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  • Matt Cundill

NPR Decision Shows You Need Not Promote Everything in the Digital Toy Box

Updated: Dec 11, 2019


All too common: You worry about the time and effort you put into social media versus the on air product. It's hard not to feel beaten down by the plethora of digital discussion. In a typical day, you will get a memo from the Program Director, a second from the head of Digital, followed by an about face from the Program Director and then the General Manager chimes in asking why the Facebook insights page is all red.

Then the feelings creep in: Overwhelmed. Mental paralysis by analysis. Frustration.

These are the moments where you just need to take a step back and simplify the noise. Stay with me because more confusion has been added to the mixture. This time on how your station should be promoting its podcasts. Before you read any further, know that National Public Radio (NPR) does podcasts extremely well and they have invested a lot of their efforts and resources into podcasting.


It started when Nieman Labs shared this memo from NPR saying they won't be promoting their podcasts on the air. Their Ombudsman, Elizabeth Jensen, also filed a statement on their reasoning, and detailed some of the in house discussions surrounding the decision.

Fred Jacobs from Jacobs Media Strategy noted that the toothpaste was already out of the tube, and ignoring podcasts was futile, especially with Millennials finding them on their own.

Mark Ramsay, (whose blogs are a must read for anyone in the audio business) suggested that NPR's decision had layers of underlying brilliance.

Fred Jacobs then followed up and made the most important reminder that most podcasters struggle to get the word out about their podcast, so why would NPR not use their greatest advantage to their benefit?


Now, you are probably not too worried about NPR's path as their revenue comes in different forms including funding, pledge drives and corporate underwriting. NPR also has to satisfy the needs of their affiliates; it only aggravates them to send listeners to a podcast when their local station are running or re-running a program.

If you work at a radio station - here's what you need to consider: (For now) The larger portion of revenue is derived from in broadcast commercials. Thus setting up a dichotomy of Orwellian proportions:

A terrestrial listener is more valuable than a digital listener. Or, some listeners are more equal than others.

If they are streaming your station live, then yes they are equal. Unless they are listening from out of the region, then they are overvalued. (See? It gets confusing) If you're in a PPM market, you value both the terrestrial and the streaming listener, but there's no true measurement for time shifting or online consumption after the show. And what happens if you are watching the show live on Facebook?

Can you have an honest conversation with yourself about what would really happen to your bottom line if you treated both the digital and traditional listener equally? (Then have the conversation)

Are sales people saying digital has no value, but their last five sale proposals had the website and Facebook mentions thrown in for free? Ask them to remove it. See? It has value.


I have provided links to all the above articles because the right answer about promoting your brand online lies somewhere between the two.

Take some time to consider the value of both your traditional and digital listeners. Then take the steps to increase the value of both by not using everything available in the digital toy box. Every station is in such a rush to differentiate themselves from one another; how you digitally promote yourself has become one of those ways.

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Matt Cundill is a radio consultant who works with radio stations of all market sizes in Canada and the United States, creating ON AIR and ONLINE marketing strategies that make branding and selling sense to your company.

#digital #revenue #NPR

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