Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Public Radio Marketing and Development

The annual Public Radio Marketing and Development Conference has its opening reception tonight. For the folks responsible for fund-raising and finding underwriters for their respective non-profit stations, this has been a rough year, indeed (as it has for many). I'll be paying close attention to what the prevailing thoughts are about some of the following trends and issues facing public radio.

1) The decreasing audience. 
The good news is that younger people are turning to public radio -- especially the news programs. Bad news is that they're more likely to listen online or through a podcast aggregator than over the air. And if someone's getting their programs direct from NPR, why should they contribute to the local public radio station that they never listen to?

2) The digital divide. 
The bulk of public radio's audience (and contributers) are on the wrong side of the digital divide. Consider: one of the hottest fundraising gifts right now are pre-loaded iPods -- because the big dollar contributers would like to have an iPod, but can't figure out how iTunes works. And with more of public broadcasting moving online, there's a real danger that the core audience might get left behind.

3) The aging audience. 
An offshoot of the above. The new services and programs public radio's offering are virtually invisible to the older 60 crowd -- because they're on the wrong side of the digital divide.

4) Analog dollars, digital pennies. 
Sure, younger people are readily consuming public radio's Internet offerings. But the revenue generated is far less than old-fashioned underwriting and on-air fund drives. But that's where the audience is moving. So how do you make up the shortfall.

5) The role of the local station. 
There was a time when most markets only had one public radio station. The station had an identity, and was usually closely associated with the community. The rise of NPR homogenized stations, and now it's not uncommon for two or three stations in the same market to simultaneously run the exact same programming from NPR (like "Morning Edition"). So the individual station became less important than the national programming it served up. And now that it's basically available online, there's little reason to tune into a local broadcaster to get national content. So what's the role of the local station now, and why should anyone contribute to support it?

These may not necessarily be the issues a lot of the attendees have on their minds, but those are the questions I'd like to hear answers for.

 - Ralph

Day 91 of the WJMA Podwatch.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:49 AM

    My friend is a member of NPR's Los Angeles affiliate KPCC and was recently selected as a finalist in the Challenge.Create.Change contest for a video he created espousing the benefits of public radio membership. The contest, sponsored by Target and ConverseOneStar encourages people to challenge, create, or change something about their world. I thought this might be interesting to share with other affiliates as a means of encouraging people to contribute. You can watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DviTjyyw8lo. Please encourage others to view it and if they like it, to vote for his entry "first charitable act" at http://www.youtube.com/converseonestar.