Radio has spring in season’s pledging
The results of South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s 2009 spring pledge are a microcosm of stations across America: Radio, good, considering the economy; TV, not so good.
“It’s a mixed bag out here on the Plains,” said Fritz Miller, SDPB marketing director. The state network’s radio side surpassed its goals — $42,000 and 100 new members — bringing in $43,680 and signing up 102. That also topped its five-year average for spring drives.
“It was touch and go in the middle of the week, but we were able to go over the top after two spectacular days at the end of the drive,” Miller said. Friday brought in more than $11,000; two hours of Car Talk on Saturday grossed more than $10,000.
However, South Dakota’s TV drive was 27 percent off its five-year spring average.
The story was similar at Alaska sister stations KSKA-FM and KAKM-TV in Anchorage. Travis Gilmore, membership director, spoke with Current early on April 10, the last day of radio pledging. He predicted the station would meet its $230,000 goal “for sure.” However, the TV station was 10 percent off its $120,000 goal.
Doug Eichten, president of pubradio’s DEI, has heard about similar numbers nationwide.
“Radio drives are right on track or slightly higher, but TV is down—in some cases drastically,” he said. “It is no secret in any chat I have with anyone in public TV — it is very, very tough.”
David Preston, director of membership and viewer services at Minnesota’s Twin Cities Public Television, saw better results when pitching to fans of the NewsHour, EastEnders or other shows with fond followings.
Nevertheless, TPT’s pledges were off about 17 percent; new members were up 12 percent.
Successful stations often were those that applied best practices such as creating a “good balance of live pitching and prepared inserts” and mixing pledge and regular shows, Eichten said.
Many stations are making it clear to listeners that they’d appreciate gifts of any size, he added.
That helped at WABE-FM in Atlanta, up 25 percent over spring 2008. The station encouraged listeners to call with a pledge at any level and avoided touting a dollar goal, said Development Director Rene Lindsay. Instead, WABE went for a caller goal of 10,000. At final count, 10,618 donors — up from 8,514 last year — pledged a total of more than $1 million.
In Anchorage, KSKA-FM asked listeners why “Life Is Better with KSKA.” Callers and website visitors responded with phrases like “KSKA makes the drive to Anchorage bearable.”
Jon Schwartz, g.m. of pubradio’s Wyoming Public Media, said a combination of “challenge hours and traditional radiothon fundraising” helped it reach its $220,000 goal.
For many pubTV stations, it was an uphill battle. PBS does not release national pledge data, but a station insider said dollars were down about 32 percent from last spring in PBS’s report. The number of pledges dropped 21 percent, and the average amount fell 13 percent to $136.
Anecdotal data told the same story. Valley PTV in Fresno, Calif., was off about 50 percent, or some $100,000, President Paula Castadio said. New Hampshire PTV was down 40 percent. “It’s clearly the economy,” said President Peter Frid. “Callers are off, and dollars are off.”
Others down from last spring: KTWU in Topeka, Kan., 30 percent, and North Carolina’s UNC-TV and Vermont PTV, each down about 18 percent. VPT’s result was “better than we expected,” chief exec John King said.
Idaho PTV did surpass its goal — but after lowering it from $975,000 to $950,000. Final take: $950,750. “I’m feeling great about feeling OK,” said General Manager Peter Morrill.
Web page posted April 22, 2009
Copyright 2009 by Current LLC
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