Friday, October 13, 2017


Two of our recent stories went viral and caused a massive increase in page views for Spark News.  On a typical day I have 200 – 400 page views. Our story [link] about Pacifica losing a lawsuit with the Empire State Building regarding past due rent for WBAI’s transmission site has brought over 2,000 page views so far.

Jarl Mohn
But the biggest boost in readership was a story we first reported: Jarl Mohn: Our Goal Is To Have NPR News/Talk Stations Out-Perform Commercial News/Talkers [link].  The view count for it is at 5,900 and still climbing.

This is big news for a little noncommercial blog like this one. As many of you know, I am a part-time journalist and blogger. I appreciate the attention. My goal with this blog is simple: Terrestrial radio will survive and thrive only if the content is excellent.  I hate mediocre, boring radio.  I want to promote excellence on radio and all “sister” platforms.

Yesterday (Thursday) I saw this item in Tom Taylor’s NOW newsletter:

Wow, Steve Goldstein and his blog AmplifiMedia [link] is a BFD. He is very influential. So I immediately checked it out.
To Goldstein’s credit he did “amplify” [pun intended] the story by putting in additional information about NPR’s digital savvy.

Goldstein also added context with this observation:

All of this is in contrast to a frightening complacency in commercial News/Talk. You can listen to many stations and they sound the same as years ago and most have not built a meaningful digital presence. Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers last week urged the expansion from on-air to online platforms as part of keeping the medium pertinent. 

Commercial News/Talk radio is unambiguously in NPR's crosshairs.

Now is the time to for commercial radio to use its formidable assets to build, rebuild, and develop its own culture of innovation on multiple platforms.  


Dick Taylor, publisher of the DickTaylorBlog [link] wrote this comment:

NPR/Public Radio is in sync with its listeners and they are a trusted source. The local affiliates complement NPR with strong local radio news teams, something that has disappeared on the commercial side of radio -- with the exception being in major markets that have a strong commercial news/information station.

But we now are seeing NPR winning over listeners here too. Public Radio comes from a “listener first” approach to its programming content. Once all radio stations had this mission based approach but consolidation and large debt changed the focus.

KEN SAYS: Dick Taylor is totally correct. When Steve Goldstein said said Now is the time to for commercial radio to use its formidable assets he is ignoring the fact that most of these formidable assets are already being spent to service debts and compensation for senior executives. 


An anonymous reader commented:

Beware the slippery slope of chasing ratings.

KEN SAYS: I expected this comment. Anytime I combine “NPR” and “ratings” in the same sentence I hear from someone who feels that public radio is “selling out” by looking at Nielsen Audio ratings and other research.

While it is always good to remind ourselves to not worship data, the reader is missing the point about why public radio cares about data.

Commercial radio uses ratings to sell commercial time and to justify the cost of the commercials.  It is sometimes called “bulk audience delivery.”

Public radio uses ratings data, as Dick Taylor says above, for a “listener first” approach. When a public radio programmer looks at the numbers, he/she sees people. They might become supporters of the station. The task ahead then is to super-serve each listener on multiple platforms so that the value of the content is worthy of their support.


An anonymous reader wrote:

Putting content aside ... an element which must be factored in: People are fed up with commercials, and this is one way to escape them! For researchers, how does this balance the scale? Just a question ... not taking sides.

KEN SAYS: Bingo! It is a fact that most people don’t like hearing commercials. Noncommercial is a core value proposition of public radio’s brand.

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