A few weeks ago I was driving in my car listening to NPR during a pledge drive. As I listened to the announcer hawk mugs and even special solar/crank powered radios in exchange for signing up for a monthly “pledge” and heard him referring to donors as members, I realized that public radio is actually selling subscriptions, but calling it something else.
As we know, NPR is an audio service supported by its members (as well as some other revenue sources). In 2011, which was the most recent year I could find info for – NPR received an average weekly donation of just under ten bucks per listener per week. (That’s the total $ amount of pledges divided by listeners and weeks.)
While Pandora One and Spotify struggle to get users to pay less than $10 a month for their service, NPR manages just fine, netting 4 times that per listener.
Why is NPR is so successful at getting listeners to pay for programming? For one thing, they don’t call them subscription fees. Instead, they call them pledges – a far more honorable term, and they make every listener who donates a member, and send them a hat or a mug. It’s a clever marketing approach!
What else are they doing that online audio subscription services can do as well? Well, for one, they hold annoying on-air pledge drives, where they stop the programming, not for a few short commercials, but for highly intrusive on-air begging by personalities. It’s really obnoxious, and it works. Listeners respond.
Other tactics that NPR uses to extract donations – err, I mean pledges – from its listeners include bribery (as in the mug, hat, or solar powered radio mentioned above), flattery (our listeners like you are so smart), making listeners feel guilty, and – this is the best one – threatening to continue the on-air fundraising tirade unless everyone calls in with pledges right away.
So what can subscription services learn from NPR? I think the membership approach is a good one – remember the old American Express campaign “Membership has its privileges?” Creating a strong brand that people want to associate themselves with, and then selling that association – that seems to be a formula that works for public radio and a strategy subscription services may want to go to school on…
New York Public Radio is setting the standard for excellent online content creation these days with a slew of interesting, high quality new programs. Some, such as Radiolab, rank in the top ten most downloaded podcasts on iTunes, while others offer a remarkable host of guests and really great content that other broadcasters would do well to take a look at.
While there’s often debate about the quality of broadcasters’ online content offerings, such is not the case at WNYC.org. Each week, Alec Baldwin hosts Here’s The Thing, a weekly talk show in which Baldwin interviews well known and interesting people such as Billy Joel, George Will, David Letterman, Peter Frampton, Herb Alpert, Kathleen Turner – the list is interesting and impressive, as is the show.
WNYC also produces and airs Radiolab – the podcast of that program ranks third in the iTunes list of most downloaded podcasts. The show is so popular they even charge $2.99 for their mobile app. All of the programming that WNYC creates also becomes part of the NPR portfolio of content, along with content created by other stations such as All Things Considered, This American Life and Morning Edition.
It’s not news that NPR does an excellent job offering excellent news and talk programming to its audience. It’s an impressive online offering that would challenge anyone’s idea that podcasting is dead. As NPR could tell you, it’s alive and well on their platform…
NPR Digital has teamed up with Triton Digital to offer new services to member stations. The new tools will include audience measurement and sponsor management tools that are intended to help stations grow their digital sponsorship revenue by more effectively presenting listeners with audio sponsorship messages, while at the same time providing measurement of audience and sponsorship impact.
Bob Kempf, Vice President of NPR Digital Services, (and an old friend – hi Bob!), says “these new tools will help stations to better identify and quantify the rapidly growing number of listeners that are accessing their programming through online streaming, and to translate that into metrics that are meaningful to potential sponsors.”
Triton’s Webcast Metrics will provide the audience measurement piece and Ad-Injector ad insertion will enable the corporate sponsorship tools. Combined, these tools will provide NPR stations with the ability to coordinate, measure and confirm corporate sponsorship campaigns in a similar way to ad campaigns.
This seems like a natural for NPR, rounding up their network of stations online for measurement of audience and sponsor campaigns – so much so that I’m kind of wondering what took them so long – my guess there is that it smelled a little too much like commercial station behavior and that kept them away for a while.
Internet radio is getting some attention at SXSW and there are several sessions on the agenda that pertain.
Jake Sigal, Founder of Internet radio device manufacturer Livio Radio, will present “The View From Detroit: In Vehicle Music” on Saturday the 19th. Sigal plans to discuss in car listening options that include AM/FM, Satellite, HD and Internet radio. He’ll ask, and may even answer questions like: Will one emerge as a leader as the others fall to the wayside? Are too many options hurting the overall industry? Where are the opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs?
Rebecca McInroy of WKUT, a public radio station affiliated with the University of Texas in Austin, presents a session called: “Baby’s Gotta Face for Radio: Web Based Radio?” It’s described as a panel that “will explore how public radio stations can build interactive visual components with the goal of becoming a hyper-local non-profit multi-media presence while serving a global audience, and at the same time maintaining the standard and mission NPR has developed.”
On tuesday the 15th Rusty Hodge, Founder and GM of SomaFM, is hosting an Online Radio Meetup at SXSW on tuesday the 15th. If you’re in town, don’t miss this chance to hang out with Rusty and other online radio folks.
By 9am on weekdays NPR‘s broadcast audience has peaked, while the online audience continues to build until mid afternoon. According to data NPR recently shared on their website, the broadcast audience peaks at 7am with about 2.3 million listeners in an average quarter hour. Two hours later that number is under 2 million and falling – while the streaming audience is ramping up.
The streaming audience peaks at about 70,000 at 2pm. Both the broadcast and streaming numbers drop for the rest of the afternoon, with the broadcast audience peaking to 2 million again at 5pm.
NPR.org’s deep online platform includes a large amount of programming from the 24 Hour Stream or archived shows like Morning Edition, NPR Newscasts, Car Talk, or NPR Music. The online number seems to indicate website traffic, and therefore counts visits to NPR’s blogs and news offerings on the site as well.
It’s very interesting data that underscores what a deep platform NPR has. By offering live and archived streamed programming and other website features, NPR is doing a nice job of expanding their brand.
Note: This post has been updated (9:50am) for better accuracy. Many thanks to Matt for his comments and insight.
NPR has been making a name for itself as an online platform for streaming music – and doing a nice job of it. Their First Listen series has debuted music by artists like Norah Jones, David Lynch, Shaangan Electro (new wave dance music from Africa), Herbie Hancock, Bettye LaVette, The National, Josh Ritter, and David Byrne. Are you getting the idea of the diversity and stature of the list? Seems like everyone wants to debut their new tunes on NPR Music…
The number of people coming to the site continues to increase, to about 1.7 million unique users in May.
The platform has provided listeners with excellent front seat coverage of big music festivals like Bonnaroo and SXSW. Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s general manager of digital media told the NY Times that since the music site went live in 2007, its staff has “provided a hub where things can originate,”. Wilson says the site expands on the reputation that NPR has for helping folks find unusual things they might not otherwise come across.
The new app enables listeners to easily listen to music by genre, build playlists, and purchases songs. On new iPhones, listeners can do all of this in the background while multitasking. It’s another in a long list of great digital tools that NPR continues to develop – NPR’s digital platform has been leading broadcasters who are looking to extend and expand their brand online…
This week, RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter announced that Kinsey Wilson, Senior VP and General Manager of NPR Digital Media will be a keynote speaker at RAIN Summit West on April 12th in Las Vegas. The RAIN Summit event in Las Vegas is an official event of the NAB Show and features a full day of panels, presentations and speakers on the topic of Internet Radio and digital audio platforms. In it’s 8th year, this event is the best event of the year for anyone involved in the industry to learn, connect and network with others in the business of Internet radio.
Wilson oversees an impressive digital media platform at NPR that includes web, podcasting and mobile operations. Previously, he was the executive editor of USA Today and oversaw the award winning redesign of that paper’s website.
NPR’s digital platform is impressive and innovative, I’d go so far as to say that they’re doing the best job of any broadcaster in utilizing their digital platform to distribute their content, engage their audience and extend their brand. This is a great opportunity to see what they’re doing and listen to a lead digital thinker in our industry.
You can get more information and register for the RAIN Summit here.