Friday, December 29, 2006

How Not To Think About or Treat Donors

A compilation of fundraising no-nos I encountered in the last year or so.

Dear Lapsed Donor,

It has been 15 months since your last contribution to WXXX and, quite frankly, you should know better than to go that long without giving us some money.

Not only that, we have noticed that you entered several of our sweepstakes this year without pledging. Cheapskate. Moreover, your last contribution of $75 was more than $25 below the typical gift we receive during a pledge drive. To think, you had the audacity to call ask why it took more than 4 months to send your mug. What's up with that?

I am writing you today to ask that you rejoin WXXX at $150 to once again become a member in good standing. That's $75 for this year and the $75 you should have given us last year. In addition to the many wonderful thank you gifts at the $150 level, you will help ensure that WXXX can continue to bring you programming that respects your intelligence.


Someone You've Never Heard of at WXXX

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Getting One More Tune-In

As a follow-up on NPR's Worthy Audience Goal, a suggestion on what you can do today to get one more weekly tune-in from your listeners.

From Scott Williams, program director at KJZZ, Phoenix and one of the Morning Edition Grad School trainers: Make sure you promote your two best midday hours in the two most-listened to hours of Morning Edition.

I would add to that to really listen to the copy and delivery of those promos. In fundraising, we remind on-air pitchers that "saying it isn't selling it." You will get more tune-ins when your on-air staff is selling listeners on coming back to the station.

Monday, December 18, 2006

WETA's New Audience Opportunity

WGMS, the last classical radio station in Washington, DC, might be flipped to a sports talk format. Now WETA is considering a switch back to classical music.

Here is an opportunity to create the flagship station for a new public radio network aimed at an entirely different audience. It could be a younger audience, a predominately black audience, or even an audience with different personal or social values than the NPR News audience. It could be the beginning of a new form of public radio that advances the industry's overall service to DC and the nation.

But that probably won't happen. WETA could have targeted a new audience when it first dropped classical music. It could have targeted a new audience after each Arbitron survey that showed its news/talk format wasn't working. But it didn't. Not really.

Diversifying the audience is hard and expensive work. Switching back to classical is WETA's easier (but not necessarily easy) way out of a difficult situation. It is understandable, but it is also a lost opportunity for all of public radio.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

NPR’s Worthy Audience Goal

Regular readers of radiosutton know that I think audience and revenue goals should be stated in real numbers, not percentages or averages. That’s because percentages and averages can move in the right direction for the wrong reasons.

That said -- NPR's deserves applause and support for taking on the goal of getting current listeners to tune in one more time each week by 2010. NPR calls it the 7.8 Project. The title is based on the statistic showing the average listener tunes to the average station 6.8 times per week. The goal is to improve programming and promotion so that the number from 6.8 to 7.8 tune-ins per week.

I’m not fond of the statistic, increasing the national average number of tune-ins means nothing to local stations (your mileage does vary) and a point-8 tune-in sounds like being a little bit pregnant, but the underlying concept of finding one more tune-in per listener per week is extremely strong. It is a highly actionable goal. Stations meeting it will enjoy double digit AQH increases.

In order to get one more tune-in per listener per week, most stations are going to have to make multiple improvements to their programming and promotion efforts. Fixing just one thing at station probably will not be enough. NPR is already taking steps to help stations with the task.

Some of those improvements will happen at the network level as NPR evaluates and tries to strengthen the performance of its programming. NPR announced it is looking at ways to strengthen All Things Considered and it is helping stations get better through the Morning Edition Grad School project. Drive time is a great place to start. NPR plans to enhance its promotional support too.

One of the best aspects of this goal is that there are solutions to fit every circumstance and budget. A station need not spend a lot of money to improve its on-air promotion, tighten up its local elements in Morning Edition, or replace programs that drive listeners to the competition.

But the best reason to embrace this goal is that everyone of us in public radio can go to work asking the same question, “what am I going to do today that will get one more tune-in?” The resulting collective focus on making public radio more valuable to its listeners can only help with audience growth and building listener support.

What are you going to do today to get one more tune-in?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This Earbud's For You (or maybe not)

Since podcasting emerged as a mainstream media option 18 months ago, I’ve conducted an informal study every time I’ve ridden the subway in New York, Boston, and Washington. After a few dozen rides and observing more than 500 passengers, I offer the following:

· The number of people wearing headphones on the subway has held steady at about 1-in-10 over the course of 18 months.
· There are always more people reading something, usually the newspaper, than listening to recorded audio.

I realize subway riders in these cities aren’t representative of the entire population, different subway lines will yield different results, and that my survey is far from scientific. But it makes me wonder if the iPod and podcasting are significantly increasing the number of people who are sticking headphones in their ears.

Perhaps the bigger threat is people choosing to listen to downloaded podcasts right from their computers or in docking boxes. Anyone know if there is solid research on the topic?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Promoting the Competition?

NPR's decision to broadcast underwriting credits for Sirius Satellite Radio has upset some folks at NPR member stations. At issue -- the appropriateness of promoting a competitor.

I'm not going to address that issue specifically. I can see both sides of the argument. Instead, I'll point out some of the interesting questions raised by the issue.

If local programming is the future of public radio, especially the local content inserted in Morning Edition, then why is satellite radio considered serious competition? It shouldn't be, unless the talk about local programming being the future is more bravado than reality.

If something on satellite radio right now is more appealing to a station's listeners than the station's programming, shouldn't the station fix its programming?

If interactive is the future of public broadcasting (or public media if you prefer), shouldn't all web sites be considered competition? Or at least those with audio and video? If so, there goes the underwriting revenue.

If there is one thing I am certain about when it comes to underwriting it is this: the issues get less clear and the decisions get more difficult over time. NPR's acceptance of the Sirius credit is just an indicator of the tough choices ahead. Ultimately, the money on the table will cause public radio's networks and stations to further liberalize their underwriting acceptance policies even if that means promoting the competition.

That leads us to the one thing I am certain about when it comes to programming: the best way to fight off the competition is to be better than the competition.