NPR Is Graying, and Public Radio Is Worried about It

By Paul Farhi; Washington Post | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

NPR Is Graying, and Public Radio Is Worried about It


Paul Farhi; Washington Post, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WASHINGTON * As NPR came of age in the 1980s, its audience matured with it. Three decades later, that is starting to look like a problem.

Many of the listeners who grew up with NPR are now reaching retirement age, leaving NPR with a challenge: How can it attract younger and middle-age audiences whose numbers are shrinking to replace them?

NPR's research shows a growing gulf in who is listening to the likes of "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," the daily news programs that have propelled public radio for more than 30 years. Morning listening has dropped 11 percent overall since 2010, according to Nielsen research that NPR has made public; afternoon listening is down 6 percent over the same period.

Perhaps more troubling are the broader demographic trends. NPR's signal has gradually been fading among the young. Listening among "Morning Edition's" audience, for example, has declined 20 percent among people younger than 55 in the past five years. Listening for "All Things Considered" has dropped about 25 percent among those in the 45-to-54 segment.

The growth market? People over 65, who were increasing in both the morning and afternoon hours.

The graying of NPR, and the declines overall, are potentially perilous to the public radio ecosystem. NPR, based in Washington, serves programs to nearly 900 "member" stations, which rely in large part on financial contributions from their listeners. The stations, in turn, kick back some of their pledge-drive dollars to NPR to license such programs as "Car Talk," "Fresh Air" and "Morning Edition" (federal tax dollars supply only a small part of stations' annual budgets, and virtually none of NPR's).

But as audiences drift to newer on-demand audio sources such as podcasts and streaming, the bonds with local stations and the contributions that come with them may be fraying.

"It's a problem, and no one has really figured out what to do about it," said Jeff Hansen, the program director at Seattle public radio station KUOW. He noted that public radio was invented by people in their 20s in the 1970s, largely at stations funded by colleges and universities. "What they didn't realize at the time was that what they were inventing was programming for people like themselves baby boomers with college degrees."

That audience has largely stayed loyal. The median age of public radio listeners has roughly tracked the median age of baby boomers. The median NPR listener was 45 years old in 1995; now he or she is 54, according to Tom Thomas, co-chief executive of the Station Resource Group, a public-radio strategy and research consortium. "The (aging) trend has been gentle and continuous for the last 20 years," he said.

To shore up its appeal to a younger crowd, NPR's contemporary managers say that they are going where younger ears are, both via digital technology and with programming that has younger people in mind. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

NPR Is Graying, and Public Radio Is Worried about It
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.