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How Public Radio is Screwing Up

The posting below notes some good rules of thumb for Public Radio stations engaging in those ever-unpleasant pledge drives.

Brand Autopsy: Public Radio Pledge Drive Don’ts

Everyone in Public Radio is always looking for ways to make their "begathons" more impactful. I'll tell you something, I listen to Public Radio pretty much every day and I have never ever pledged one red cent. I have an excellent reason, and here it is:

I like it sometimes, but I don't love it always. And sometimes I absolutely hate it.

Why should I pay for programming sometimes good and sometimes so bad (for me) I switch off the station in disgust?

Public Radio programming is scattershot. It defies its own expectations as if it's the God-given right of Public Broadcasting. Why should I patronize this? I certainly don't want to encourage, say, a whimsical feature on Jazz Bagpipes, now do I? Fundamentally, Public Radio should understand what most of their audience is there for and give them more of it in spades. But instead, they lean in favor of a dizzying variety of ultra-niche programs with ultra-niche audiences. Ideally, they should be doing what commercial radio refuses to do - not what commercial radio couldn't find an audience for!

The big opportunity for Public Radio is to focus on Information: Depth and context. This is their competitive advantage. At no time are they better than in a time of crisis - and, coincidentally, at no time are their ratings higher and at no time do they rake in more bucks. Why? Because they focus. On information. They deliver to their prime expectation and listeners reward them for it.

But are they even aware of this simple fact? I doubt it. Here in San Diego the news is over at 6pm while zillions of cars are still on the road. Where's the sense in this? Do you really expect me as a potential source of revenue to reward you for ignoring my interests?

The math is simple: Attract more listeners, satisfy them more fully, and you'll attract more dollars.

As for me, if you expect me to pay for your programming, you'd better make sure I like it.