” numbers during the presidential election.

Other conclusions drawn on the site include this about the invasive triple-A tripe format taking hold of many stations:

Adult Album Alternative (AAA) had 11 fewer stations in late 2009 compared to a year earlier, though its numbers are relatively stable….

A Columbia, Maryland, website here called advertisertalk.com carried a quote from an Arbitron source that basically parrots the industry line, saying that public radio “continues to be a vibrant and relevant part of many Americans’ lives”:

The medium plays an important role in today’s media landscape by providing important programming not available anywhere else [emphasis added]. Public radio is also meeting the challenges of a crowded media landscape by taking full advantage of technological innovations, including podcasting, Internet streaming and HD Radio® multicasting.

Yes, spending the money on high-priced gadgets instead of content. Some PDs are enamored of the idea that they can capture the “rising adults” — the youth market — with a playlist of contrived twaddle. A comment to a Ben Fong-Torres article on this San Francisco site — quoting a Clear Channel exec as saying kids still do listen to radio — had this disparaging opinion:

Radio listening has gone down. Look at the ratings from 10 years ago. Commercial radio is bland, boring and repetitive. The same 20 songs now ( not 40 anymore ) over and over and some playing the same song every 1½ hours. Kids have so many choices today and commercial radio is down on their list. The spin doctors at Clear Channel can spin it however they want but they have all researched themselves into irrelevance. Like Elvis Costello said many years ago “Radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools…”

A lot of “important” (or self-important) information is contained within the study, which can be spun in innumerable ways. Make like a PD and cherry-pick the statistics you want to use to make your case. It’s how the big boys do it.

publicradiotoday2010

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One Response

  1. […] Arbitron’s Public Radio Today 2010 (found in the post “What Were You Thinking?” here). It notes the following: It comes as no surprise that News/Talk captures nearly half of all public […]

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