Thursday, September 14, 2006

PRPD Update #1

Didn't really plan on blogging from the PRPD but there are a few noteworthy items.

The State Of Public Radio Session had some very good moments but strayed from the focus of Audience 2010. The conversation quickly moved from why our listeners are choosing to spend more of their radio listening time with commercial stations to a discussion about new media. And then it flipped back and forth. A lot of good points were made but by the end, I wasn't convinced that the conversation advanced our understanding of the issues outlined by Audience 2010.

Tom Thomas correctly pointed out that national numbers are an aggregation of local numbers and that some of the traditionally strong stations are for the first time showing weakness. That's worth exploring.

Mark Ramsey made some good points about focusing on the stations that continue to do well. They're the benchmarks for today. What can we learn from them?

Thomas also referenced the loss of 80 million listener-hours to Morning Edition and ATC. He said NPR is looking at how to fix this. I think this might be an overly simplistic way of looking at the data. I've seen plenty of local data where ME and ATC audiences have suffered because the station changed the programming around them. The new programming is not doing well and is clearly hurting the newsmagazines. We need to look at how programs work together in a schedule. This gets back to Ramsey's point. ME and ATC are still doing well on the Climber stations. Let's figure out why that is before we make unnecessary, and potentially damaging, changes to the core of our news service.

Jacobs and Thomas talked about diversifying and growing the audience by eliminating some of the duplication of ME and ATC in a single market. This is a position I've taken here on the blog so it was great to hear it come up in a keynote session. Thomas pointed out that this is no easy task. And it's expensive. I think the price tag is around $20 million a year. But it can be done.

If we truly want to reach different listeners, then we need programming targeted at those listeners and radio signals to reach them. Hopefully, this discussion will continue beyond the conference.

The opening party was great. The new XPN facility is wonderful. Seeing friends and making news ones on opening night is always one of the highlights of the year.

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