Watch a recording or download the presentation of the webinar La Hora del Radioescucha: Audience Research for Community Radio here.
Audience research is difficult. It often goes hand in hand with market based ideas about communication — precisely those ideas that made us turn to alternatives like public radio!
When I worked at WRTU in Puerto Rico, we used to review ratings during staff meetings. I remember feeling a mix of confusion, skepticism, disillusionment and curiosity. The numbers seemed inconclusive and incomplete. How do you measure the impact of public radio? Getting a count of listeners is not always helpful because audience tracking tools are not made for our communities, which are mostly underserved and ignored by the media industry.
Listen, Understand, Act
But audience research is not just about ratings. It’s about public media’s razón de ser. Think of audience research as mission-driven listening. It’s listening with a purpose. Listening to find out if you are effectively reaching your community: Are you having an impact? Are people paying attention? Are you relevant to your community? Are you doing what you set out to do? ¿Estás cumpliendo con tu comunidad?
Audience research also has practical implications. How will you schedule a new show if you know who tunes in and at what time? Which topics and news will you cover if you have concrete evidence of the type of information that your community is craving for? Will you invest in online streaming if you find out that half of your radioescuchas listen to other radio stations on their cell phones? Will you sponsor a local fair if you learn that a good number of your listeners go to the event? How will you change your operation if you discover that your radioescuchas feel excluded?
Traditional ways of doing audience research aren’t always the best fit for community media. However, you have options. You can learn from what others (small and big) are doing, and you can follow recommendations from researchers who understand the importance of what you do and the unique challenges that you face. Get started with the webinar La Hora del Radio Escucha: Audience Research for Community Radio with Ginny Berson and Prof. Federico Subervi.
P.D. Si sabes español, aprovecha este manual de análisis de audiencias preparado para las radios comunitarias en Colombia: Analizar Audiencias, Construir Nuestros Sueños.