Thursday, April 26, 2007

Where Can We Get More Feet?

Commenting on yesterday's post about public radio shooting itself in the foot, a colleague suggested that public radio's solution will be to ask, "Where can we get more feet?"

Yet another colleague asked if I was feeling cranky. No, not really.

At issue is the high volume of fundamental mistakes cropping up at stations across the country. They include:

  • Stations replacing strong programs with weaker ones for "political and diplomatic reasons." Sometimes strong programs are dropped in favor of weaker programs that can get short-term foundation dollars.
  • Stations dropping almost all on-air promotion to accommodate more underwriting instead of raising underwriting rates.
  • Stations having outside firms redesign their websites without fundraising staff involvement, resulting in up to 50% reductions in web pledges during fund drives.
  • Stations cutting direct mail budgets to save money, even though every dollar spent on direct mail is returning five to ten dollars in net revenue.
  • Stations increasing spending on non-programming, non-fundraising activities at a rate faster than audience or fundraising growth.
The mistakes are bad enough. They are made worse when sagging audience, missed fundraising goals, and slow revenue growth are blamed on listeners, underwriters, donors, and imaginary competition. It's as though the default assumption is that the station had a great plan that was executed to perfection only to be foiled by some outside circumstance.

A friend in commercial radio sales once put it this way:

"If you miss your sales quota in commercial radio three quarters in a row, a fire breathing dragon comes into your office, chars your to a crisp, gobbles you up, and poops you into the dumpster out back. Miss your sales quota three quarters in a row in public radio and you get a federal grant and three years to study the problem."

Public radio's future audience and revenue growth is under its own control. We know what we need to do to succeed. The industry just has to refrain from administering self-inflicted wounds.

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Anonymous Aaron Read said...

So the $64000 question is...WHY are these stations doing all these really dumb things?

Especially when there are success stories out there of stations running what most pubradio stations would consider a "terrible" fundraiser; yet the fundraiser worked perfectly.

11:35 AM  

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