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Michigan Radio now 11th 'most listened to' NPR station in U.S.

With close to a 50 percent increase in listenership in a year, and another successful fund drive that ended with a total of $914,843 in contributions, Michigan Radio now takes its place as one of the fastest growing National Public Radio (NPR) stations in the country.

The most recent ratings book shows growth of more than 129,000 listeners in one year from Spring 2001–02 for the University’s NPR affiliate. Radio Manager Jon Hoban says many of the new listeners came to Michigan Radio after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“The recent increases are attributed to world events and the need for listeners to find a news source they can trust,” Hoban says. “The economy has been in turmoil with CEOs doing the perp walk and the stock market bottoming out. People want to support a service they use and can rely on. And as many of our listeners will attest, once you listen, you’re hooked.”

Michigan Radio can be heard on WUOM 91.7 FM in Ann Arbor, WVGR 104.1 FM in Grand Rapids and WFUM 91.1 FM in Flint. The largest audience gain was from residents in Detroit-area suburbs listening to WUOM, where 88,000 new listeners tuned in, Hoban says. Grand Rapids added some 26,000 new listeners and Flint attracted another 15,000 fans.

“I think that it’s finally paying off—our hard work to combine the radio and TV operations, as we try to enhance the feeling of connection with the community,” says Lee Doyle, chief of staff for the Office of the Vice President for Communications. “In this difficult time in our democracy, people are really responding to the service we offer.”

In the past year, Doyle says, the station has increased the number of University experts it uses on air, through the new umbrella organization Michigan Public Media, which has led to enhanced programming. She also points to the success of the “Todd Mundt Show,” an interview/talk program that is one of the fastest growing nationally syndicated NPR programs. In addition, Doyle says the increased popularity reflects the quality of the on-air personnel.
“They are bright and energetic—different by far than the typical public radio station image,” she says.

Doyle and Hoban agree the increase in listeners had a direct effect on the success of this year’s fundraiser at a time when most organizations that rely on donations are reporting a drop in giving.

Michigan Radio’s fund campaign raised roughly the same amount as last year, but Hoban says what is most impressive is that almost two-thirds of those who supported the station this year were first-time donors.

“Our listener-members understand the connection between supporting the station, at any level, and the service they receive in return,” Hoban says.

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