After steadily rising in the fall, numerous public radio news/talkers took large ratings leaps in Nielsen’s January survey. Listeners continue to head to the left end of the dial for news and discussion on a wealth of controversial issues and decisions related to the Trump presidency.
The January survey ran Jan. 1-Feb. 1, reflecting 19 days leading up to the inauguration and the action-packed two weeks that followed. In many cases the Trump ratings bump is as large – or larger – than what commercial all-news and news/talk stations are experiencing.
In market after market the story is similar, especially in traditional blue states. Pubcasters began growing their shares in the run-up to the election and have added even more listening since Trump was sworn in as the 45th president.
While presidential election years typically deliver increased ratings for news/talk stations, January’s increases show listeners continuing to turn to public radio to keep pace with the nonstop news cycle emanating from Washington. In our nation’s capital, American University’s WAMU (88.5) narrowly pulled ahead of Hubbard Broadcasting’s WTOP-FM (1035) back in August but opened a wider two-share lead (6+) over the all-news dynasty in the survey leading up to the election. Then in the January book, WAMU topped the market with an 11.0 to WTOP’s 10.4. During Week 4 of the January survey, WAMU garnered its highest weekly cume ever with more listeners than election week in 2016. “The news from the new administration is 24/7—and the PPM methodology is especially reactive during times of high news events,” says Andi McDaniel, senior director, Content & News at WAMU. McDaniel also credits the station’s participation in NPR’s Spark Initiative, which began in Fall 2014, with a 10% year-over-year increase in listening to “Morning Edition.”
Ratings for Minnesota Public Radio’s KNOW-FM Minneapolis (91.1) began to pick up in late summer. A 4.6-6.0 leap in January netted its highest 6+ share in more than four years and put it in fifth place. While MPR News program director Jonathan Blakley attributes much of KNOW-FM’s steady ratings to “intense interest” in the 2016 Presidential election and the consistent flow of news from Washington, he says the January numbers show listeners continuing to flock to the station for post-election news and information. “Other public radio stations across the country are showing the same strong momentum, particularly in this latest [January] book,” Blakley says. “Public radio is doing an exceptional job covering Washington, but it’s also doing an exceptional job analyzing the new administration and putting fast-moving events in clear, fact-based context. MPR News also has a darn fine regional news operation. In my opinion, the ongoing momentum in public radio comes from the hunger of listeners to understand and process what’s going on in their neighborhood, the nation and the world—without shouting at them.”
In San Francisco, not-for-profit KQED-FM (88.5) was trending in the high fours and low fives until the August survey when it began consistently gaining ground, culminating with a 6.4-7.3 return to first place in January. That 7.3 share is KQED-FM’s highest since at least Aug. 2012.
KUOW-FM Seattle spent most of 2016 in the four-share range before jumping into the fives in the election season home stretch. In the January survey, the Northwest Public Radio station hit a second-place 5.8, which is remarkable in light of its relatively small cume of just 395,100. That’s less than half that of Seattle’s top ratings dog, Hubbard CHR “Movin 92.5” KQMV (92.5), which has 932,600 cume persons.
In Denver, Colorado Public Radio KCFR-FM (90.1) jumped to No. 6 with a 3.8-4.7 sprint. Boston University’s WBUR-FM (90.9) is up a full share (3.7-4.7) while St. Louis Public Radio’s KWMU (90.7) advanced 4.5-5.0. In New York, not-for-profit WNYC-FM rose 2.4-2.7 for its highest book since Dec. 2014. In Chicago, Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ trended 2.0-2.5 for its best since last May. And Oregon Public Broadcasting’s KOPB-FM (91.5) added a full share in January (6.9-7.9) to strengthen its No. 2 position in Portland.
Public radio news/talkers also gained ground in Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Orlando and other PPM markets.
Of course commercial news and news/talk stations have also experienced a hearty Trump bump, including outlets in San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York and other markets.