Sunday, May 16, 2010

NPR Out-Promotes Stations on Their Own Airwaves

For years, NPR has used millions of dollars of member station airtime to promote the website. Now NPR is using millions of dollars of member station air time to promote its own mobile apps.

If only there were a comprehensive network plan for helping stations carve out their own space on-line and in the mobile marketplace. If only there were some sort of revenue plan to compensate stations for the station airtime NPR is using to build its direct audience.

But there are no such plans. NPR -- and the other networks -- are driving listeners directly to their sites. That's good for network on-line advertising sales but not necessarily good for station sales or listener contributions.

It doesn't have to be this way. Stations can offer players and apps that are competitive with any of the individual networks. Stations can offer listeners a greater range of programming options by helping listeners access content from all of the networks carried by the station plus locally produced programming.

And stations have to be as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than the networks in promoting web-based services.

We're advising clients to promote their website or mobile app immediately after NPR embeds one of its promos in the news. The same holds true for web-services promos from any other network. Every time listeners hear a promo for a network app or website, they should hear about an even better app or website experience from the station.

To the listeners, this might sound as if the station and NPR are in competition with one another for the their attention. That would be unfortunate but, from the station perspective, it is unavoidable. On-air promotion is one of the best ways to create new mobile and web listeners. NPR understands that. So should stations. And stations should never concede those new listeners to NPR on their own airwaves.

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Anonymous John Proffitt said...

From your mouth (or blog) to every GM's ears in the country. I hope they listen.

I will say it is extravagantly expensive to get custom app development done or even get mobile-optimized sites created. But the alternative is NPR owns everything in the public media (news) universe.

Stations have either got to start serving their communities or start planning a graceful bow-out of the business. Because NPR owns the bulk of the content and production capacity, plus they now own virtually all the online and app relationships.

NPR still doesn't serve local communities well. And they won't -- unless they start buying stations. And at this rate, they might as well.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Jake Shapiro said...

Definitely agree stations should be diving into mobile and carving out the unique space they control. The right app(s) are game changers especially compared to station websites that have failed to gain traction. Smart apps have such incredible engagement, location, and persistent content presence.

A couple PRX things in the works:

- In June we're opening up a PRX app called Billboard so stations can directly manage their presence in the Public Radio Player (Android version in the works), including updating links to mobile pages, Twitter feeds, and local banner ads (currently limited beta on that)

- We're developing a really robust local station iPhone app with WBUR - also launching in June - and will work w/other stations to customize it, adding to a shared codebase and lowering costs. Couple features I'm really excited about: "On Assignment" - a way for station-based staff to invite and manage user-generated content (audio/video/pics uploaded via app); "Membership Benefits" - integrated w/station membership database so people can use phone as their member card, including location map of benefits/underwriters.


6:39 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

It's worse than John so accurately states. NPR is actively redistributing on line listening amongst the member stations. provides content from just 12 member stations and the site is cobranded between NPR and these stations. By surveying our listeners, we've found that listeners who visit are likely to spend time listening to terrestrial stations on line they find there.

I've had conversations with Kinsey and Anya. The NPR Music brand could be as powerful than the NPR News brand if all music stations supported the site. Those of us left out have little reason to support the site. My hope is a solution can be found quickly to this issue.

7:39 PM  

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