NPR is one of the radio companies most aggressively pushing into podcasting, and new data shows the benefit to the public broadcaster is that on-demand audio is reaching a younger, more diverse audience that has little overlap with its over-the-air stations.
In Nielsen data shared with the Washington Post, NPR says twice as many non-Whites are part of their podcast audience compared to radio. People of color represent 21% of NPR’s radio audience compared to 42% of its podcast listeners.
Nielsen found that whether it is broadcast or podcast, NPR had its biggest reach among Hispanics who make up 17.8% of its podcast listeners and 10% of its radio listeners. Blacks represent 15.5% of podcast listeners and 7% of radio listeners. And Asians are 6.2% of podcast listeners and 5% of radio listeners.
In terms of age, the majority of podcast listeners fall between the 18 to 44 age group while the majority of NPR’s radio listeners are 44 or older.
NPR chief executive John Lansing told the Post that reaching a younger, more diverse audience and expanding the network’s reach into communities that are not typical listeners of public radio is the “number one goal” of its podcast efforts.
But revenue gains help too. Lansing said during the past five years NPR’s podcast revenue has tripled as listeners numbers have grown along with advertiser interest.
Going forward, NPR executives told the Post that the lines between podcast and broadcast will continue to blur. While radio shows have been available as podcasts for years, a growing number of podcasts are getting an opportunity to reach on-air listeners.
The NPR podcast It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders now airs on 409 public radio stations and NPR announced in November that the podcasts Throughline and Code Switch would lead the charge in 2021. NPR says two of its breakout podcasts’ success stories this year will become radio shows in 2021. Beginning January 15, the podcast Throughline became a broadcast show and it now airs on roughly 80 stations. The Throughline podcast, hosted by Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei, each week uses history to understand modern day events and help put what is making the news into context.
“We knew that the radio audience skews older and Whiter, and we thought this is important for them to hear, too,” said Arablouei. “These are stories that are really worthwhile no matter where you fit in the demographics of the U.S.”
The focus for Code Switch hosts Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby is on racial justice issues. It will start appearing on radio station schedules this summer.
For all the gains made in podcast, NPR executives told the Post that radio remains their primary focus. They point out the radio network reaches an estimated 26.1 million people each week according to Nielsen. That is more than all its 47 podcasts combined.