Jul 13, 2012

Ford-backed marketing campaign aims to boost pubradio listening

SEATTLE — The Ford Foundation will provide a $750,000 grant to NPR in support of a new marketing campaign designed to build awareness and listenership of local stations.

The grant, announced by NPR President Gary Knell during a Friday (July 13) luncheon at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, will help NPR respond to recent research findings that measured high trust rankings for NPR among news consumers, yet also revealed that a sizable portion of the potential audience — 25 percent ­— isn’t aware that NPR exists.

Four stations to participate in the campaign have already been identified: KERA, Dallas; WFYI, Indianapolis; WMFE, Orlando; and KPBS, San Diego.

Harris Interactive conducted the national brand study in late 2011 with 2,500 adults aged 18 and older, according to Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s chief spokesperson. News consumers who knew of NPR rated it very highly among other top news brands, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and cable news outlets CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, she said. Only the BBC had higher trust rankings.

“But the downside was our visibility,” Rehm said. “If 25 percent of adults do not know who we are, we’ve got work to do.”

The Harris study’s findings echoed those of earlier audience research — the 2010 Audience Opportunity Study — which found that millions of news consumers who shared the same values as public radio listeners were not aware of NPR.

To test the effectiveness of the campaign on a national scale, NPR chose stations for geographic diversity, Rehm said. It also sought stations that with no public radio news competitors in their markets.

The marketing campaign has not yet been created, but will be designed to increase the cumulative audience of each participating station as measured by Arbitron, as well as the numbers of people listening to the station’s web stream. The campaign will place billboard and digital ads in each market.

NPR has solicited proposals from ad agencies and is in the process of deciding which will win the contract, Rehm said. The campaign launch is set for later this fall.

CJR eyes Center for Public Integrity's recent unsuccessful foray into daily journalism

Columbia Journalism Review takes an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity's recent unsuccessful effort to remake itself as a daily destination news site instead of concentrating on its specialty, long-form journalism. The plan was to post 10 or more stories per day, to drive website traffic and boost underwriting support.

Now, CJR notes, while the center "will continue to publish a handful of original stories each week, the focus will return to partnering with outside news organizations to produce in-depth investigations."

“We took our general operating support and invested it in the new business model, expecting it would bring a financial return,” said the center’s executive director, pubradio veteran Bill Buzenberg. “That hasn’t happened.”

Last December, the center announced a $2 million budget shortfall, cut more than a third of its staff and exhausted $1.4 million of its reserves, according to CJR.

The center is also home to several other pubradio broadcasters, including former NPR News chief Ellen Weiss.

George Stoney dies at 96; documentarian and founder of public access television

George Stoney, a pioneer documentary filmmaker who is also widely recognized as the founder of public access television, died Thursday (July 12) at his home in New York City. He had celebrated his 96th birthday on July 1.

A posting on the website of the Center for Media & Democracy, a Vermont public access TV incubator, called Stoney an "unflagging champion of free speech, open media and opportunity for all."

As he said in an interview Documentary magazine with last winter: "It's like writing. We have professional journalists, and we have novelists, and we have volunteer poets. There's no reason why we should restrict the cameras to professionals, and at the same time, there's no reason why professionals can't do a very good job."  

At the time of his death, Stoney was a professor emeritus of film and television at New York University. There, in 1971, Stoney and Red Burns founded the Alternate Media Center to train citizens in video production techniques for the fledgling public access television, and lobbied Congress for its support. He was instrumental in persuading the FCC to mandate that cable operators to fund equipment, training, and airtime, according to Massachusetts Community Media Inc.

Stoney was an active member of the board of directors for the Alliance for Community Media. That advocacy organization presents its annual George Stoney-Dirk Koning Award to "an organization or individual who has made an outstanding contribution to championing the growth and experience of humanistic community communications," the group said in a statement.

In a 2005 interview with Democracy Now!, Stoney spoke of the importance of citizen involvement in media, saying that supporters "look on cable as a way of encouraging public action, not just access. Social change comes with a combination of use of media and people getting out on the streets or getting involved. And we find that if people make programs together and put them on the local channel, that gets them involved."

As a filmmaker, Stoney directed several influential documentaries, including 1953's All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story, a training film, and The Uprising of '34, a 1995 film about a nationwide textile strike of some half-million workers.

Colorado broadcasters team up for wildfire relief fundraiser

Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, Univision, CPT12 and Rocky Mountain PBS all broadcast from RMPBS's studios. (Photo by Tom Torgove, RMPBS.)

Colorado's major broadcasters, both public and commercial, participated in a massive fundraiser to support the Colorado Chapters of the American Red Cross and the Colorado Professional Fire Fighters Foundation from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday (July 11). The fundraiser netted more than $220,000, with all proceeds going to the organizations.

Rocky Mountain PBS and Colorado Public Television partnered with public media organizations Aspen Public Radio, KUVO, KUNC and KRCC as well as eight commercial stations (9NEWS, 7NEWS, Azteca Colorado, CBS4, KDVR, KWGN, Noticias Univision and KDEN Telemundo Denver) to host a live phone bank to benefit the two organizations. Rocky Mountain PBS hosted the event in its Denver studios, providing 42 phones and 300 phone lines that Red Cross volunteers answered all evening. All of the participating stations featured breaks in regularly scheduled programming to promote the phone bank throughout the evening.

“This was truly a unique collaboration of Colorado broadcasters," said Doug Price, president and c.e.o. of Rocky Mountain PBS. "Many of these stations are commonly seen as competitors in this market, but we unified as a team — swiftly and enthusiastically — to provide impressive collective impact for our statewide audience in a time of need. I am overwhelmed with pride for Colorado’s media and its audiences.”

According to Elizabeth Mayer, director of communications at RMPBS, the Red Cross chapters received $156,397, and those donations will immediately help fund the organization’s response to recent wildfires as well as flooding and other disasters that occur in Colorado. The Fire Fighters Foundation received $63,603, and will allocate that to assist professional and volunteer firefighters adversely affected by the recent wildfires, such as those whose own homes were damaged or destroyed. Any remaining funds will be dedicated to fulfilling the foundation’s mission of helping firefighters and their families who are victims of tragedy.

The morning of the fundraiser, the relief effort received a surprise commitment from an anonymous Colorado organization promising to match donations up to $40,000. Beginning at 4 p.m., individual viewers called in at a consistent pace, keeping the phone lines ringing all evening and contributing about 75 percent of the total funds raised. Major donations came from the Colorado Broadcasters Association ($5,000) and KMGH presented $10,000 from the Scripps Howard Foundation.

“The phone bank was a powerful example of what public broadcasting can, and should, do in a community," said Wick Rowland, president and c.e.o. of Colorado Public Television. "Coming together to provide relief to our neighbors is what true community engagement is about."

To contribute to relief efforts, visit the Help Colorado Now website.

Phone bank volunteers hard at work. (Photo: Tom Torgove, RMPBS.)