According to Jacobs Media’s Public Radio Techsurvey, 20% of respondents say they own or use a smart speaker device, with one in five using it to listen to AM/FM radio. That mark a big leap from last year’s Public Radio Techsurvey, which showed 12% of respondents owning or using these devices. Still, smart speakers, so far, account for just 3% of total time spent with public radio, Jacobs Media revealed last week at the Public Radio Program Directors Association conference.
At the gathering in Austin, TX, the research and consultancy firm’s president Fred Jacobs encouraged attendees to get a “voice strategy” if they don’t already have one. “When we think back to what the iPhone did back in 2005, 2006, that’s what’s going on with smart speakers,” he told those in the session, according to Current. “This is a big deal.”
The study also found that during a typical week, 69% of the time listeners spend with public radio takes place tuned into the over-the-air signal, while 29% of the listening comes via streaming on digital devices. While the survey showed that only 60% of Millennial-aged public radio listeners own a traditional radio, that demo accounted for the largest share (27%) of those who said they listened to public radio more over the past year. Overall, 17% of those surveyed say they are listening more.
Seven percent say they are tuning into public radio less, with respondents citing lifestyle changes, less time in vehicles and news fatigue. “You can really see that the problem with public radio has less to do with this program or that program or even people using different digital platforms,” Current reported Jacobs as saying. “That factors in here, but the main drivers are people OD’ing a bit on the news.”
News factors into why public radio listeners tune in, with respondents citing credibility, objectivity, the need to be informed and wanting to learn new things as top reasons to spend time with public radio.
Like its commercial radio counterpart, Jacobs Media’s Public Radio Techsurvey is based on an online survey of listeners recruited from the databases of participating radio stations. For the 2018 survey, 53 public radio stations took part and 22,000 listeners responded. Data was weighted using Nielsen 2017 market population estimates but isn’t representative of radio listeners in general or public radio listeners specifically. However it does offer a finely nuanced look into the media habits of core public radio devotees.