How The Election And COVID Impact Public Radio


Jacobs Media and the Public Radio Program Directors Association have released Public Radio Techsurvey 2020, an annual study that looks at digital media’s impact on public radio. This 12th annual survey also shows how big an impact politics and COVID has had on public radio.

The survey data was gathered online from June 23-July 19, 2020. 53 public radio stations participated, contributing 19,015 respondents, most of whom are members of these stations’ databases.

Among those listening to more public radio in the past year (26% of all respondents), more than half (55%) say it is a result of the current political climate, while half (50%) report it is due to a lifestyle change (e.g., triggered by the COVID crisis), and 39% are listening more for COVID-19 news coverage. On the other hand, three-fourths (76%) of those listening to less public radio in the past year (11% of the total sample) cite spending less time in a car as the culprit, followed by more than half of this group (54%) who point to those same lifestyle changes.

While more than one in four respondents says they have increased their public radio consumption in the past year, more than one in ten cites less listening to public radio. In both cases, COVID and its tentacles are behind these changes in listening.

Here are several other highlights from the 12th annual report:
Overall radio listening is down, with in-car listening most impacted – The percentage of the public radio audience who say they do not listen to broadcast radio for more than one hour on an average weekday (on any device) increased to 17%, from 14% last year (and 11% in 2018). Listening to public radio on an AM/FM radio in a vehicle saw a precipitous decline as well, down to 30% of overall listening (down from 39% in 2019).

Radio listening in the home continues to decline. The pandemic appears to have sped up the decline in AM/FM radios in the home, as only 77% now say they use a “regular” radio where they live, sharply down from 82% one year ago.

Digital listening is up. More than one-third (36%) of typical weekly public radio listening is to digital sources (computer, mobile, podcasts, smart speakers) – the highest since we started tracking this data – showing a marked increase, up from 31% one year ago. Younger generations lead in digital listening, with half (50%) of public radio listening among Millennials via digital platforms and 46% listening to public radio using digital sources among Generation X. Additionally, nearly four in ten smartphone/tablet owners (38%) have downloaded their primary public radio station’s mobile app (up from 32% in 2019) – another sign that listening is shifting to the digital arena.

Download the full survey HERE



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