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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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to change or not to change

To Change or Not to Change

A Tale of Two Stations—WKSU and WUNC

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000

eric nuzum

Eric Nuzum

Director of Programming and Operations, WKSU

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000

listening to classical music on wksu had been on long term decline
Listening to classical music on WKSU had been on long term decline
  • Local classical music listener hours

Local classical music listener hours (millions)

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wksu listener hour consumption by format
WKSU Listener Hour Consumptionby Format

WKSU listener hours (millions)

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

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risk is significant
Risk is significant

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

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didn t change format but refined approach
Didn’t change format, but refined approach
  • Attitude towards format.
  • Playlist selection broadened.
  • Announcer approach and tone of talksets adjusted slightly.
  • “Appreciation of music” instead of “discovery of music.”

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what is the wksu listening experience
What is the WKSU listening experience?
  • 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.

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growth in classical consumption in fall 2001 and winter 2002
Growth in classical consumption in Fall 2001 and Winter 2002

WKSU listener hours (millions)

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

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the wunc story

The WUNC Story

Changing middays using the language of listeners

NPR Board

NOVEMBER 2000

wunc was a strong station before its changes
WUNC was a strong station before its changes
  • Consistently attracted strong listenership
  • Known for being the launch pad for respected broadcasters
  • Consistently performed well in fundraising and underwriting support

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

midday weakness is not unusual in public radio
Midday Weakness is not unusual in Public Radio
  • 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

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but numbers were only part of the story
But numbers were only part of the story
  • 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

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wunc change steps
WUNC Change Steps
  • 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

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key points from focus groups
Key Points from Focus Groups
  • 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

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listeners also helped inform communication strategy
Listeners also helped inform communication strategy
  • 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

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things we decided not to say
Things we decided not to say
  • “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.”

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more of what you expect from your npr station
“More of what you expect from your NPR station”
  • 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

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but numbers are only part of the story
But numbers are only part of the story
  • 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

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feel free to try this at home
Feel Free to Try This at Home

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