March 3, 2009

Could newspapers adopt the NPR fund-raising model?

June Thomas looks at the "10 cunning ways" that public radio raises money over on Slate. Her list includes these tactics:
  • the perfect gift
  • the guilt trip
  • flattery
  • match game
and these conversations:
  • "We're here for you so you be here for us"
  • "Your bill is due now"
  • "Only you can save journalism"
  • "You're not just helping us, you're helping your fellow listeners"
  • "Stop me before I make the pitch again"
Plus the organizations do a good job of niche marketing, marketing shows with specific audiences.

"The best of public radio's weekend shows have distinct personalities: the discursive storytelling of This American Life, the self-deprecating bickering of Car Talk, and the cozy in-jokes of A Prairie Home Companion."

So tell me why couldn't newspapers and other media organizations use the same tactics?


  1. I think Newspapers could - but I also think that NPR (and newspapers) could use a better approach by not just asking for money - but letting the listener determine where the money goes.

    I will give $20 - but it must be used for enviro reporting.

    I will give $20 but it must be given to this reporter who covers city politics.

    Lets give the donors more control - and I bet they'll give more.

    That is the theory behind at least.

  2. I've been following DigiDave's efforts on behalf of citizen-funded journalism, and I wish him success with it. I think it has potential as a particularly good way for freelancers to bypass editors/gatekeepers and go directly to the public with story ideas that they may value and be willing to pay for.

    As for the comparisons to public TV, and the way it gets consumers to pay for content, my only concern about that analogy is that the deal public TV offers people is the same proposition offered to them by satellite radio -- you give us money, and in return, we won't subject you to any annoying advertising. We'll never get enough money from our content to forego advertising.

    That being said, I think in this rotten economy, it's inevitable that everyone is looking at paid-content models. We'll see what comes of it.