RAIN 3/20: NPR listening declined in 2011, but CEO focused on "explosive" digital growth

Michael Schmitt
March 20, 2012 - 11:50am

NPR News on the iPadAccording to the Pew Research Center, NPR's average weekly over-the-air audience declined slightly in 2011. But digital is where the growth is, says NPR CEO Gary Knell. "Our digital growth is exploding," he told the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Average weekly listening to NPR programming dipped 1.45% from 2010 to 2011, according to Pew's "State of the News Media 2012" report (RAIN coverage here). 

"Our view is that radio isn’t in decline; public radio is actually expanding," said NPR SVP of Marketing Dana Davis Rehm. 

CEO Knell recently stated, “Radio isn’t going away, it's going everywhere... We need to reach audience in ways convenient and accessible to them in emerging and traditional platforms."

Pew points to a few of NPR's digital achievements:

  • Traffic to NPR's website grew over 29% in 2011 (compared to 2010), reaching 17.7 million unique visitors according to Pew. 
  • NPR launched its Pandora-like Infinite Player in 2011 (RAIN coverage here).
  • NPR's apps were downloaded nearly 6 million times by the end of 2011.
  • Monthly downloads of NPR's podcasts grew 20% from 2010.
  • NPR's Facebook page was ranked #3 among the Top 10 fastest-growing news pages.

NPR also earlier this year partnered with Ford for dashboard integration of the NPR News app (RAIN coverage here).

NPR CEO Gary Knell

"NPR’s gotta be on there," Knell (pictured left) said of next-generation car dashboards. "Public radio’s gotta be a player. If we’re not on these platforms, we’re dead. This isn’t a choice of whether -- it’s really a choice of how."

SVP Rehm says NPR is working with member stations to measure streaming listening. This may or may not refer to NPR's addition of Triton Digital's Webcast Metrics to its Digital Services' suite of analytics offerings last week (NPR offers member stations an introduction to Webcast Metrics here).

Pew writes, "If NPR can attract new audiences to its projects across nontraditional platforms and continue to get funding to cover associated start-up costs, it could make up for the loss of terrestrial listeners."

The Nieman Jouranlism Lab points out (here) that weekly listening to NPR stations (in contrast to NPR programming) grew from 2010 to 2011.

"Still, the data in Pew’s report portends near-term challenges for radio," writes the Nieman Lab. The Pew report noted that "there is also evidence in the data that people listen to AM/FM out convenience rather than out of deeper appreciation for the content."

Pew published much more data on radio and Internet radio as a whole. The report includes figures on the growth of listening to online-only radio services (while listening to AM/FM web streams remains flat), and on the projected growth of digital radio revenues. You can find more from Pew here.

Paul Maloney
March 20, 2012 - 11:10am

The San Francisco Chronicle today says, according to a "single source" (which it says categories it as a rumor), audio technology company Beats Audio (partly owned by mobile device manufacturer HTC) has acquired on-demand music service MOG.

News first broke last month that MOG was discussing various exit options with potential buyers (RAIN coverage here). Beats Audio, which makes the popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, but also audio processing for music, was reportedly close to launching an online music subscription service of its own in February.

Here's the Chronicle's coverage.

Paul Maloney
March 20, 2012 - 11:50am

In a piece titled "Pandora Will Be Profitable," the Motley Fool suggests a number of different routes Pandora might be able to take to reverse its losses (losses coming despite skyrocketing consumer uptake).

Most though-provoking are suggestions that would have Pandora moving up the supply chain to promote concerts and new artists -- perhaps going as far as becoming a defacto record label (Note that Pandora's biggest obstacle to profitability right now is the royalty costs going to copyright owners, that is, music labels.).

"One bright spot amidst the industry gloom has been concert sales, which have nearly doubled over the past decade," the Motley Fool wrote. "There's no reason why Pandora can't capitalize on its relationship with over 100 million listeners to promote concerts and new artists...

"Signing artists would not be much different from what Amazon has done with its publishing division or Netflix's move into original content. Both companies have established trusting relationships with millions of consumers and are simply taking the next logical step in leveraging that audience backward to the creative end of the industry."

Read the Motley Fool here.

Paul Maloney
March 20, 2012 - 11:10am

Katz 360 and Univision Radio National Sales (both divisions of Katz Media Group) have together launched the Unidos Digital Network, specializing in Hispanic online audio.

According to the company announcement, Unidos serves 83 million monthly impressions to three million unique users.

Katz 360 President Brian Benedik said, "Research shows that the Hispanic population has the highest usage with listening to radio online and downloading music. And as the fastest growing population segment — one out of every three Americans will be Hispanic by 2050 — clearly this is an incredible opportunity to reach an exploding marketplace."

Read more here.