NPR West in Culver City. LAO
The morning drive time audience on NPR radio stations is down 11 percent in the past five years — in afternoons the drive-time audience is down 6 percent. According to a story in Current.org that cites NPR stats, the only age bracket where listening to NPR stations is up is in the 65-plus group. While NPR is gaining some audience on its digital platforms, the bottom line is that "listeners to NPR stations are aging faster than the overall radio audience and listening less to the network’s most popular radio programs."
NPR’s oldest listeners are “kind of saving us at the moment,” said Jeff Hansen, p.d. at KUOW in Seattle, at a meeting of news and talk station programmers Sept. 30 at the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Pittsburgh. But relying on an older audience to sustain NPR stations is only a “temporary solution,” he added. “The question then becomes, what can we do as stations now to bolster that radio listening?
In addition to the overall AQH [average quarter hour] drop during morning drive, "Morning Edition" has seen a 20 percent drop among listeners under 55 since 2010, according t0 Gwynne Villota, a senior research manager at NPR, who shared the Nielsen data at the PRPD meeting.
“This is an important metric,” said Villota. “. . . It is tied to a lot of revenue at [NPR’s] level and at [the station] level.”
"Morning Edition" saw about a 6 percent increase in AQH among 65-plus listeners since 2010. "All Things Considered" also saw slight AQH gains among listeners ages 12-24 and 55-64 and a roughly 10 percent gain for 65-plus listeners. But AQH listening for the show dropped by roughly 24 percent among 45- to 54-year-olds.
Also, the age gap is widening. "Stations are losing listeners 12–44 years of age. NPR projects that by 2020, its stations’ audience of 44-year-olds and younger will be around 30 percent, half that demographic’s audience share in 1985."
The story notes that NPR had a 75 percent increase in podcast downloads in the past year, station websites saw a 61 percent increase and the NPR.org audience grew nearly 35 percent.