NPR president Jarl Mohn is betting on smart, addictive podcasts to hook millennials

The Los Angeles Times

By Stephen Battaglio

Will podcasting kill the radio star? National Public Radio President and Chief Executive Jarl Mohn doesn’t think so. The recent ranking from measurement service Podtrac shows that 7.5 million people are listening to NPR’s podcasts each month, making it the most popular supplier of the audio-on-demand programs created for digital devices. But NPR’s listening on traditional terrestrial radio has been trending up as well, with an overall gain of 16% for its signature news magazine programs “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” in first quarter of 2016. It’s a reversal for the nonprofit broadcasting service that has watched its audience decline and age in recent years. Mohn, a onetime top 40 disc jockey and former cable executive who took over NPR in 2014, told The Times why he believes podcasts can be the gateway to getting younger listeners hooked on the electronic medium their parents grew up with.

Read more at The Los Angeles Times

Most new media technologies that come along typically cannibalize the old ones. How does podcasting help NPR?

This is a real additive product. We’re seeing some very encouraging signs that younger people are coming into NPR that previously haven’t listened. They get excited about a podcast and then start listening. We hear versions of the same story – somebody listens to Invisibilia [a podcast series that explores human behavior] and we promote other podcasts heavily in it – some of which might be news. They might shift to the NPR Politics podcast or “The Hidden Brain” and know they can hear its host [science correspondent] Shankar Vedantam on “Morning Edition.” The preliminary data we’re seeing [from Edison Research] is that while [podcasting is growing] there comes a lot of interest from people who have not been listening to public radio at all that are starting to discover us.

But with millennials spending so much time on digital devices, aren’t they listening to less radio in general?

If you look at Nielsen or Edison research data, 92% of millennials listen to the radio every seven days. The average time spent listening over a week is 11 hours and 8 minutes. Twenty years ago they were listening to 12 hours, so they’ve lost an hour and change. It’s down a little. But there is a mythology even in this building that millennials do not listen.

 

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