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VOA Achieves Record Audience Growth, Impact

VOA Spanish reporter Celia Mendoza reporting from the U.N.
VOA Spanish reporter Celia Mendoza reporting from the U.N.

Weekly audiences for Voice of America news and programs in all media hit record levels in 2015, reaching 187.7 million people weekly, according to new figures released November 16th by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal entity that oversees all U.S. civilian international media. VOA, the largest of the U.S. international broadcasters, now accounts for 83% of the total measured audience for U.S. international media, boosting the combined weekly measured audience of the BBG entities to 226 million, also a new high. The research data collected by Gallup and other research firms, shows that Voice of America’s weekly measured audiences grew by 16 million in 2015, from 171.6 million in 2014. The increase includes substantial gains in digital and television audiences in highly competitive media markets that are of strategic importance to the United States.

“We are delighted to see that VOA’s accurate, authoritative and comprehensive programming, combined with good affiliate relationships around the globe, have resulted in outstanding audience growth and impact,” said VOA Acting Director Kelu Chao. “VOA journalists around the world in more than 45 languages are also to be credited for these audience gains, and we salute their work in difficult and challenging environments,” she added.

VOA’s customized affiliation strategy is a major factor, particularly on television. The bulk of VOA’s growth comes from an audience boost in Mexico, where VOA Spanish works to program collaboratively with a leading national television outlet. Overall, VOA’s audience in strategic locations in Latin America surpassed 37 million.

In South and Central Asia, VOA increased its weekly audience by 4.5 million, with Afghanistan ranking in the top five countries with the largest VOA weekly audience - over 39%.

VOA’s extensive news and information programming also increased engagement in Africa, which is another contributing factor to the audience growth. In 2015, VOA’s Africa audience increased to 52 million people. In Nigeria, VOA’s affiliation with independent Channels TV, resulted in an audience increase of 1.8 million. In Kenya, an ever-increasing share of people consume VOA content on various platforms – with an increase of 1.7 million this year.

Strong social media growth paired with increased popularity of VOA’s microblogs and video content also boosted the weekly audience by 1.4 million in China, which attempts to block VOA content. Additionally, optimized survey coverage in some countries like Thailand, where previous surveys were limited to urban areas, contributed to VOA’s audience growth in East Asia.

In addition to weekly audience size, the BBG measures its impact using quantitative, qualitative, digital and anecdotal data on a wide range of factors including program quality and credibility, engagement with the news process, and audience understanding of current events. In the 10 countries with VOA’s highest credibility scores, VOA’s “trustworthy” rating surpasses 95 percent. Overall, 85% of VOA’s weekly audience feels that their understanding of current events has increased thanks to VOA.

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