Pew Research Center: Public Radio Remains Stable As Online Audio & Podcasting Grow.


The news offerings of public broadcasters have been marked by relative financial stability, while online audio and podcasting audiences have grown over the last decade, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis conducted for its research on the state of the news media. These are among topline findings from “State of the News Media: Newspapers, Public Broadcasting and Audio and Podcasting,” released Tuesday by Pew. The report looks at key audience and economic indicators for various sectors within the U.S. news media.


Pew is releasing the findings in batches. The first one focuses on public broadcasting, audio and podcasting, and newspapers.


The top 20 NPR-affiliated public radio stations, based on listenership, had on average a total weekly listenership of about 9 million in 2020, down 9% from 2019, according to Nielsen Audio National Regional Database data reported by NPR. Meanwhile, the audience for public television programming increased sharply over the past year. In 2020, “NewsHour,” which airs on PBS, attracted 1.2 million viewers on average, up 18% from the year before, according to Nielsen NPower data reported by PBS NewsHour.


Pew’s research shows the financial picture for news outlets in public broadcasting appeared strong both locally and nationally, according to data from NPR, Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and Public Media Futures. At the national level, NPR’s total operating revenue in 2020 was $270.1 million, roughly the same as 2019. PRX was down 10%, falling to about $37.6 million in total revenue for 2020. At the local public radio level, an analysis by Public Media Futures of the public filings provided by 123 of the largest news-oriented organizations that operate local public radio stations shows that in 2019 – the last year for which reliable data is available – total revenue for this group was $989.7 million. Click HERE for a Pew fact sheet on public broadcasting.


Broadcast Radio Listening Remains High


The audience for broadcast radio remains high, Pew says, though there was a slight drop in 2020; 83% of Americans ages 12 or older listened to AM/FM radio in a given week in 2020, a figure that dropped slightly from 89% in 2019 according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau.


The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast has also substantially increased over the last decade. As of 2021, 41% of Americans ages 12 or older have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to The Infinite Dial report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, up from 37% in 2020 and just 9% in 2008. Additionally, 28% of those 12 and older said they have listened to a podcast in the last week, up from 24% in 2020 and 7% when this was first measured in 2013.


The share of the public listening to online audio has plateaued at a high level, according to survey data from Edison Research and Triton Digital. As of early 2021, 68% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online audio in the past month, while 62% had listened in the past week. This has been about steady since 2019, revealing a plateau after steady year-over-year growth from 2007 to 2018.


News Radio Revenue Dropped 24%


Average radio revenue dropped sharply in 2020 – by 24% – for stations in the all-news format, according to MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. Average station revenue for stations in the all-news format dropped from $18.1 million in 2019 to $13.9 million in 2020. Average revenue for a combination of stations in the all-news, news/talk, and news/talk/info formats is substantially lower than when looking at all-news stations alone – in 2021, $2.1 million per station.


There were 3,360 news employees in the broadcast radio industry in 2020, about 1,000 fewer than in 2004, when there were 4,290 news employees, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. The median wage in 2020 for news analysts, reporters and journalists in the radio broadcasting industry was about $49,000. Editors in broadcast radio had a median annual wage of about $79,000. Click HERE for a Pew fact sheet on audio and podcasting.


Pew Research Center has changed its publishing schedule to release its state of the news media analyses on a biennial model, releasing two years’ worth of data each odd year (2021, 2023, etc.). “This change of pace allows our experts time to cover other important research related to how Americans get their news and information, while still tracking these industry trends,” Pew says.

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