Since the pandemic took hold in the United States, NPR’s radio ratings have taken a nosedive. Half of AM/FM listening in the United States takes place in a car, but between reduced (or eliminated) commutes and social distancing, there’s been a steep decline in the drivers that make up public radio’s traditional broadcast audience.
“People who listened to NPR shows on the radio at home before the pandemic by and large still do,” NPR’s own media correspondent, David Folkenflik, reported on July 15. “But many of those who listened on their commute have not rejoined from home. And that threatens to alter the terrain for NPR for years to come.”
Even as its legacy platform’s audience has declined, though, NPR says it is reaching more people than ever. The dip in radio listenership — 22 percent — has coincided with a record number of people turning to NPR on virtually every other platform. More people than ever are reaching NPR through the website, apps, livestreams, and smart speakers (“Alexa, I want to listen to NPR”).
In total, 57 million listen or watch or read NPR content each week, up 10 percent from this time last year. Comparing spring 2019 to spring 2020, here’s where NPR saw its numbers move:
- Unique weekly visitors to NPR.org increased 94 percent
- Smart speaker streams and on-demand audio increased 29 percent
- Live stream listeners increased 39 percent
- NPR app usage grew 22 percent
- NPR One app usage increased 19 percent
- NPR Music, through YouTube, saw its traffic increase by 90 percent
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