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Public Radio’s Success Linked to Increasing Awareness

Distinctions between public and commercial radio are not clear to listeners

If you work in the media business, the distinctions between commercial and public radio are fairly black and white. It may be easy to lose sight of the fact that these differences are not always that clear cut among some listeners. But that’s exactly what a new survey of public radio from Coleman Insights, “What the Public Thinks About Public Radio,” seems to suggest.

The report goes on to say that low awareness, combined with listeners’ inability to distinguish public radio from commercial radio impedes public radio’s ability to develop strong brands. Commercial radio also maintains images that are also associated with public radio, such as “the information station” and “the news station.” Finally, the report finds indications that listeners may choose commercial radio as “the listener-supported station.” There appears to be a lack of understanding of what “public radio” really means.

To complete this study, Coleman Insights conducted an online survey of 1,000 randomly selected radio listeners between the ages of 25 and 64 in 20 markets with a variety of public radio formats. Each participant was required to listen to at least one hour of radio in the previous week, and the sample was balanced to reflect the listening population by age, gender, and ethnicity.

The Coleman Insights report goes on to include recommendations and methods that public radio can use to bolster awareness and strengthen branding.