What NPR knows about its listeners

Follow @nprresearch on Twitter and you’ll get an endless stream of “fun facts” about NPR listeners. The most recently posted tidbit: “NPR News listeners were 94% more likely to have signed a petition in the past 12 mos.” Here’s what else the radio network knows:

* 15% of its listeners view their cell phone as an extension of their personality.
* They are 20% more likely than the average adult to buy Godiva chocolate.
* Nearly 4 in 5 prefer classic and timeless fashion rather than trendy fashion.
* They are 73% more likely than the average adult to view radio as the most trusted medium.
* They are 20% more likely than U.S. adults to pay more for eco-friendly products.
* They are 27% more likely than the average adult to own a bread-making machine.
* A third of of them give to religious organizations.
* They’re 108% more likely than the average adult to go to live theater.
* They’re 42% more likely to drive a car with manual transmission.

I asked NPR “research nerd” Lori Kaplan what the network does with these stats.

How does NPR use this information? I’ll describe the literal distribution and then the potential uses.


We send hard copies (sorry trees) of a 300 page book of facts regarding demographics, values, attitudes, beliefs, political & community involvement, media usage, leisure activities, travel, technology, consumer spending, and business-to-business data to the NPR corporate team. We send a link to an electronic version to the data to all NPR employees and send the same data to all public radio stations on our extranet site.

Expectations for Use

1. The primary purpose of these data is ……..corporate sponsorship/underwriting sales. We provide the data to stations in order to give them the tools to do the same. Clearly the info we post on the twitter feed is typically not the dry financial sector, automobile, movie viewing habits… but it’s all from the same source. We help our corporate sponsorship team by pulling out the most interesting stories for prospects.

2. That being said, when Jay Kernis worked here as the head of news & programming he just ate this data up. Many in the newsroom continue to do the same.

a. From a practical standpoint, the information helps us know where our listeners are on the technology adoption curve, which can guide our thinking about where we should invest our resources/time the digital space.

b. I would not say that this information “drives” strategic programming decisions. Instead, it can help clarify the audience mindset. The data can serve to burst stereotypes (or sometimes confirm them). Given the intimacy of the radio medium, people like to paint a clear picture of the person on the other end of the line.

i. Is this person listening to me in the car?

ii. Is he or she at a home office?

iii. Is this someone who keeps up with Perezhilton.com?

c. Last, I want to hedge on my early comment about programming strategy. MRI gives us a launching off point for conversation along with other information like Arbitron audience estimates. Are we reaching all of America or a certain slice? If we’re not yet representing all of the country well, then what else should we be doing? It’s just one piece of a bigger puzzle.



  1. Though this type of book does not sound unusual for any company with that large a consumer customer base, the question that really stuck was, what percentage of the bread machine owners actually use them to bake bread?

  2. Jim said:

    I used mine primarily to make pizza dough. More often than not, the loaves fell flat in the final stage. But we’re talking about a Version 1.0 machine.

    Jim Romenesko