NPR doesn’t want on-air promotion of its own podcasts

NPR’s one of the most popular sources of podcasts online. The public radio broadcaster’s the home of shows like “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” “Ask Me Another,” and “Planet Money,” as well as the very successful (though not NPR-produced) “Serial.” However, there’s apparently one entity that isn’t as fond of podcasts as we are, as odd as it sounds: NPR itself.

NPR’s management has released guidelines for announcers on how to handle mentioning podcasts. Among some of the guidelines:

– No Call to Action:We won’t tell people to actively download a podcast or where to find them. No mentions of npr.org, iTunes, Stitcher, NPR One, etc.

GOOD:

“That’s Linda Holmes of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and our blogger on the same subject and Bob Mondello, NPR’s film critic. Thanks so much.

BAD:

“OK, everyone. You can download Alt.Latino from iTunes and, of course, via the NPR One app.

The guidelines also state that the recently created NPR One app isn’t to be mentioned on-air, which also makes little sense. What’s the point of the app if the core listening audience doesn’t know it exists? If wondering, I’ve tried NPR One, but prefer sticking with listening to NPR’s podcasts through Stitcher.

As for why this odd downplaying of podcasts, it’s presumably for the same reason as traditional TV networks’ iffy relationship with Netflix and streaming services. An increase in podcast listening mean listeners aren’t tuning in as frequently to the over-the-air local NPR stations. This could mean not hearing about pledge drives (such as the one that’s currently ongoing for my local NPR affiliate, Seattle’s KUOW) and a possible drop in listener donations.

While an understandable concern, it’s at odds with the current shift in media consumption habits, especially among younger listeners. NPR’s been grappling with an aging audience, and podcasts would be a way to attract younger listeners.

There’s also that not all NPR affiliates carry all available NPR programming. If it weren’t for podcasts, I wouldn’t get to listen to “Ask Me Another,” which KUOW doesn’t carry. WUWM back in Milwaukee did offer “Ask Me Another,” but I didn’t start listening until I moved to Seattle and, well, discovered its podcast.

Hopefully NPR will come around on this issue. However, I wonder if this points to the flaws in NPR’s traditional fiscal model, as well as that of the affiliate system for broadcasting?

Flickr photo by James Cridland (CC BY)

2 comments

    1. They promote some stuff on-air and on their podcasts (their website, their pledge drives, etc.), so promoting podcasts wouldn’t be out of place.

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