What makes public radio cool?

It’s no secret that public radio audiences tend to be older folk. Not every market has a Current to bring the demographics back toward the middle.

Now, the New York Times reports, NPR chose South By Southwest to unveil a new initiative to make public radio… cool.

Curiously, it took two years for its champion to sell it to the bosses, the newspaper reports.


After about two years of pitching — “I had to ‘sell’ it inside NPR,” she said — Ms. Deabler won the financial and logistical backing of the chief executive of the organization, Gary Knell, and his colleagues. Ms. Deabler calls it “a conscious movement to connect NPR with younger audiences and connect these fans to one another.”

By “younger,” she means listeners under 30, though she is happy to sign up people closer to her own age as well. (She gave her age as “Generation X.”) The age of the typical NPR listener falls somewhere between that of the network personalities Peter Sagal, 48, and Carl Kassel, 78; a 2009 study of public radio found that the median age for an NPR News listener was 52, up from 47 in 1999. The median age for a classical radio listener was 65, up from 58. For NPR’s Web site, the median age is lower. And for podcasts, it’s lower still — about 36.

And so now, there’s a Generation Listen twitter account, on which young people seem to be professing their love of NPR. And a Facebook page with 155 “likes” so far. That’s not a lot.