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2002 Public Radio Conference Managing Change To Change or Not to Change A Tale of Two Stations—WKSU and WUNC Eric Nuzum Director of Programming and Operations, WKSU Listening to classical music on WKSU had been on long term decline Local classical music listener hours

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2002 Public Radio ConferenceManaging Change

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000


To change or not to change l.jpg

To Change or Not to Change

A Tale of Two Stations—WKSU and WUNC

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000


Eric nuzum l.jpg

Eric Nuzum

Director of Programming and Operations, WKSU

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000


Listening to classical music on wksu had been on long term decline l.jpg
Listening to classical music on WKSU had been on long term decline

  • Local classical music listener hours

Local classical music listener hours (millions)

Project name

Project date

4


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WKSU Listener Hour Consumption declineby Format

WKSU listener hours (millions)

Project name

Project date

5


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“Loyalists” to classical listen to news programs, but they are less loyal.

Project name

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“Disloyalists” to classical show mixed loyalty. they are less loyal.

Project name

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Changing formats would encourage “Disloyalists” to listen more, but “Loyalists” would listen less or not at all.

Project name

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Risk is significant listen more, but “Loyalists” would listen less or not at all.

Project name

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Project name listen more, but “Loyalists” would listen less or not at all.

Project date

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What can WKSU do that would persuade “Loyalists” to listen the same amount, yet encourage “Disloyalists” to listen more?

Project name

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Didn’t change format, but refined approach listen the same amount, yet encourage “Disloyalists” to listen more?

  • Attitude towards format.

  • Playlist selection broadened.

  • Announcer approach and tone of talksets adjusted slightly.

  • “Appreciation of music” instead of “discovery of music.”

Project name

Project date

12


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What is the WKSU listening experience? listen the same amount, yet encourage “Disloyalists” to listen more?

  • WKSU is a moment—that time when you have a few minutes to yourself at home. Work, the family, the household chores can wait for a little while. In your jeans and a denim shirt or that sweater your spouse won't let you wear in public anymore, you collapse into the leather chair in your den, library or living room, a warm drink at your elbow. You reach for that book or magazine you keep having to put down, the one you've been reading while everyone else is reading People or the latest product by John Grisham. You put your feet up, snuggle a little deeper into the depths of the chair and breathe a sigh. That moment, that feeling is WKSU.

Project name

Project date

13


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Growth in classical consumption in Fall 2001 and Winter 2002 listen the same amount, yet encourage “Disloyalists” to listen more?

WKSU listener hours (millions)

Project name

Project date

14


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Chart looks similar, but shows encouraging shifts in gains and loses

Project name

Project date

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Relative risk and losesDo we worry too much about easy decisions?

Project name

Project date

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Data and research should enlighten your thinking and judgment…not make decisions for you.

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The WUNC Story judgment…

Changing middays using the language of listeners

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000


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WUNC was a strong station before its changes judgment…

  • Consistently attracted strong listenership

  • Known for being the launch pad for respected broadcasters

  • Consistently performed well in fundraising and underwriting support

Project name

Project date

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Project name judgment…

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SOURCE: Arbitron / RRC (Fall 91-95 & 97-99), ARA (Fall 96)


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Midday Weakness is not unusual in Public Radio judgment…

  • Many mixed-format stations see similar tentpoles, but not as pronounced as WUNC

  • In Fall of 2000, researcher David Giovannoni reported that if the tentpole issue in middays was addressed system-wide, public radio would see a 6% increase in listening

  • An assessment of WUNC determined that the station could achieve double the increase in listening if it addressed its midday problem

Project name

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But numbers were only part of the story judgment…

  • WUNC lacked coherent focus

  • WUNC had identified a need to be better at producing original programming in order to remain strong in the future

  • WUNC’s primary market was served by a full-time non-commercial classical music station with a very good signal

  • WUNC was not content with resting on its laurels

Project name

Project date

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WUNC Change Steps judgment…

  • Conducted focus groups of listeners

  • Used focus group information and other data to inform strategic planning process

  • Made decision to make program changes and began extensive stakeholder communication plan

  • Reorganized staff to allow for daily program production

  • Used information gathered in focus groups to explain the change process to listeners

Project name

Project date

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Key Points from Focus Groups judgment…

  • WUNC was identified by listeners as an intelligent source of news and information

  • It’s classical music was indistinguishable from the full-time public classical station in the market

  • News and Information-sounding language was used to describe WUNC’s news and entertainment programming

  • Classical music was not seen as WUNC’s strength

Project name

Project date

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Listeners also helped inform communication strategy judgment…

  • Even people who did not like classical music expressed concern about it going away

  • Listeners demonstrated that their prime benefits from WUNC came from its national news programming

  • Listeners perceived WUNC as being a strong station and expressed an interest in ways the station could help other public broadcasters in the area

  • Listeners were proud of WUNC’s history as a launching pad for respected broadcasters

Project name

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Things we decided not to say judgment…

  • “We’re really sorry we took away your classical music.”

  • “This’ll help us make more money.”

  • “The classical listeners were cheapskates and way too old for our liking.”

  • “Every other public radio station is doing this. We’re just riding the wave.”

Project name

Project date

26


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“More of what you expect from your NPR station” judgment…

  • More in-depth news from NPR and other respected public broadcasters

  • More programs from WUNC that help put North Carolina in context

  • Changes were made to help strengthen the range of offerings you get from North Carolina non-commercial radio stations

  • Builds on WUNC’s reputation as a leading NPR station

Project name

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27


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Project name judgment…

Project date

28


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But numbers are only part of the story judgment…

  • WUNC has focused on its strengths

  • WUNC produces a daily program and has expanded its local news efforts

  • Reassigned employees have found meaningful work at the station and even won awards

  • WUNC still recognizes there is much work to do

Project name

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29


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Feel Free to Try This at Home judgment…

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