Three Things Datebook for the Week of 4/11/2022
In the Datebook this week, we preview the first major in-person gathering of public radio folks in more than two years. Also, learn about Community News Funds and personalization drives loyalty.
THING ONE: A Preview of the Super-Regional
I write today’s Three Things Datebook from my hotel room at the Grand Hyatt Denver, where the Public Radio Super-Regional gets underway this morning and runs through tomorrow.
This is the first major in-person gathering of public radio folks in more than two years, and as I’ve talked to colleagues, there is a lot of enthusiasm about being in the same room together.
I’ve shared a few highlights in earlier editions of Three Things, including a preview of the opening session on Monday morning featuring Dr. Dwinita Mosby Tyler, the Chief Catalyst and Founder of The Equity Project.
The discussions through Monday morning and lunch all center around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is front and center for many organizations seeking to reflect a changing America in our leadership and staffing, audience, sourcing and content, and civic leadership.
I’m particularly looking forward to the lunchtime conversation on Monday hosted by NPR titled “Managing Through Resistance: Insights in DEI.” A great panel of public radio leaders will follow opening remarks from NPR CEO John Lansing, who will be making his first major in-person conference appearance since joining NPR in late 2019.
The discussion will explore the obstacles to advancing meaningful inclusion in public media and how to work through those challenges necessary in the industry. Joining in the conversation are:
Keith Woods, Chief Diversity Officer, NPR
A. Rima Dael, CEO, WSHU in Fairfield, CT, and a member of the NPR Board of Directors
Jennifer Dorian, President, and Chief Executive Officer, WABE in Atlanta
Sachi Kobayashi, Public Media for All, and Director of Member Acquisition at Oregon Public Broadcasting
I also have to shamelessly plug my Monday afternoon session. A great panel of public radio leaders will join me to talk about what they are doing to compete in the ever-evolving local news ecosystem.
Many new players are jumping into the mix in cities across the country, and we’ll discuss this new environment from three angles:
Competition for Audience, Time, and Attention
Competition for Revenue
Competition for Talent
The session begins today (Monday) at 1:45 pm (Mountain) in the Maroon Peak Room. I hope to see you there.
On Tuesday, April 12, the day begins with what will undoubtedly be a provocative conversation featuring GBH Executive Editor Lee Hill and Magnificent Noice co-founder Eric Nuzem discussing three ideas1 that public radio leaders can embrace today to be better prepared for tomorrow.
Last month Nuzem wrote a strong piece in Current, noting the challenge facing public radio as it seeks to serve a more diverse audience. He notes that the percentage of Black and Hispanic listeners has grown over the last 25 years, but it hasn’t kept pace with the growth in college and postgraduate degrees awarded to persons of color over the same period2.
Meanwhile, Lee Hill at GBH is leading some innovative efforts, including a new Morning Edition team bringing a fresh sound to the show in the very competitive Boston market.
Later on Tuesday morning, a team from NPR3 will lead a conversation around the NPR+ podcast subscription service and the NPR+ Bundle to grow station membership and revenue. The need to find another channel to bring in new donors to stations is growing more and more urgent as unofficial reports from many spring on-air pledge drives continue to show little growth in the number of new donors joining stations.
The session will then shift to a discussion about generating passive revenue and sales opportunities for stations through some new thinking in podcast and live streaming sponsorship.
The CPB lunch on Tuesday includes the presentation of the U:SAA & PRRO Awards. I’m pretty certain that this year’s PRRO Award is guaranteed to bring some tears and many cheers from the conference attendees.
One of this conference’s “can’t miss” sessions is at 2:15 pm (Mountain) session on Tuesday.
The session features a “sneak preview” of a data visualization project seeking to map the scope and scale of public radio stations’ journalist hires, which, if taken as a whole, is evolving into the world’s largest nonprofit news network.
The session, titled “Mapping Public Radio’s Response to America’s Crisis in Local Journalism,” is a project led by GBH, Public Media Company, and the Station Resource Group in cooperation with CPB. The project is designed to tell the story to capture the “whole” from the “parts” that are taking place at stations and through collaborations across the public media ecosystem.
I’ve written several times in the newsletter over the last year of the need for our industry to coalesce around a vision and a story to increase the awareness of the journalism investment happening at stations and through collaborations across the system.
This session will seek feedback and constructive observations so that the project can help public radio stations and organizations tell a more powerful and compelling story to people who care about local public service journalism in their communities and in our country.
After the presentation and discussion about the data project, Kathy Merritt, Senior Vice President for Journalism, Radio & CSG Services at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will share details from CPB’s state government coverage survey.
The panelists for this session will include Erin Moran, Steve Holmes, and Carlos Barrionuevo from Public Media Company; Pam Johnston and Bob Kempf from GBH; Bill Davis from Station Resource Group; and, subsequently, Kathy Merritt from CPB.
These are just a few of the highlights on the agenda for the two-day conference. You can see the full schedule on the conference website. I look forward to seeing you here!
THING TWO: Are Community News Funds A Significant New Revenue Opportunity?
The work happening with the Public Radio Local Newsroom Data Project is exactly what’s needed in public media to take advantage of the increased funding opportunities from a new trend being led by place-based foundations interested in supporting local journalism.
In February, Report for America released a new report that identifies a significant new opportunity – the creation of “Community News Funds” – and outlines how the new funds can be created.
The new strategy involves community foundations working in conjunction with local news leaders in creating a single, permanent fund that draws upon donations from multiple sources, to support local news for years to come.
The “Community News Funds” white paper offers several case studies—from urban to rural areas—demonstrating the role that this funding has in making a difference for newsrooms where traditional revenue sources are drying up. Seven communities have raised $15 million over three years, with variations of this model supporting both commercial and nonprofit news organizations (although only a couple included public media).
The report provided some tips that, to be successful, these community news funds should:
Encompass multiple funders of varied giving levels
Pursue multi-year contributions with a fund goal of 6- and 7-figures depending on the community size
Demonstrate and articulate that the community (not merely the newsroom) is the beneficiary of improved local news
Direct funding support to more than one newsroom, where feasible, to better serve an entire community
Create a steering committee of civic leaders that eventually grows to become a board of governance for fund expansions and dispersals
Ensure with local news partners that the community benefits from a wide range of types of reporting (investigative, hyperlocal, features, etc.) and targets of coverage (i.e., health, education, environment, criminal justice, economic development).
“We can no longer view journalism as largely the responsibility of the commercial media, or a short-term problem that can be solved with temporary grants,” said Todd Franko, Report for America’s director of local sustainability and development. “We need to see it as an important civic function, worthy of ongoing philanthropic support, akin to a hospital, a library or a school.”
If you’re interested in learning more about this potential new revenue source, Report for America is hosting a free webinar and inviting community foundations and local newsroom leaders to discuss this concept on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at 2 pm (Eastern).
The panelists for this one-hour plus session include:
Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of Black Voice News and founder of Voice Media Ventures, a strategic media and content creation firm, and president of the Inland Empire Community Foundation.
Dave Mengebier, president and CEO, Greater Traverse Regional Community Foundation.
Nathan Payne, the executive editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Payne worked with Mengebier to create a community news fund and will address themes of collaboration and how community foundations can be a catalyst for bringing other funders to the table.
Gretchen Moore, former chief strategy officer at Central Valley Community Foundation.
Doug Root, vice president of communications, Pittsburgh Community Foundation.
THING THREE: Personalization to Enhance The Audience Experience
One of the exciting aspects as the adoption of the Grove CMS across public radio increases is the potential of ultimately bringing more personalization for users that visit station websites.
I’ve often thought that the more unique experience we can provide our digital audience will in turn increase loyalty (return visits) and create the path for becoming donors (perhaps subscribers is a better term) to support our digital services.
In November of last year, McKinsey released a report4 that detailed how vital personalization is to customer satisfaction. The research found that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
The study also found that personalization matters more than ever, with COVID-19 and the surge in digital behaviors raising the bar. Three-quarters of consumers switched to a new store, product, or buying method during the pandemic. In addition, personalization drives performance and better customer outcomes. Companies that grow faster drive 40% more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts.
For example, we can apply this idea in public media organizations to the online donor experience and the digital content we serve to audiences.
In 2018, as part of his John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, Titus Plattner5 explained why personalization would be the next revolution in the news industry. He noted that the average online reader opens only 5 out of 1,000 stories published by larger news organizations every day. To better serve each user’s needs and eventually increase this poor ratio, he strongly advocated that personalization is key to success in serving audiences.
In a post on Medium that same year, he wrote about ten effective ways to personalize news platforms that offered some practical uses for personalization to provide a better user experience for digital audiences.
If you’re interested in learning more about the best strategies to use customer data dynamically to achieve great returns, Adweek is hosting a webinar featuring two customer experience thought leaders from Redpoint Global. The session will detail what to look at to empower your organization to drive a better customer experience through personalization.
This is one of those “outside the public media bubble” sessions that might offer some innovative ideas inside a public media organization.
This free session is on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at 1:00 pm (Eastern), and you can register at this link.
That’s the Three Things Datebook for this week. Thanks for reading.
Obviously a variation on the name of this newsletter!!
Nuzem reminds readers in the post of the fundamental historical truth of public radio’s news and information public service is the relationship between listening and education levels. The earliest analysis of public radio’s audience data clearly showed that the more educated someone is, the more likely they will listen.
The team from NPR includes Joel Sucherman, Senior Director | Digital Products; Leda Marritz, NPR+ Program Manager; and Bryan Moffett, Chief Operating Officer, NPM and Senior Vice President, Network Growth at NPR
The Next in Personalization 2021 Report reveals that companies who excel at demonstrating customer intimacy generate faster revenue growth rates than their peers. And the closer organizations get to the consumer, the bigger the gains.
Titus Plattner is currently the senior innovation project manager & head of the interactive unit at the Swiss media house Tamedia and was a 2017 - 2018 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford.