Public radio listeners turn on the radio first and foremost to stay informed about the news, finds Jacobs Media in a study of more than 30,000 public radio listeners from 49 public stations, released in July. 63.3% of respondents said that a main reason for listening to AM/FM radio is to stay informed about the news. Of note, Americans trust public TV and radio more than any other information channel, per results of an Allstate and National Journal survey from June.
Public radio listeners’ focus on information puts them at odds with commercial radio listeners. Of those, the most common reason for listening to AM/FM radio is to hear their favorite songs (53.3%), per a separate Jacobs Media survey released in April. For public radio listeners, though, the station that sent them the survey counts as a frequent news source for the largest proportion of respondents. 70.5% said they use the station a lot for news and current events, while 68.5% use NPR news reports a lot and 67.6% use news programs a lot for this purpose. Daily local (44.1%) and national (30.8%) figure less prominently as frequent news sources for this group.
Aside from the news, other primary reasons why public radio listeners tune into the radio include liking particular shows and hosts (34.7%) and hearing their favorite music (22.4%)
Radio Gets the Nod in the Morning
Meanwhile, when asked the first media activity they engage in after waking up, 53% of public radio listeners say they either turn on a radio at home (44.3%) or in their car (9.1%). Email is also prevalent, with 18.8% of respondents indicating this to be their first media activity of the day, while watching TV (9%) and reading a print newspaper (8.4%) are also the “first occasion” for some.
Radio Consumption on the Rise
Data from Jacob Media’s “Public Radio Techsurvey 4” indicates that 13.2% of respondents say they’re listening to more AM/FM radio when compared to last year, while 8.6% say they are listening to less. The most common main reason given for listening to less radio was a lifestyle change (less time, job, personal reasons), by 41.9% of this subset of listeners. Indeed, this was the main reason for more of these respondents than adoption of other media or gadgets. For example, only 13.2% said that spending more time on the internet was a main reason for listening to less AM/FM radio, while just 3.6% said using a cell phone more was as a primary reason.
Many Listeners Get Social, Use Variety of Tech
Public radio listeners appear to be fairly active social networking users. 70% have a profile on a social networking site, with the most popular of those being Facebook (92.3%), LinkedIn (60.6%), Twitter (26.2%), and Google+ (21.3%), although Pinterest also sees double-digit adoption among these listeners (12.1%).
Additionally, technology appears to have wide penetration among this demographic: 55% own a smartphone (including 79% of those aged 18-34). This compares to the latest data from comScore indicates that 47% of mobile device-owning Americans owns a smartphone. Also, 30% of public radio respondents own a tablet, with 37% of those without a tablet at least somewhat likely to buy one this year. That 30% figure is only slightly higher than the 29% tablet ownership rate among online consumers estimated by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in July. However, the CEA rate is for adoption levels in June 2012, and represents an increase of 9% points from 20% in March. The Jacobs Media survey was conducted from late March through mid-April, so would be more comparable with that earlier 20% figure.
Also interesting is that the tablet adoption rate for public radio stations listeners come from a survey sample in which the average age is 55.8, with 70% of respondents aged 45 and older.
About the Data: The Jacobs Media survey was fielded from March 27 to April 19, 2012 and conducted in partnership with the Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD). 49 public stations covering multiple formats from throughout the US participated. Most respondents are members of station email databases. Some responses were gathered via the station’s website or social networking pages. All responses were collected online and weighted using their Fall ’11 metro 12+ cume audiences. The total respondent sample is 30,768, with 57% of the sample being female. As a web poll, it cannot replicate all radio listeners nor even each station’s audience.