A Goal for New Media
Much has changed since I started the series on setting new, somewhat audacious goals for public radio.
Audience 2010 provided some valuable insights about our audience and its listening behaviors. NPR's New Realities Blue Print has presented fresh opportunities to tackle long-standing problems. Various reports on public radio's fundraising trends appear to confirm that difficult economic times are ahead.
Every report, meeting, and conference session I’ve been exposed to offered some new angle on public radio’s new media possibilities. After weeks of trying to synthesize all the information and ideas into a new media goal, I've come to realize that new media goals are secondary to the overall health of individual public radio stations.
I know that's a pretty strong statement. It comes from trying to answer this question, "Can public radio be a player in new media without radio?"
I keep coming up with “no.”
Maybe 10 or 15 years from now we’ll all be web sites with radio stations instead radio stations with web sites. But radio will always be important because it is central to our public service mission.
Radio creates the economies of scale that allow us to deliver public service to people who cannot pay or choose to not pay. Radio delivers a reach into our geographic communities that will be unparalleled by the Internet. Radio will continue to be a primary source of the public service content we offer through new media outlets. And, properly run, public radio will continue to be the cash cow of "public media." It could fund the start-up of many new media activities.
The key is in the phrase "properly run." The essential finding of the CPB-funded Brody-Weiser-Burns "Having It All" report was that most public stations lacked strong financial management. Improving financial management is central to succeeding in the new media marketplace. After all, how can a station expect to succeed with the burdens of new media when it is running in the red today?
So after much reading, listening, and thought -- I think the short-term goal for new media is the same as the goal for station financial health.
By the end of 2010, 75% of all public radio stations will operate at the CPB-defined acceptable level of financial health (net revenue at least 2% of operating revenue).*
It is not a sexy goal, but it is an essential one because it provides stations with the security and funding to pursue new media opportunities and give them time to succeed.
*From CPB’s Having It All report