PRPD 2008 Year In Review
It was a very active year for PRPD, with the redesign and launch of a new website, the initiation of Webinars for Members, several new special projects and a very successful conference. PRPD enters what looks to be a challenging fiscal year in good financial health and with a strong membership. The following is a summary of the past year’s activities:
Web Site Redesign
In the first half of 2008, a great deal of our effort was focused on the redesign and launch of the new PRPD web site. The site went live on June 1,2008. Web site statistics show usage increased as a result of the changes and the response to postings on the site has been robust.
At the center of our approach was making the knowledge base more accessible. A clickable Knowledge Base and the addition of a search function were key elements of this effort. We focused on rebalancing the proportion of material available to freely and that restricted to members. Central to this work was our desire to be as open with our knowledge as possible while retaining the value of membership. For example, the Core Values reports are now public but the CV Applications section and PD Handbook require a member log-in.
One of the most popular features is the availability to members of webinar recordings. The new home page design includes headlines from our blog linking to the entire post. Thus far, the forum section has not been utilized to a great extent. We have begun to include responses to member requests for feedback on the form, but so far no one has used this function. We are currently investigating ways to increase the effectiveness of this section of the website.
Our next step in web development is to expand content on the site, particularly in the areas of Technology and On-Air Fundraising.
The membership database and billing processes were brought in house in 2009. We were able to enter the historical data into our new software system and bills were issued on time in early May. With consistent follow-up and direct payment, our cash flow from this largest source of revenue has improved, avoiding the previous compression of all income into two months.
While holding our membership dues steady for the 3rd year in a row, revenue in this category was the highest yet, slightly above the 2006 peak. We go into 2009 with 195 members – 164 Station, 13 Individual, and 18 Institutional. There were 16 new members and 12 drops. While we continue to add members, consolidations of operations have kept the total number of memberships from growing significantly in recent years.
In the upcoming year, our goal is to expand the database to be able to track the number of stations each member operates to allow for a better picture of the breadth of the organization’s service. We are also now positioned to track participation in training, webinars, conferences and other PRPD offerings. This will allow us to better target services for maximum value to members.
PRPD Training/ Professional Development for Programmers Webinars
PRPD initiated Webinars for Members in spring 2008 and presented 8 webinars during the calendar year. Interest has been strong with attendance at each between 35 and 65. We have presented a mix of research information, reports on station projects and topically focused webinars – some focused on particular formats and others of broader interest. As mentioned above, recordings have been posted on the PRPD website for access by members and interest has been high.
Webinars have been overseen by the PRPD Training Committee. Former board member Bruce Warren has volunteered to curate this year’s webinars and we currently have two scheduled for January. Talk Show Convening/ Training
In June, PRPD and the Local News Initiative (LNI) jointly sponsored a meeting of 15 stations which produce daily local talk programming. A 2-day meeting in Denver was based around the “matrix” of best practices developed for the 2007 conference by Jeff Hansen (KUOW/PRPD) and Marcia Alvar (LNI). PRPD also analyzed the midday audience trends for these stations and presented findings in a webinar later last summer.
The discussion was robust and stations were clearly interested in Talk Show training that would be offered regionally (rather than a national Talk conference). Feedback on the matrix has been incorporated into a draft Talk SHow Handbook that is currently being developed by PRPD and LNI. We expect to roll out this online tool in early spring 2009 and use it as the basis of a prototype Talk Workshop to be offered later in the year. PPM Workshop
Following the success of last year’s PD Advantage workshop, this year, in cooperation with the Radio Research Consortium, we offered a training session for stations in markets which were switching to PPM measurement. Nearly 20 people attended and felt that the experience was highly valuable. With a large number of stations scheduled to make the conversion, we expect to offer the same opportunity in 2009.
The PD Workshop was offered for the 15th year. The workshop was sold out this year. Evaluations continue to be excellent and the demand for this beginning training seems to be strong.
After 3 years of the Beyond the Basics workshop, we did not receive enough registration to hold the seminar. The PRPD Training committee is examining the structure of that workshop to determine whether to offer a modified next-level workshop or to refocus our training on one-time, content focused offerings. The 2009 member survey will help inform this decision which will be made in the first quarter of 2009.
Grow the Audience
PRPD participated in the CPB/SRG “Grow the Audience” project. We provided input into the organization of project groups; a subcommittee of the board worked on an assessment of the initial report and developed PRPD priorities for audience growth projects (with facilitation provided by GTA); PRPD’s president participated as part of the Grow The Audience Task Force; and a major conference session provided programmers the opportunity to contribute ideas to the GTA process.
Audience growth is a key pillar of our Strategic Plan and we remain committed to a focus on audience development and growth – both on-air and through non-broadcast venues. This will be a major part of our upcoming planning process and we look forward to major initiatives, both as the GTA process continues through CPB and in our interactions with other organizations and networks.
Public Radio Technology Survey
One of the outcomes of last year’s Strategic Planning was participation in the first Public Radio Technology Survey. Proposed, designed and conducted by Jacobs Media, PRPD worked with iMA and NPR to sponsor and promote this first ever survey of public radio listeners’ use of technology. Approximately 70 stations participated and over 30,000 listeners were surveyed on their technology habits.
Initial reports have been sent to participating stations, including both their own station data and aggregated data for the total sample. In December, a webinar reviewed the major findings for those stations. An executive summary is posted on the PRPD website for our members. Additional information about the aggregated data will be presented in a PRPD webinar for members at the end of January and further analysis will be presented at the iMA conference in February.
We plan to repeat the survey annually, allowing us to follow the evolution of our audiences’ technology use and help stations plan their ongoing content services.
Classical Music Testing Project
As of January 1, the twelve project stations implemented the results of last year’s research in a yearlong Application Phase. Monthly conference calls of stations were held and their experience have been integrated into the project materials and disseminated to the system.
The original research and initial station application strategies were presented at the Music Personnel Conference in February. A webinar about the station changes in Application Phase was offered and a progress report was presented at the 2008 PRPD conference – both in a breakout session and in the Classical Format Group.
We have been gathering Arbitron data for the participating stations and submitted an initial report to CPB in October. With the full year of application now completed, we are waiting for the release of fall 2008 data to complete a report on the implementation. A final report, including the data and the strategies of participating stations, will be submitted to CPB in May. We also plan to offer those results to the system, both through the web site and in a webinar.
Public Radio Programming Conference
Our 2008 conference in Hollywood was a great success. Attendee ratings were the best ever and attendance was among the largest in our history. Net revenue was just $1,600 shy of the 2007 record. We’ve continued to monitor our expenses resulting in the lowest outlay since 2003.
Highlights this year:
- Registration opened earlier to allow those attending Wednesday activities to receive conference information beforehand.
- Among the best received offerings were the 2 sessions presented by Lorna Ozmon. This practical workshop-within-conference approach will likely be continued in this year’s conference.
While the 2008 conference was a great success, the current economic situation requires that we adapt the 2009 conference to minimize costs to attendees. We are working on tightening up the schedule to help save room nights required and looking for local transportation options that will help attendees keep their travel costs down. We are also beginning discussion with our network sponsors to determine their level of support and ways to control their escalating costs. We have also been talking to other organizations about ways to consolidate efforts to maximize the effectiveness of conference services to the system, minimize duplication and help mitigate the increasing fractionalization of disciplines with public radio.
Once again, we received a record number of entries for the ACE Awards.
The 2009 conference will be September 15-18 in Cleveland with WCPN/Ideastream and WKSU as conference hosts. The 2010 conference will be held in Denver.
Consulting work continued with several new short-term projects with station members and ongoing data analyses. The increase in audience data costs associated with PPM may limit the potential for the latter as will the tightening of budgets throughout the system. Accordingly, the 2009 budget does not anticipate an increase in consulting revenue. We are also investigating possibilities of developing associations with outside consultants as a way to better address the challenges currently facing the system.
Our News for Programmers Blog is attracting robust usage. Over the year we were told of several incidences where postings on the blog significantly impacted traffic to other sites. We have also seen an increase in requests for us to post information about projects and events. Members routinely comment about the value of the blog.
In 2008, we continued our effort to participate in more industry conferences, serve on panels and participate in task forces and policy meetings including:
Public Media Conference (IMA)
Music Personnel Conference (panelist)
National Federation of Community Broadcasters (panelist)
National Public Radio System Meeting
CPB Leadership Forum
Public Radio Development and Marketing Conference (panelist)
Third Coast Audio Festival
Arbitron PPM Consultants Fly-In
Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) planning retreat
Grow the Audience Task Force
Eastern Regional Public Media meeting
Western States Public Radio meeting