links for 2008-03-25

2 thoughts on “links for 2008-03-25

  1. Got me thinking a lot about radio – Using MR’s process – NPR has about 30 million regular listeners who can only get Context on NPR stations. Stations rely on ME and ATC to pull in most of their pledge money.

    This feels like TV in the 1970’s – 100 million viewers and 3 Networks plus PBS.

    NPR can and does go to major funders/advertisers and can legitimately offer this large and influential audience. Local Stations can do the same in their local market.

    But with the web really great content is piling up – not just the NPR podcasts, but the CBC and the BBC. YouTube is full of the kind of talks that are the heart of NPR style material and Music. We are seeing also wonderful and thoughtful material created by regular folks too.

    Surely this is the same as for TV – Masses and Masses of competing content and only 30 million people in the US who are interested in interesting stuff? OK add another 20 million in the US who don’t listen to radio such as my son but who do want interesting material.

    The content line moves up to infinity – the US audience remains fixed. Something has to give – the value for the traditional offering!

    One way out – go for the global audience who have the values for good content – huge I bet. If NPR gives it away at home and has a global subscription what could they do? I bet hundreds of millions of dollars.

    With no NPR fees to pay locally the stations get it both ways – they still have some local value from the most traditional listeners and their costs go down.

    If they also have a local strategy where they aggregate local content they do get again a large and meaningful local audience that is valuable for local advertisers

    Is there a pony in here?

  2. @Robert — Is there a pony in here? …is that a Canadian expression? New to me!

    I like the idea of free stuff from NPR for my station. I’ve advocated for that before and will again. For it to work would require a sort of honest renegotiation of the relationship between stations and NPR, which would be hard, but technically possible. NPR would have to be freed from the shackles of station “ownership” and stations would have to learn/relearn to engage locally and deeply.

    As pointed out in another comment on another post today (by Steve Bass from OPB), there’s a problem of scale here, and it affects radio as much as TV. Big, mass market, mass media players can be sustainable on advertising revenue and other sources. Tiny niche players can also be sustainable with some advertising, but also donors and deep engagement with “true fans.” Then there’s the rest of us in the middle. We’re getting squeezed.

    Here in Anchorage we have an (excessively) large technical infrastructure and a host of costs that go along with being a traditional public media company, including fees paid to NPR and PBS. This economic weight holds us down, prevents us from engaging with the public effectively, makes us risk-averse and guides our decisions into strategic cul-de-sacs that protect our history rather than authentically share with our community. It’s all we can do to keep the national programming flowing over the transmitters.

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