Nov 23, 2009

Gray heads in the pubradio audience, quantified by format

An analysis of aging among public radio listeners put numbers behind Garrison Keillor’s observation that every year there are more gray heads in the audiences for live tapings of Prairie Home Companion.

Long dominated by Baby Boomers, the audiences of public radio news, jazz and classical music stations in the top 50 markets are aging at slightly different rates, but the lifestyle changes of retirement loom for this sizable group. In fact, nearly half of classical listeners are already out of the workforce.

Over the past decade, spring 1999 to 2009, the audience of news-format stations has aged more slowly than those of classical or jazz stations, according to George Bailey of Walrus Research. News-station listeners’ median age climbed five years from 47 to 52; for jazz, the median aged seven years, from 48 to 55; for classical, the median also grew seven years older, going from 58 to 65.

Bailey notes that “half of the classical audience are not Boomers, rather they are seniors on Medicare.” The percentage of classical music listeners who are employed dipped to 47 percent this year. That’s a 16 percent drop from spring 1997, when 63 percent of the classical audience was in the workforce. As for the retirees, “the end of employment may have some impact on their willingness to contribute money to the station,” he writes.

Percentages of news and jazz listeners who are employed are 70 and 61, respectively, but the portions have dropped 7 points or more since 1999.

Bailey attributes slower aging among news listeners to those stations’ successes in recruiting listeners, including younger ones. “In fact, the NPR news stations that we analyzed in this study nearly doubled their audience from 2007 to 2009.” Some of these new listeners are younger, college-educated folk.

Walrus used AudiGraphics to analyze 51 public radio stations broadcasting focused formats in 2009. Stations had to air the format during morning, midday and afternoon dayparts to be included.

New PBS NewsHour brings on Web anchor

When retiring newsman Carl Kasell entered NPR’s broadcast booth in 1975, his voice went out over airwaves bounced across antennae nationwide to reach radio listeners. When incoming PBS NewsHour staffer Hari Sreenivasan presents his news, he’ll be anchoring video updates connected across digital platforms to bridge the on-air TV show to Web users worldwide. Starting Dec. 7, Sreenivasan will deliver online video news updates on the NewsHour's website and anchor the headline summary of each evening’s broadcast edition of the newly retooled program. He comes from a similar spot at ABC News Now, where he anchored the 24-hour online service. Sreenivasan's reports have appeared regularly on the CBS Evening News, The Early Show and CBS Sunday Morning. He also was a reporter for World News Tonight and Nightline.

Kasell gets to sleep in, as of January

Longtime pubcasting voice Carl Kasell, 75, is retiring after three decades of rolling out of bed at 1:05 a.m. for Morning Edition, according to a statement to staffers at NPR. He’ll stay on as judge and scorekeeper for the popular quiz show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! NPR noted that his role on the show “turned him from a newsman into a rock star!” He’s been with the program since its inception in January 1998. Kasell has been in broadcasting for 50 years, with NPR since 1975. He’s won several major broadcast awards, including a Peabody he shares with Morning Edition and another he shares with Wait Wait. Earlier this year he was chosen for's Power Grid of media movers and shakers, ranking 84th out of 1,585 individuals from 382 broadcast, online and print entities. Selections were based audience numbers, Google hits and mentions in social media networks. Kasell has nearly 5,000 Facebook friends. His last newscast will be Dec. 30. NPR said he’ll get a “fitting farewell” in January. (Photo: NPR)

Sesame Workshop participating in president's Educate to Innovate initiative

Sesame Workshop is making a $7.5 million investment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education with its new Math is Everywhere initiative, the Workshop announced today. The grant is from PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Math is Everywhere, part of the Workshop's $100 million Grow Up Great program, will develop multiple media, bilingual (English and Spanish) resources to teach early mathematics skills for young children along with best practices for the adults in their lives, including parents, childcare providers and teachers. The effort is part of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, also announced today, to boost science and math achievement over the next decade.

Law professor working with pubcasters on plan for system's future

A Rutgers law professor is getting input from NPR, PBS and CPB, along with independent media-makers and community activists, for a report suggesting ways to develop a blueprint for system's future "as it makes a transition from public broadcasting to a network of services that range over many platforms," according to a Rutgers statement. She's examining the intersection of public media, best practices, governance and public policy. Goodman advised the Obama-Biden transition team on telecommunications and media law, and briefed incoming administration officials on technology innovations. She also is a research fellow at American University’s Center for Social Media. Her current work is funded by a Ford Foundation grant.