Virtual Redux: Summary of Presentations Made at the Conference

PRIMA held its Winter 2010 Conference on Thursday and Friday, February 4-5, at the Astor Crowne Plaza in New Orleans. The NPR attendees left the evening of the first day to arrive home before the airports closed due to a major snow storm. This resulted in several sessions being conducted via speakerphone.

Unless otherwise noted, the summaries below are the result of my attempt to quickly take notes during the presentations. Any misinformation, typos and/or misinterpretation of the speaker’s intent are unintentional and corrections are welcome. – Dan Skinner, PRIMA VP & Webmaster

Presentations Menu:

Additional Resources:



Joel Sucherman, NPR Argo Project Manager

Environmental Background for Argo Project:

  • Increasing number of people getting news on-line instead of through traditional media
  • Social media growing in importance to distribution of and/or referral to news
  • Face Book refers more people to news web sites than does Google.
  • 26% of Adults use social media – (Not just for kids!)
  • I don’t find the news, the news finds me.
  • Changing Role of Journalism
    • Example of Newsweek approach combining: Original Content, What’s Available Elsewhere, Listener Input/Content
    • Most listeners following WE through social media is a new experience. The more they follow, the more they return.
    • Outreach through twitter
    • Reporter becoming curator of content in addition to creating content
    • Journalism becoming “real time” and continuous as opposed to weekly or daily content release.
    • Vertical Content Sources: Columns, Networks, Web site devoted to single topics – Why Vertical Content exists/works…
      • Reflects increasingly fragmented media world
      • Online vertical content similar to people reading favorite sections of their newspapers instead of reading it all
      • Search Engines and Social media referrals make it easier to find ultra-focused content
      • Ability to offer deep expertise, analysis, reporting, while encouraging deeply engaged audience to make overall knowledge more complete
      • Aggregates expertise, audience and sponsors looking to reach that audience

Editorial Quality is important. Does quantity of information result in less quality? Are we at national and local levels doing lower quality work as we attempt to deal do process more news content in shorter amounts of time?

Project ARGO is designed to deal with just one piece of the puzzle.

ARGO needed because:

  • Local News Organizations are entrenching, laying off staff
  • PR stations already positioned as trusted voice in your community
  • Start-ups are invading your turf: On-line news sources, etc

ARGO Success:?

  • Need platform an member station can get up and running
  • Coverage relevant locally and globally
  • Fill shrinking supply of local news and information

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Mark Fuerst


Mark Fuerst, Public Media Metrics

“Public radio’s largest near-term opportunity for audience growth and new public service is in news – national programs, local journalism, and aggressive expansion of online service.”
– Grow the Audience
published by SRG Jan. 2010

View Mark’s Powerpoint Presentation
“Building Online News in Public Radio”

After Mark’s powerpoint presentation he took questions and comments from the PRIMA members. Some of the questions raised are listed below.

  • What are the Core Values of the Public Radio Web site Experience?
    • Is the Core Value different than from public radio?
    • Should our web sites reflect our sound or do PR Web visitors desire a different experience?
  • What is the appropriate investment in web site development?
    • Can we share successful models for web site design?
    • Can we develop software that can be shared among stations to reduce the cost of individual stations improving their on-line services?

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Tom Thomas
Executive Officer, Station Resource Group

“public broadcasting needs to move quickly toward a broader vision of public service media, one that is more local, more inclusive, and more interactive.”
– The Knight Commission October  2, 2009

View Tom’s Powerpoint Presentation
“Moving Quickly Toward a Broader Vision”

Tom Thomas

Discussion following Tom Thomas Presentation:

Stations shared what they are doing:

  • Hired web producer
  • More collaborate reporting: Partnering with local newspaper for business and arts reporting that station could not otherwise cover; Weekly news roundup with news editors from other media around the state; news exchange servers; Capitol News Connection
  • Creating stronger collaboration between local talk show and news department to make sure talk show is up-to-date on current events and issues.
  • Hiring a Morning Edition Producer
  • Hiring a Managing Editor (Only 10% Reporting) to improve quality of news coverage (May pull from Newspaper world since person will not be much on-air)
  • Expanding number of reporters into new geographic regions. Not housed at station. For example: State House reporters (shared or own)
  • Collaboration with on-line news sources: Station gets info, web news service gets exposure for their web site; problem with promoting another news web site?

What do you need/want?

  • Digital Side: A content management system for PR web sites Need people to provide the content for the management system.
  • More reporters to provide more localism

Most ambitious plans for next three years?

  • 3 reporters, 3 editors, 30 stringers
  • 1 audio/video producer for on-line, 1 content manager
  • Major Station: 20 new reporters/producers
  • Morning Edition Reporter, Weekend Producer
  • Input varies on station size and situation from zero to twenty in next three years
  • Work to goal of posting on-line before on-air for sake of timeliness

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Keith Woods, NPR Vice President of Diversity in News and Operations

(Keith is a new member of the NPR staff and at the time he addressed the PRIMA Meeting he had only been on the job for four days. A summary of his comments is presented below.)

As News Operations are declining around the country diversity efforts are also suffering. Positions have been eliminated or people have taken on additional responsibilities leaving less time for diversity efforts.

Stations need to look beyond just having a diverse staff. It must also be part of your approach to programming and community service including story selection and news sourcing. NPR and stations should pull from diverse news sources to better reflect the nation and the communities served.

If you want to be the trusted source of news, you must know your community. You must know the issues and the diversity of the audience you want to serve. You need to cover issues of importance to the diverse population in your community whether they listen to you or not, because the rest of your audience needs to know and understand the community in which they live.

NPR wants to partnership with stations in providing advice and training regarding diversity in hiring practices.

Questions and Discussion

A question was raised about NPR news sourcing and attempts to go beyond the common used sources to reach out to experts with a more diverse background.

Does the younger generation of employees view issues of race and diversity differently than older employees? Is it less of an issue for younger employees? Woods said that from personal experience, he thinks it is still an issue because it is still an issue with society at large. However, he feels that we are now able to have a more sophisticated dialogue about what has and has not been accomplished in terms of diversity and equality.

How do we raise the awareness of staff about diversity issues? Woods advised starting with journalism. Is my story balanced? Does it appropriate represent the person and/or the issue? Is the language appropriate? Do you understand what certain words mean to the audience or the group being covered? Preparing news with attention to these details is part of diversity.

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Doug Eichten (In Person) and Ron Schiller (Via Phone)

2009 served to focus many stations on membership activities in response to the economic downturn.

CPB is supporting development with Leadership for Philanthropy program, 50 stations have participated. Funded “Making the Case” in partnership with DEI/SRG to provide stations with case of funding from major donors. CPB has funded project to develop Grants Center to provide information about potential grantors for public broadcasting.

Ron Schiller Comments:

Schiller discussed the ways the system raises money, including: Annual Giving, Major Gift Programs, Planned Giving, Capital Campaigns, institutions/foundations. There is also potential for reaching NPR audience that is living overseas. System is not even scratching the surface on the potential for giving.

There have been about 50-70 $1 million dollar gifts in Public Radio. There is a perception problem of major donors not understanding the power of public radio collectively, but instead only looking at individual stations. Education needs to be done to show major donors how their support can help the whole system and benefit the nation.

Work needs to be done to match foundation funding with programming that public radio wants to do. Foundations need to be educated about what public radio can do to advance their causes.

Planned giving amounts to about $5 M each year system wide. Compared to other non-profits, PR should be closer to $100 million per year. More research needs to be done on what public radio’s capacity is for planned giving.

Questions for Schiller:

What is the timeline on prospect research? – Schiller responded that we should expect results in the next few months. He will work with stations region by region to cultivate donors. Schiller also talked about going back to the $1 million plus donor list to public radio to create a case study to find out about what motivated them to give.

How do we develop the civic leadership needed to build a major gift programming? – Schiller agreed that it was important to educate and cultivate civic leaders is needed. Peer to peer influence is critical. If one civic leader gives, then it is easier for peers to understand why and hopefully follow suit.

Eichten Comments:

Manager Survey Results Summary:


  • Strategies Going Into Recession: New Training, New Staff, New Packages, Aggressive Approach to sales, improve customer relations, clear and aggressive goals, relentless monitoring.
  • How Effective: Mixed bag from 14% down to new records. Net was down across all stations.
  • Strategies for Recovery: Local Sales Consultant, higher goals, more aggressive,


  • Strategies Going Into Recession: Improved customer relations, message focus on what we provide versus what we need, more aggressive on air drives, weekly tracking, more aggressive direct mail, more focus on sustainer giving, added more drives
  • How Effective: Flat or up 5%. Net was up 9%. Membership up 9%.
  • Recovery: Sustainer programs, direct mail

Major Giving:

  • Going In: Adding staff, GM dedicating more time, focus on planned giving, shifting message to “we’re saving journalism,” monthly goals, grant proposals
  • How Effective: Net down 7% (2008-2009)
  • Strategy for Recovery: More grant requests, more focus on planned giving, etc.


  • Car Donation Programs on the rise
  • CPB numbers also indicate that stations have overall gained in number of members.
  • Discussion about joint licensees and distribution of money being raised by radio and television. Indications are that system-wide a significant portion of money raised by radio is being transferred to support television in joint licensee situations. Good data is not available to determine full extent of issue.

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Mike Ricksen, NPR

It has been relatively flat for the past 10 years and expecting it to be flat in the next few years.  The Public Broadcasting Act expired in 1996, so last action was taken in 1992. CPB has friends and admirers but we don’t have a champion. As a result we are lost in the appropriations process. Basically, if we do nothing, we can probably count on our relatively flat funding continuing for the foreseeable future.

Next appropriation will require justification of digital money for equipment, content or services. Digital money may also be used to create a public media platform. PTFP has been zeroed out, but work will continue to get it reinstated.

What’s Next…

Do changes need to be made to the expired Public Broadcasting Act and do we want to be part of the process? If so, who will be the new players in the public media world? What will be the new standard? Can we agree on a set of short, simple, set of statements to offer initial guidance to the federal policy leaders? What are the ramifications of a new Public Broadcasting Act?

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Mike Starling, NPR Engineering & Greg Lewis, NPR (Via Phone)

HD Power Survey

70% want to increase their power, about half want to increase to max available
75% would like to do so within year, 50% immediately
80% would like CPB funds to help with upgrade
98% want NPR to track interference issues

CPB Co-priority HD transition and HD power increases

56% of stations can take advantage of full power increase
89% of stations can make increase using asymmetrical power

Stations must wait until order becomes effective. For increases up to 6 db, stations must electronically notify the Media Bureau within 10 days after commencing higher power operation. For increases over 6 db, stations have to submit an application to the Bureau prior t commencing higher power operations.

NPR labs available to “certify” any above 6db proposals under the formula for a small fee.

Next CPB round after FCC rule is operative should allow for upgrade proposals.

NPR power calculator at

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Joyce MacDonald, NPR Vice President for Member and Program Services
(Via Phone)

NPR Finances: Looks a little better than expected. Endowment funds as an income source have returned to the ledger as the economy has improved.

NPR working on ARGO, unlocking the system’s potential, etc.

Positive Feedback about “Planet Money” host visit to station. The hosts were great but there were restrictions that prevented local station from generating local sponsorship of their visit. Can NPR work to make station visits local sponsor friendly? Joyce indicated that NPR will work on clearing up those issues because they understand the station’s dilemma. Category specific sponsor ships restrictions may still exist, but there should not be complete exclusive that prevents local sponsorship of a station program visit.

Update on new NPR Building; Work is progressing, the plan is to move into in 2013. Bond issue work is continuing, conceptual drawings, etc. Will put info on the member site.

NPR Foundation: The role of the foundation will evolve to partner with stations to raise funds for stations, NPR and system benefit.

Create blog for ARGO development and how it is being used.

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Conference Overall Topics Strategic View

Facilitated by Jon Schwartz
Ranking of priorities provided by Jon Schwartz

The following are the brainstormed topics from the group along with the subsequent voting tallies for each topic.


1. New and sustainable revenue sources, important to include local sources.    17

2. A business model that incorporates online service, expense and revenue.         17

3. Original, unique production content on ALL platforms       9

4. Understand and promote research about people/audience served online. Learn more about the human dynamics online. Raise knowledge to that of broadcast audience knowledge. Refer to Mark Fuerst discussion.    8

5. Diversify newsrooms     7

6. Grow the midday on-air audience. Grow the overall online user audience      7

7. Commit enthusiastically to significantly larger success; don’t think small    7

8. Agree and implement best practices for web sites’ for users point of view. Refer to Mark Fuerst’s presentation of an emergent set of design principles. We want a template or tool for implementing these on our sites            6

9. Burn down the firewalls between national organizations    2

10. Commit to substantive, high quality investigative journalism that serves the public             2

11. Increase staffing for online activities and for news 0

12. Break down walls between on air and on line, increasing communication among staff in both areas. It’s all content.        0

13. Define and focus what stations do to their local communities; define best practices   0

14. Vision thing      0


1. Achieve Congressional funding for a new Public Media platform (analogous to the PRSS system?)   13

2. Aggregate stations and network online audience numbers, enabling a more powerful online presence and more revenue from ad agencies; is good public policy              12

3. Set a grow the audience goal for on-air and on-line for each station       11

4. Create and aggregate more and more appealing content   3

5. Impose a consequence for not doing well     3

6. Need clear marching orders from stations 0

7.  Success for stations means success nationally        0

Tim Emmons’s Summation of the Priorities…

  • Agree upon ambitious audience goals, on-air and on-line
  • Identify significant new and sustainable revenue streams sufficient to achieve our audience goals

Dan Skinner’s Similar Summation of the Priorities…

  • A vision and plan that will inspire us to get from where we are to where we need to be
  • An increase in new, diverse and sustainable sources of income
  • An increase in resources to create unique quality content for multiple distribution platforms

Tom Thomas/Mark Fuerst: It is important for the regionals to take a leadership role in keeping these priorities alive for the system and to encourage work to make progress on those priorities. PRIMA can take lead to encourage other regionals to also focus on the priorities.

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Craig Beeby, Executive Director, U:SA

Craig made a presentation about the reporting structure of university licensee’s and how it reflects the institutions recognition of the importance of public stations; the importance of an efficient reporting structure; and how to change the reporting structure if needed; amoung other topics.

View Craig’s Presentation (PDF File)

Discussion: Major Gifts & University – It is important for the university to understand that you are not taking money away from them. You are part of the university and any gift to your station is credited to the overall gifts given to the university. The station may also open doors to donors the university might not otherwise have access. Always try to be a team player. “I’ll check on that with our FCC Attorney to see if that will work.” Let the attorney be the one to say no, even if you know what the answer will be. You’d love to cooperate, so let someone else say no.

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Arthur Cohen, President of PRPD 

Arthur’s presentation explored the evolving role of the Program Director and the issues PDs face. He also reported on the survey resulta regarding what PRPD members want from organization, and the services they find most valuable.

View Arthur’s Presentation (PDF File)

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Julie McAlpine, Senior VP, APM

McAlpine discussion APM programming and station needs. She discussed the impact of the recent economic downturn.  APM is focusing on core programming, working both regionally and nationally on programming offerings that cover everything from Marketplace to Classical 24. Focus on core program offerings doesn’t’t mean status quo as there is an emphasis on reinvention of the core program from production to their role in expanding recognition of diversity. APM recognizes need for them to improve and expand their online presence. She sees online as a key component of community engagement and briefly discussed Public Insight Journalism project with stations that involves 80,000 people nationwide.

McAlpine wants feedback from public radio system to help APM improve their program offerings to best serve stations.


APM is working to expand Marketplace presence online? Yes, new on-line initiatives are under development. Stay tuned.

What is the plan for APHC once Keillor retires? McAlpine indicated that APB is working with Prairie Home productions to work out plans and rights so that it can continue to be a vital program for years into the future.

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Phil Johnson, Public InteractiveJohnson

Phil presented information on the process of reporting SX reporting data through the Public Interactive reporting tool. He also produces a blog with information about the process.

View Phil’s Presentation Materials


What is happening in regard to clearing up Classical Music reporting issues? – Ricksen and PRRO group are working on a dialog with SX to clear up classical music reporting issue first, and then will attempt to get concessions for other non-commercial formats. Since the reporting requirements are based on federal law, it will be a challenge to make changes. Since the classical issues seem to be based on misunderstanding and not intent, it seems the most logical place to start.

Most of the other questions for Phil Johnson, fell in to the category of “Not a Lawyer” and he was not able to address.

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Facilitated by Christina Kuzmych
Notes transcribed from flip chart sheets of comments

How National Organizations and PRRO can work together for the good of the system? (CPB, NPR, APM, PRI)

What Do Stations Want From Public Radio Regional Organizations?

  • Provide updates on system-wide developments – Keep us in the loop
  • Provide information/research on what others are doing
  • Provide update on the regional level about opportunities to be included in the dialogue – Keep reflecting diverse viewpoints – Be inclusive.
  • Keep important issues up front with national organizations
  • Be tenacious re: moving the dialog – stop talking – start moving!
  • Give smaller stations 1 on 1 access to national organizations
  • Should PRRO abandon the regional model? Should groups be created out of common interests instead of geography?
  • Present Topics that are more focused – provide both small and large market perspectives. There are times when separate discussions might make sense
  • Provide accessibility to national leaders and other station managers.
  • Intensive Management Training seems to be a thing of the past – New Managers still need it.
  • Provide the opportunity to feel part of a larger group that understands what you do and the challenges you face. (Camaraderie/Friends)
  • The opportunity for “group thinking” and exposing national reps to “where we are coming from”

How Can Regionals Help National Organizations?

  • Provide access to stations and the ability for us to interact and answer questions one on one.
  • Input from more stations helps protect against minority opinion ruling
  • Cooperation, not dictation
  • Provide insight into station concerns; give overall snapshot of the industry; help us better serve our clients
  • Share best practices – promote collaboration – align goals and incentives
  • Provide opportunity to be more proactive and anticipate what stations may need down the line
  • Provide opportunity to hear issues and concerns; to hear about success on the ground. Where are collaborations taking place successfully?
  • Station feedback improves services
  • Consider re-inventing PRRO concept – Geographic doesn’t make any sense. Crying need for gathering by size or format instead of geography
  • There is a value in cohorts other than geography – this is the one place to discuss issues that affect all of us
  • Nothing replaces face-to-face, so geographic meetings make some sense just from the viewpoint of being able to get together
  • Encourage your members to speak-up!
  • Criticism, support, etc. – We can take it – we want to hear it
  • It’s important to have a contact on CPB Board. Most on the CPB board don’t understand the intricacies of the radio business
  • Regionals provide a place to “make the sausage” – Have the difficult and messy discussions – a place for open minds, persuasion, civil discourse.

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In 2010, PRIMA celebrates its 35th year. The first meeting took place in Kansas City, Missouri. Patty Cahill, one of the founding PRIMATES, cuts the cake as Christina Kuzmych pours champagne. Cheers!


35th Anniversary PRIMA!


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