Public Support.4 The NPR Way

Posted on 23. Oct, 2008 by in Uncategorized

“It’s a tough time for us,”  says NPR’s Adam Davidson, there will be new cutbacks.  “WNYC is now more corporate support than public gifts, which is a first for them, it’s a first for the system. …The biggest thing that’s new is how to monetize non-station distribution.  We sort of own the podcast space.  We’re always the top 6 or 8 of the podcasts.  But we actually lose money, I believe.”

Member stations don’t want NPR taking money from their local donors.  It’s a contentious environment, says Davidson.

“They see themselves as direct competitors to our web stream,” Davidson says of local stations.

NPR’s David Folkenflik says certain popular shows aren’t podcasts because competition with member stations is avoided–there needs to be a reason for listeners to tune in.  Folkenflik says members provide 45% of annual revenue, and have the majority of seats on the board.   

Davidson says there are 5 million unique web visitors a month versus 30 million radio listeners a month.  Folkenflik adds that a good blog post gets tens of thousands of views, compared with a news story that gets millions.

Leonard Witt of Kennesaw State University talks about a pitch he’s been presenting to PBS, and wants NPR to consider it.  His idea is a model in which local affiliates of a news network like NPR pay for a premium staff in a certain area, like a water issues desk in drought-stricken Georgia.

“You could tap into a whole other sphere of potential givers,” Witt says.  

Adam Davidson responds that he’s seen sponsorship sway NPR coverage.  “The meetings I’m in at NPR, …we’re going to make editorial decisions and we’re going to let our funding group know about them.”  He has turned down wealthy donors who wanted to create an agenda for the U.S. government’s long term environment policy.

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