At stations, live stream listening makes a comeback

Jan 12, 2017

In an average week, 2.4 million people listen to public radio via NPR stations' live digital streams. Even though that number had been growing steadily over the years, it plateaued in 2014-2015, making us all wonder whether big growth in digital listening was only going to be about podcasts from now on.

Not so fast. 2016 has been a great year for NPR station live streams, just as it has been a great year for broadcast, podcasts,, and social media. (By the way, we're talking about live streaming that can happen anywhere, including a station's website,, third-party apps, etc.)

Streaming cume is up 15% year on year for Q3, the average listener is streaming more, and total listening hours are up 19%. Just as in broadcast growth, some of this is likely the election, and some of it is the result of a lot of hard work in content, programming, and marketing here at NPR and at stations.  When we look closer, we find that most of this growth is in news/talk. NPR station news/talk streams are up 24% in total listening hours, while music streams are up just 7%. 

The particularly good news is that our news/talk growth is outperforming the competition. The overall category of news/talk streams, which includes hundreds of commercial radio streams, grew 14% in the same timeframe. 

Two things are clear from these trends:

  • Live streams still matter. There's still a big and growing audience who craves the lean-back broadcast experience on digital platforms.
  • Public radio is doing a lot of things right, outpacing the news/talk streaming category as a whole. Here's hoping much of that new audience sticks around for 2017.

To learn more about station streaming growth and other key trends in digital you can watch a recording of the PubMetrics fall 2016 webinar.