President’s Annual Report to PRPD Members
September 5, 2012
As we approach the PRPD Annual Members’ Meeting at the Las Vegas conference, the state of the organization remains strong. Ratings of our services in the annual members’ survey were the highest ever – nearly 50% rated PRPD 5 on a five point scale and 82% 4 or higher. The trend over the last few years is very positive.
As required by our By Laws, this report details activity of the association over the year since our last report.
PRPD’s financial situation remains very positive, with our balance sheet essentially equal to the same time last year (within $1,000). The PRPD board continues to monitor activities to allow us to maximize the impact of our very compact budget. Since the bulk of our revenue comes in during the last third of the year, we often have to wait to initiate projects until after the conference. The timeline for budget adoption is also challenging as the largest expenditures (for conference) are not yet clear in the current cycle. Therefore, the board is studying adjustments, including a possible fiscal year change, to make our prediction more accurate and allow us to launch projects in a timelier manner.
We have been very fortunate to maintain relatively steady membership levels over the past several years. While a few stations have had to drop membership for budget reasons, others have returned very quickly after resolving their budget issues. Station consolidations continue to be a challenge to our membership model – one membership per organization – but membership adds outstripped drops in the last year.
New and rejoining lapsed members since the last conference:
- Carole Sargent, Washington (DC)
- Chuck Southcott, Granada Hills (CA)
- Futuro Media Group, New York (NY)
- KAXE-KBXE, Grand Rapids (MN)
- KCBX, San Luis Obispo (CA)
- KEDM, Monroe (LA)
- Kimberlea Daggy, Santa Monica (CA)
- KLRE, Little Rock (AR)
- Loh Down on Science, Pasadena (CA)
- Tri States Public Radio, Macomb (IL)
- WSGE, Dallas (NC)
- WVMR, Dunmore (WV)
Because dues for the current year are based on NFFS for FY 2010 when many saw a dip in revenue, we are budgeting a little more conservatively in membership revenue for the upcoming year.
Local News Initiative
We offered a new MEGS workshop in Tampa in the past year, and several webinars. As planned, the focus has broadened to dayparts beyond Morning Edition with several stations’ bringing their ATC staffs. Our goal is to offer two workshops in 2013, the first targeted for January 2013. These workshops increasingly include application to the digital realm as well as on-air, so to avoid duplication we have reached out to NPR to coordinate with their Digital Training efforts.
To the impact of the knowledge developed in the MEGS project, we are planning to develop a series of online modules. Supplementing the longer webinars, these modules will be more narrowly, acting more as an audio reference to extend the PRPD knowledge base. Sense of Place
Working with Strategic Program Partners, we designed and fielded a test of a Sense of Place survey instrument to see if we can get meaningful Sense of Place results at a lower cost than focus group research. WKSU and Capital Public Radio were the test stations and helped develop questions for the online survey. In both cases, for example, we tested in several of the markets that they each served to see how they differed. On-site meetings were held in Sacramento and Kent in the spring to present the results to station staff and help guide their implementation.
The results are quite encouraging. Capital Public Radio has been using the results in their planning, program development, and to inform the coverage and presentation of the news. Unfortunately, management changes at WKSU shortly after our on-site meeting have prevented implementation there. One of our conference sessions will report the details of this project with CPR’s news director discussing the local implementation.
From these two prototypes, we plan to refine the questionnaire and hope for a second round of testing in the coming year in two or three additional markets (with some generous assistance from NPR.) Our goal is to wrap up the testing phase by the end of 2013 and, if three of results prove useful, develop a plan to offer this process to our members
Midday Research Project
The final survey of this project were conducted in the Spring and awaiting a final report from NPR Research. We have reviewed the outcomes with the stations – WOSU and WBUR and hope to issue a final report and conduct a webinar later this year.
The PRPD conference is central to both our member offerings and the organization’s annual operating budget. Over the years the conference has grown greatly, while maintaining consistently excellent marks from the attendees. Operationally, this year has been a transition year – we hired a new conference planning company, The Bridge Group, and a Conference Agenda Manager, Page Anne Smith. Both were hired after planning for this year’s conference had begun, so we’ve not seen all of the benefits of these new hires yet but we can already see improvements that will lead to smoother and more useful conferences in the future.
Based on recent years’ conference evaluations, we made several changes to this years' conference. We have invited more public radio “outsiders” for both general sessions and breakouts. Panels are smaller and more individuals are leading breakouts. And, by popular demand, we squeezed a little more networking time into the schedule - with designated slots on both full days of the conference. We also left time on Thursday evening, after the Cirque LOVE show unscheduled.
In keeping with recent collaborations with AIR, this year we worked with AMPPR to help increase the number of sessions focused on music at the conference. It’s resulted in several breakouts and one keynote. AMPPR will also be holding their annual membership meeting during the conference. Particular thanks to Julie Amacher for her efforts on behalf of AMPPR.
The business of the conference has been generally positive. Events and other marketing opportunities are nearly sold out and registration is in the high range for West Coast conferences. Our greatest challenge is the escalation of expenses, especially AV and Internet charges. While the net is decreasing over time, PRPD will still realize significant revenue to help keep the Association strong for the next year.
The 2012 Public Radio Tech Survey (PRTS4) was fielded in March and April and results were shared with participant stations in a mid-June webinar. This year’s sample was the largest yet – 30,700 from 49 stations. This year we decided to wait until after the holiday giving season so the survey could include the big spurt of tech buying at the end of the year. This year's survey focuses more deeply on mobile, tablets, and online music alternatives while keeping as many past questions as possible to allow trending.
PRTS results will be presented in a conference general session, with a unique angle. For the first time, this year Jacobs Media extended their commercial TechSurvey to all formats. They will bring together that information with the PRTS results to show how the individual public radio formats stack up with all the commercial formats regarding audience media habits.
Social Networking/ Digital Efforts
To increase communication with members, PRPD instituted a new closed Facebook group as well as a Twitter feed. We’ve been working on differentiating these efforts along with the existing PRPD News for Programmers blog, our website and email notifications.
We have also set up a SoundCloud account to better manage audio on the web. Conference audio will be uploaded through that service allowing for even more reliable streaming and downloading. We also plan to post some past audio in that format, starting with all of the prior Benediction speeches.
Finally, we have been working toward implementing a “PDOnly” listserve. Our intention is to limit participation to station programmers only – their designated representatives and, especially where an organization has multiple PD's, others who are clearly the program decision-maker at their station. Our goal is to establish a private conversation among PD’s to better facilitate open discussion about matters that might not arise in a more public context. Look for an announcement soon. Website
It’s been 5 years since the PRPD website was redesigned and the board has included an update in our goals for this year. Recognizing that our site is mainly a reference resource for our members rather than a promotional vehicle, we are looking for solutions that will allow quicker navigation and a greater variety of options on the front page to speed access to the knowledge within the site.
We continue to work on improving the quality of the content in the Digital Section of the site. Paragon has made some changes in monitoring the evolving knowledge in this elusive area and posts over the past month or so have provided more concrete information for our users. We've also been working on a process to develop case studies for this section. A case study submission form is ready but we recognize that it will take more outreach to start this effort - a passive submission process is not enough. One of the keys is identifying digital efforts that merit inclusion as a case study. We don't want to set the bar too high – sometimes smaller efforts can bear important lessons for others – but the quality of our initial offerings here is important in establishing the idea of case studies and our members minds.
In January, we set a goal of increasing the number and variety of webinars. This year we included more webinars targeted beyond PD’s, to serve all programming staff. For example, Planet Money’s Richard Smith drew many producers and reporters who have not previously availed themselves of PRPD services. This is an important step in building the value of the organization to our stations – by serving those who work for PD’s we serve them better as well. The Training Committee has also begun to think about post-conference webinars in order to avoid the lapse that has happened in prior years while we reorganized committees and recovered from the conference.
Topics covered this year included:
- Now That I Have My Data, What Should I Do With It? Part 1 - Arbitron’s Diary-Based Markets (RRC)
- Metrics That Matter - Steve Mulder, NPR Digital
- Lessons From MEGS II: ATC, The World, Weekend Edition and Marketplace
- Jumpstart Diversity Initiatives - Luis Clemens
- Creative Features on Deadline - Robert Smith
- Facebook Timeline: Finally Facebook Is Really Useful - Janet Fouts
- Public Insight Network (PIN) - What's Worked and What Hasn't - Andrew Haeg
- Building a Better Break - Scott Williams
- The Road Ahead: In-Car Media Trends - Larry Rosin
- "Hostiness" - Marilyn Pittman
- The Dark Secrets of the Online Overlords - Matt Thompson
As indicated in the Strategic Plan, we remain dedicated to keeping content and the role of programmers at the fore in all public radio conversations. PRPD continues to participate not only with programmers but also in regional meetings, other conferences, both in our system (i.e. PMDMC, AMPPR, iMA, PRNDI, NFCB, Third Coast, and NonCommvention) and outside (i.e. Knight Localism Seminar, RAIN Summit, NAB, SxSW Interactive, Arbitron Client meeting, and The Conclave). As a continued member of the Public Radio Arbitron Advisory Team, we’ve continued to develop that relationship to keep public radio’s research needs on the table.
Earlier this year PRPD took a lead position concerning the underwriting adjacency policy initiated by NPR. As a result of some very fruitful meetings with their executive staff and concurrence from others in the system, that policy was shelved. A broader conversation about revenue options is underway, starting from a clearer understanding of the unintended effects of too close of a link between funding and content, even when it may only lead to a “perception” of conflict.
We are also engaged in discussions with NPR about program clocks, specifically focusing on station need for greater flexibility on the ATC clock. NPR has also expressed an openness to examine all program clocks wit PRPD playing a central consulting role. However, we are being careful to avoid having the larger discussion slow down more immediate and pressing needs with ATC.
As always, a guiding force in all of our work is feedback from our members, especially the annual Members’ Survey. Look for the 2013 version of that survey at the end of the year and feel free to contact us as issues arise at your station or organization. Your input keeps us current and helps us anticipate needs to be ready when new opportunities arise.
Arthur Cohen, President, PRPD