NPR’s spending on digital media will climb about 43 percent, or $4 million, to more than $13 million in the coming fiscal year after growing 37 percent in each of the two previous fiscal years, 2006 and 2007.
The network’s news budget is also growing by nearly 11 percent, or some $7 million, to nearly $73 million. In the previous two years, news spending grew 6.4 percent and 8.7 percent, according to NPR’s audited financial statement for fiscal 2006 and a fiscal 2007 budget supplied to Current.
NPR will hire about 27 additional news and digital staffers. And NPR’s government relations office will gain three staffers, according to Ken Stern, c.e.o.
Major news initiatives will include coverage of the 2008 elections, new morning news programs Tell Me More and the Bryant Park Project (working title) and retooling of NPR mainstays All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. The budget also puts money into integrating content production for broadcast and the Web and invests in enhancements of NPR.org, such as the music site slated to launch in October.
“Digital media is resource-intensive,” said Stern. “We are making investments on behalf of the whole public radio system.” As more people go online for news and information, public radio needs a dynamic web presence if it is to be competitive, he said.
NPR’s digital media division employs between 40 and 50 people, according to Stern, fewer by far than the legions of webbies at other major news organizations. The digital media staffs of the New York Times or CNN are at least four times the size of NPR’s, according to Andi Sporkin, communications v.p.
“We’ve always been used to working with less,” Stern said, “but we need to do more scale investments” in digital media.
The network’s operating budget, approved by the NPR Board last month in Reno, Nev., foresees revenues of nearly $156.7 million and expenses of $154.7 million. Spending will slightly outpace revenue gains in fiscal 2008, according to budget highlights distributed this summer to NPR member stations. Operating revenues will grow about 7 percent, or $10.4 million, from this year’s estimated earnings of $146.3 million. Operating expenses will grow nearly 9 percent, or more than $12 million, from $142.1 million in 2007.
The network expects to end fiscal year 2007 with a $4.2 million surplus and end next year with a surplus of $1.9 million.
NPR’s principal service is “delivering news and information on the radio and digital media,” Stern said after the NPR Board’s unanimous voice vote to adopt the spending plan July 10. “There are substantial investments in the budget to make sure it is of the highest quality, integrity and craftsmanship, reflective of the values of NPR.”
In a spending-plan memo to the stations’ authorized reps, Stern and C.F.O. Jim Elder said NPR will focus its investments on four areas over the next three years:
The budget priorities are based on strategic goals adopted after a series of station consultations last year.
“Stations are always looking for more and better news coverage,” Stern said during a recent interview, adding that member stations also want NPR to collaborate more with their own newsrooms in coordinating coverage.
NPR plans activities on this front as well: station journalists will contribute to NPR’s election coverage. A new initiative, Span of War, will help connect local and national reporting related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The budget is the first developed under Stern since his promotion to c.e.o. last year. “I am interested in increasing transparency in budgeting and planning,” he said. Stern looks to gather station feedback on NPR’s spending priorities for fiscal 2009 during the regional meetings to be convened this fall.
Spending totals and growth percentages reported for the news and online divisions in 2008 are based on incomplete sources because NPR declined to release dollar amounts for categories in next year’s budget.
Web page posted Sept. 10, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Current Publishing Committee