PRPD 2009 Year In Review
PRPD President’s Annual Report,
September 9, 2009
Like everyone else, the year since our last conference has been focused on economizing and maximizing service with efficiency. With sensitivity to the challenges of our members, we have been able to move our agenda forward while maintaining a positive future for the organization.
Membership has held up much better than expected. While there were fewer new memberships than in recent years, there were also fewer drops than we had anticipated and most of those strongly indicated their intention to rejoin once the financial stresses ease. As a result, membership revenue is likely to be close to budget target by year’s end.
New members since the last conference:
- Science Friday
- Robert Skoglund
- John Silliman Dodge
While we decided to hold back on spending budgeted money for special projects this year until the financial picture was clearer, through creative collaboration we’ve been able to move forward on important projects that have added to our members’ knowledge and resources. Technology Survey –
We launched the first ever Public Radio Technology Survey (PRTS) in cooperation with iMA and NPR in Fall 2008. Designed and conducted by Jacobs Media, over 70 stations participated with more than 30,000 listeners surveyed. The results were presented in several well-attended webinars, at the Public Media Conference, regional meetings and the PRDMC. They are also posted on the PRPD website where members have made frequent use of the data.
To avoid the fall pledge drive season and allow presentation of results at our own conference, this year’s survey (PRTS2) was conducted in August. Given the challenging economic situation, we were encouraged to have 57 stations involved and around 27,000 listeners surveyed. Data is being analyzed at this time and will be presented in a general session on September 17th. With one year’s data behind us, PRTS2 will begin to establish trends in technology use among public radio listeners. It also probed listeners’ responses to the financial downturn. Public Radio Talk Show Handbook
– From the base of the Talk Show Matrix, we worked with the NPR Local News Initiative to develop an online handbook on talk show best practices. Through the efforts of Marcia Alvar, Jeff Hansen, and PRPD staff, we were able to accomplish this with no cash investment. The ensuing webinar attracted the largest audience yet. A session at PRNDI along with two sessions scheduled for our conference will extend the exposure of this tool. Response has been extremely positive.
The current economic situation has delayed plans to launch regional Talk Show workshops. We will continue to monitor the situation and would like to pilot this project as soon as it seems feasible.
CPB Classical Music Testing Project -
The Application Phase of this project came to a close at the end of 2008 with a final report for submitted in May, 2009. Results for participating stations are quite encouraging. The stations that were most aggressive in applying the findings had significant midday audience gains. Most of the six full-time classical stations that have comparable data have increased midday listening and the others have maintained their listening. The mixed format stations showed less consistent results, but even their trends are more positive than negative.
We are continuing to track the audience data for the remaining participating stations and have begun to see even more promising results. We will present some of the results at this year’s conference and stations will share what they have done and the lessons they have learned.
Research: Public Radio Spoken Word in PPM
- This summer we engaged Coleman Insights to analyze data from 17 news and information stations in markets that have had PPM data available for at least 4 month. They examined how audience results for stations, local talk programming and national programs changed with Arbitron’s new methodology and presented the results in an August webinar for members. Coleman President, Warren Kurtzman will integrate those results into a panel on New Revelations in Audience Behavior at this conference.
We have continued to see growth in webinar attendance over the past year, and requests for the recordings and slide shows have increased accordingly. We have featured original research, material from the abovementioned projects and have invited outside groups to present information important to our members. The following webinars have been presented and are posted on the PRPD website:
• Public Radio News & Info Stations in PPM - A NEW Study
• SoundExchange Reporting for Public Radio (with CPB, PI)
• The New Public Radio Talk Show Handbook (with LNI)
• NPR MUSIC: The Latest
• Understanding the Public Radio AAA (Triple A) Audience (with NPR)
• To Tweet or Not To Tweet
• How Stations Are Using Facebook
• The Public Radio Technology Survey
• The Town Square Story: Lessons From the New Media Frontier (with OPB)
• PRX 3.0 - A Guided Tour
• Pledge Drive Best Practices Webinar (with DEI)
The challenging economy took its toll on our preconference training activities. The PD Workshop attracted just half of the normal number of participants but did meet our minimum and is continuing for the 16th straight year. The agenda has been reworked and include more about multi-platform management and is beginning to adjust to new audience information being gleaned from PPM.
We also offered an interviewing workshop with David Candow but not enough signed up for that activity. In both cases, we heard from members that lack of funding was a major factor so we hope to offer both again next year.
We delayed plans to offer a new Talk Show Workshop with LNI but still hope to launch a prototype in early 2010. We are also discussing some additional research to inform best practices and help develop a more targeted workshop.
PRPD continues to keep programming and the needs of programmers at the center of system conversations. For the first time this year, we were present at all of the Regional meetings, maintaining our interaction with station managers and executives. We also played a part in various conversations with Arbitron about the needs of the public radio system and are part of the Arbitron Public Radio Team.
As the above indicates, collaboration has been a top priority for PRPD. We are exploring all avenues for creating new knowledge and delivery of tools and best practices to our members. Based on the understanding that programming is central all parts of station and organizational activities, we remain In frequent conversation with AIR, DEI, RRC, iMA, Third Coast, PRNDI, AMPPR, NPR, PRI, APM and CPB, always looking for creative new ways to collaborate and most efficiently move the system forward.
A guiding force in all of our work is your feedback in our annual Members’ Survey. Look for the 2010 version of that survey at the end of the year. Please feel free to contact us as issues arise at your station or organization. Your input keeps us current and helps us anticipate needs and be ready when new opportunities arise.
Registration for the 2009 conference has been much stronger than we had anticipated. At this writing, we will have over 400 registrants, only about 10% down from last year and much better than projections of a 30% decline. There has been some decline in sponsorship and exhibitors, so we still expect conference revenue to fall short of budget. We have worked hard to minimize costs, including handling conference registration in house and delaying outsourcing the design of the conference guide. These have resulted in savings but have put a workload burden on our small staff that will need to be addressed in coming years.
The final determination of net revenue will have to wait until after the conference and associated bills clear later in the year. In recognition of the tight cash flows this year, we have been very flexible in allowing delayed payment. It will be critical that those of you who have not yet paid for conference registration do so as soon as possible. If you need to delay until later in 2009, please let us know when you will be able to do so.
We continue to be in good shape, particularly in light of the economic fluctuations. Fortunately, our financial planner has been very careful, keeping most of our investment dollars in cash during the worst months of the economic downturn. So, rather than experiencing a significant hit in our reserve the account actually increased in value by about $18,000. Also, in the last few years we have managed to spread out our cash flow, so we have not had to borrow from the reserve at all to date, allowing interest to continue to accrue.
Because almost all of PRPD’s revenue comes from membership and conference revenue, we still do not have a clear picture of PRPD’s 2009 revenue. We have been very careful on spending in 2009. In January the board decided to hold back on any Special Project spending, including the Talk Show Workshop. In addition to cutting conference expenses we’ve kept travel down this year.
Our current projections for 2009 are encouraging as compared to some of the scenarios we looked at last winter. We hope to end the year close to a balanced budget, avoiding the need to draw any significant amount from our reserves – something that had seemed likely earlier in the year.
Arthur Cohen, President, PRPD