Jul 12, 2012

NPR Digital looks to geo-targeting, ad injection to raise online revenue

SEATTLE — A  push for more locally targeted content and ads may be the answer for attracting more web users and listeners to public radio stations' digital content, NPR Digital representatives said during a sponsor showcase on July 12 during the 2012 Public Media Development and Marketing Conference.

"Trying to be all things to all people might not get it done in terms of building a digital audience," NPR Digital g.m. Bob Kempf said, emphasizing the need to free stations to focus on local content.

The digital team demonstrated a new geo-targeting feature they've incorporated into NPR's Facebook page. It allows the social media site to sense where users are clicking from and highlight content based on their location. In a four-month pilot program, visitors who resided in Seattle saw a total of 60 locally focused stories produced by KPLU, the news and jazz station serving Seattle and Tacoma. The resulting click-throughs drew more than 50,000 additional visits to KPLU's site, driving usage that set new records for online traffic in a day and month, as well as a spurt in the story engagement rate among Seattle users. The story engagement metric, which is measured through "Likes," comments and shares, was more than six times that of the global engagement rate.

NPR Digital is rolling out geo-targeting to four additional stations and plans to expand the program in the fall.

Additionally, the digital team is testing a "local news" box, a small section on the homepage that uses IP addresses to detect a user's station and automatically generate localized content from the station's website. They've seen an 18-percent success rate from visitors in the select markets where the box is being tested.

Bryan Moffett, v.p. of digital strategy and operations for National Public Media, shared estimates of the growth in aggregate values of digital sponsorship credits of public media stations. Some categories, namely web banners, are projected to grow exponentially in value by 2015 — to $10.5 million from $4,200 in 2010. The inventory of mobile banner credits is valued at more than $6.7 million, up from $450,000. Credits attached to station audio streams would grow to $44.1 million by 2015,  more than triple their value of $12.5 million in 2010.

To automate the online credits and ads, NPR Digital is developing a new technology called Ad Injector that allows stations to insert localized credits in audio streams, replacing the spots that run on broadcast. This sponsorship program will be made available to all member stations following a 90-day alpha pilot.

Kempf dismissed concerns that Ad Injector would interfere with stations' blanket licensing agreements for streaming national content: "We've determined that injecting an ad is not altering the national [agreement]," he said.

Editor's note: Earlier versions of this post misinterpreted a slide that Moffet presented on the values of public media stations' digital credit inventories in 2010 and 2015.

TuneIn will offer NPR programming

NPR’s live and on-demand programming will be available through TuneIn, a multiplatform streaming-audio service, in a deal announced today. NPR member stations will also be able to sign agreements with TuneIn. The audio service has 30 million monthly listeners and is available on smartphones, in cars, on home entertainment systems and via TuneIn’s website.

University of Texas tables deal to buy second station for its KUT-FM in Austin

The University of Texas Board of Regents has tabled a decision to purchase "classic hits" KXBT-FM as a sister station for its KUT-FM in Austin "while questions about the proposal are answered," reports Radio Insight. The initial plan was to buy the station for $6 million and shift KUT's musical programming to KXBT.

An agenda item for the Board of Regents Wednesday (July 11) meeting said: "By differentiating KUT’s current mixed format of news and music services across two stations, U. T. Austin has determined that the acquisition would contribute to the long-term public service and sustainability of KUT in a number of ways," including providing "a high profile platform for promoting and sharing content from the Cactus CafĂ©," a musical venue in the student union that the station took over two years ago (Current, June 7, 2010).

"It has been the desire," the agenda item noted, "and a core element of KUT’s strategic plan, to differentiate and expand its public service across two FM stations serving the Austin market. KUT has worked with the nonprofit group Public Radio Capital, to identify appropriate station opportunities. In the past several years, KUT has considered and made attempts to acquire a station. These transactions have not gone forward, either because of higher bidders or other strategic reasons. Station management believes this is the most viable and attractive opportunity available now or in the foreseeable horizon."

TPT realignment eliminates 11 staff positions, adds six others

Twin Cities Public Television is cutting 11 staff positions for the upcoming fiscal year, station President Jim Pagliarini told Current on Thursday (July 12).

Pagliarini said the job cuts come from nearly every department, and range from a senior manager to a part-time administrator. Three union workers are impacted. Departure dates vary by position.

The station is creating six new positions for fiscal 2013, which starts Sept. 1, and is encouraging affected employees with related experience to apply.

In a memo to staffers, Pagliarini said the realignment “was not driven by financial pressures, rather by the decision to invest in new tools, technologies, people and services that align with our plan to serve the community.” The St. Paul, Minn., station’s FY13 operating budget is actually increasing by nearly 7 percent over FY12.

One strategic focus, Pagliarini told Current, is building and maintaining an interactive media team. Support for that has grown from $70,000 in FY09 to $613,000 in FY13.

The station’s new budget will be submitted to a joint meeting of the executive and finance committees of the TPT Board next week.

WGCU-FM reluctantly drops APHC due to state funding crunch

WGCU-FM in Fort Myers, Fla., has dropped A Prairie Home Companion as of this month, due to Florida's decision to zero-out pubcasting funding, reports the Naples Daily News. About 10 percent of the station's $1 million annual operating budget came from the state.

The choice was "very difficult," said Rick Johnson, WGCU g.m.. "We had to take a look at programming as part of our budgeting process at WGCU and what we were spending our programming dollars on. When you take a look a look at per-listener cost, Prairie Home Companion was by far the most expensive one in our lineup."

Even after negotiating a $6,000 discount, the newspaper says, the program would have cost the station $22,000 annually. A fundraising initiative specifically to cover the cost raised only $1,200.

In fall 2008, WGCU moved its classical offerings to an HD channel and switched programming to largely interview and news programs. The area's new classical station, WNPS-FM, began broadcasting content from Classical South Florida, an offshoot of Minnesota-based American Public Media, about a month ago.

Aereo claims one legal victory in copyright fight with broadcasters including PBS, WNET

Aereo, a startup that transmits over-the-air television signals to consumers via broadband using tiny antennae, won a major victory in federal court Wednesday (July 11) when a judge denied a request from plaintiffs including PBS and WNET to block the service from allowing timeshifting during a live broadcast, reports Paid Content, a news site focusing on the economics of digital content.

Aereo launched in March with significant backing from media mogul Barry Diller. It installed miniature antennae throughout the New York City market to capture over-the-air signals from all local broadcasters, including PBS member station WNET. For $12 a month subscribers each get a single antenna with a remote personal video recorder attached, accessible through their broadband connection. Soon after Aereo's launch, several broadcasters jointly filed copyright infringement lawsuits.

In reaction to this week's ruling, PBS, Fox, Tribune Company and Univision issued a statement, calling the decision "a loss for the entire creative community. The judge has denied our request for preliminary relief — ruling that it is okay to misappropriate copyrighted material and retransmit it without compensation. While we are disappointed, we will continue to fight to protect our copyrights and expect to prevail on appeal."

Chet Kanojia, Aereo c.e.o., said: "It is Aereo’s hope that in light of the judge’s opinion, the plaintiff broadcasters will reconsider their resistance to new technology and embrace consumer access and innovation.”

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan cited precedent set by Cartoon Network vs. CVC Holdings (Cablevision). "In that case, an appellate court agreed with Cablevision that individual delivery to customers of shows recorded via off-site DVR was not the same as a transmission to the public," according to Paid Content.