November 20, 2023


Between continued business disruption from the pandemic, news fatigue, and a host of variable local market factors, 2023 has been another challenging year for local NPR sales teams working to successfully make the case for public radio sponsorship. 

But as the saying goes, if the marketplace gives you lemons… 

Here are a few recent research findings that can hopefully be turned into lemonade to help spark some positive engagement in your conversations with clients and prospects about the value of local public radio sponsorship.

Making the Case for AM/FM Radio Drive Time

According to  the 2023 NPR/Edison Research Spoken Word Audio Report, while spoken word listening in-car has shifted post-pandemic, AM/FM radio remains on top. Of all the daily time spent listening to spoken word audio, time spent listening in the car has declined from 36% in 2014 to 24% in 2023. That said, 62% of spoken word audio consumed in the car by those in the U.S. age 13+ is to AM/FM radio content, including over the air and streams. 

When you consider that 88% of NPR’s weekly radio listeners do not listen to commercial news/talk stations in a typical week, it’s pretty safe to assume that when listening to AM/FM in the car, our loyal audience is listening to their local NPR station.

Making the Case for Local Radio

According to Jacobs Media’s Tech Survey 2023, the value of radio’s “local” feel is trending up, reaching an all time high. Close to 60% of AM/FM radio listeners surveyed strongly agree that “One of radio’s primary advantages is its local feel” and that high percentage is consistent across generational listeners.

For public radio, local is more than a “feel,” it is a core part of our identity. No other media does local quite like we do. 

Public radio is seen as a valued local institution, and our community-facing mission is one of our strongest differentiators for the benefits we offer to sponsors. 

Not only do our listeners value their local station, but they transfer the goodwill they feel about their local station to local sponsors by association. This lifts the sponsor’s standing within the community and positions them as a purpose-driven business that consumers are more likely to support

Making the Case for Digital Sponsorship

NPR and Edison Research also found that mobile devices have become the primary listening medium: 39% of spoken word audio consumed daily by those age 13+ in the U.S. is on a mobile phone, followed by 35% on an AM/FM radio receiver. 

As our sponsors should be everywhere our listeners are, this means that the importance of digital ad placements on station mobile apps and streams is also continuing to grow. Public radio digital platforms are cost-effective vehicles for sponsors to reach a unique, highly desirable audience. 

Indeed, not only are public radio listeners 22 times more likely to have listened to radio on their mobile phones/tablets/e-readers in the last 30 days (Source: MRI-Simmons Spring Doublebase – 2023 courtesy RAB), but public radio’s noncommercial digital media environment is less cluttered and less susceptible to ad fraud. This guarantees local sponsors can reach a quality consumer in a trusted digital environment, something unmatched by our commercial competitors.