A summary of the distinct differences in appeal among public radio’s three leading formats.
In 2000, PRPD launched the Core Values Project. The project’s central goal was to clearly define and articulate the fundamental appeal of public radio’s programming. Over the next four years, five groundbreaking research studies were conducted to explore the core values of public radio's most popular programs as well as its three “franchise” formats; News/Information/Talk, Classical Music and Jazz, the formats that account for 92% of all listening to public radio.
The project identified three distinct categories that captured what listeners find and value in our programming. We called them:
- Qualities of the Mind and Intellect
- Qualities of the Heart and Spirit
- Qualities of Craft
We found some common ground among the values held by audiences for all of the formats, most notably intelligence and a desire for high standards of craft. But we also found dramatic differences - particularly in the Qualities of Heart and Spirit – with values that morphed as we shifted our focus from news to classical to jazz. The successful application of this research will rest on a clear understanding of how the values are shaded for each format and can sometimes even stand in opposition to one another. In short, there is no single “one size fits all” set of core values.
In news, we met listeners who are deeply engaged in contemporary public life and culture; whose vigilant curiosity about the world brings them to public radio for depth and context. They see the world as part of an interconnected web of causal relationships and want us to help them connect the dots by focusing on the "why", not just the "what" of issues and events. They believe in the power to find solutions for the problems of their community, their nation and their world.
Classical music listeners told us they are drawn to us for largely internal reasons. We provide an oasis from the problems of today's world. Listeners find comfort and inspiration in the music we share with them. They are touched by its beauty and majesty - connecting with something that is timeless and enduring.
For Jazz listeners, the music is a source of pleasure and celebration with inherent qualities of originality, spontaneity and improvisation that make every rendition of a song new and different. These listeners take pride in the unique contribution jazz has made to our country's history and culture.
Implications and Actions
The findings of these studies and what they tell us have profound implications for an array of public radio decision-makers:
- For PDs – those responsible for the selection, scheduling and development of programming – overseers of the content, talent and the craft of your radio stations.
- The on-air talent who represent our front line with listeners. It is critical that they understand the core appeal of their respective formats and the importance of serving their particular listeners.
Over the next several years, the application of core values findings will be a major priority for PRPD. We believe they are the building blocks for tools that can and will become as fundamental to the way we do our jobs as the "radio basics" and formatics PRPD emphasized at this organization's beginnings.