Oct 7, 2010

Study: NPR is a party that you're not invited to

A new study says that National Public Radio needs to shed "perceptions that its programs are elitist and stuffy" if it wants to grow its audience. From a Current report on the study:
When encountering public radio, news consumers from various demographic groups share a common problem: They feel excluded. “It is really important that people hear themselves in the programming,” said Margaret Low Smith, v.p. of programming. “We’re talking about a private party, versus a party where everyone’s included and planning the same party,” she said. 

Quoted in a presentation on the study is a young adult Latino user of new media: “NPR, I feel, is mostly for educated adults from middle class and up. That is my impression.”

Some objections to the traits of NPR News are sure to prompt pushback from listeners and producers who value complexity and ambiguity, and don’t mind lots of words. Wordiness is a problem for one white woman who spoke to researchers about NPR: “I think it can be clever and quirky, and smart and insightful. But I don’t choose to listen to it because it’s too much talking for me.”

Smith believes there are ways to welcome more people to the audience without sacrificing quality. “It’s not about being not as smart or not as deep,” she said. It’s about telling stories with an ear that detects exclusion. NPR hosts do that now, she said, by quickly interrupting interviews with an identifying phrase when someone drops a name that would be unfamiliar to many people. 

To be consistent in catching off-putting insider assumptions, “it’s critical that people at the editorial table reflect a range of economic positions in life, a range of political views and a range of color,” Smith added.
The study was conducted by the Los Angeles-based firm SmithGeiger.


Randolph said...

I could understand wanting to "grow" its membership, but why should NPR "grow" its audience?

Is NPR audience share in decline? Is NPR in some way not fulfilling its mission? Should NPR approach its programming from a more ratings-driven direction?

You can not be all things to all people, and the drive to broaden the audience may ultimately alienate that portion that likes things mostly they way they are.

Randolph said...

Also, where was the box for way too much in bed with D.C. elites? That is the manner in which I feel alienated.

Anonymous said...

Soporific in tone and pace, NPR reflects class and culture from an Eastern, liberal but not leftist POV, always respecting the self regard of its audience. Much of NPR programming mirrors SNL's "NPR Schweddy Balls" parody, but without the irony or repressed libido of the SNL characters.

Anonymous said...

OK, it's elistist. OK, it uses big words. OK, maybe it is Eastern-oriented (though tell that to Warren Olney). Bottom line: That's what we listeners want. SmithGeiger is the kind of thing that wastes NPR's resources, along with their pathetic Twitter and Facebook efforts. They don't realize that by trying to "broaden" their audience they will actually lose it.