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Podcast sponsorship revenue continues to fuel NPR’s financial growth (current.org)
173 points by smollett 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments

I love NPR. I'm glad they're doing well, and hope they will continue to make quality programs.

But one of the major advantages which has set them apart for me is that they aren't as advertising dependent as so many of their alternatives.

Avoiding ads makes it easier for them to be independent, and able to report without fear of corporations withdrawing their support.

It's also just much more pleasant to listen to. I try to avoid advertising as much as possible, and it's sad that they are one more place it's invading.

I know they've had corporate sponsors for some time, but the podcasts really feel like an escalation.

I don't blame them; I'm sure they felt this was the best choice for them to grow and survive, but it feel like a disappointing loss.

> I try to avoid advertising as much as possible, and it's sad that they are one more place it's invading.

It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid.

Oh, but you will gladly pay for quality, ad-free content, you say?

Unfortunately, based on the numbers I've seen at media companies I've freelanced for, this only works out for a tiny minority of creators. Unless you are the NYT (housing 1000+ journalists) or Ben Thompson (an outlier with a super high income audience), the number of listeners/readers/etc willing to pay is astonishingly low.

When people say they will pay in surveys, most of them are flat out lying. Here's a recent example:


It turns out, a vast majority of people who complain about ads will not put their money where their mouth is.

I say bravo to NPR for looking out for the sustainability of their excellent work. I happily listen to ads to sustain their content. I have full confidence they will continue to report with the same independence they've always had.

The blog post you linked appears to, in many ways, strongly undermine your argument.

You say (when linking to the blog post)

> When people say they will pay in surveys, most of them are flat out lying. Here's a recent example:

What the blog post says is that actually, the pre-launch survey closely aligned with the outcome:

> The really comical part is that I should have known, and I could have known. Actually, one could argue that I did know.

> Pre-launch polling on social media almost perfectly predicted the outcome. Here’s the tweet I used to test the waters, which had nearly 18,000 respondents. The results were:

> 72% – No, I wouldn’t donate.

> 24% – I would give $5 per month.

> 4% – I would give $10 or more per month.

> The comments on this post are really worth reading. The feedback was almost entirely positive towards ads and almost entirely “meh” about fan-supported. In other words, the answer to my question was clear from the outset: 99% of my listeners are totally OK with ads, and many of them look forward to finding new products and services through my sponsor reads.

The blog post's conclusion very much appears to be that—in hindsight—people were honest from the outset!

My point on Tim's post was that a majority of his most passionate followers (people who also follow him on twitter and would take the time to answer a survey) would not pay for his content. I have no doubt the 72% contains some overlap with "people who complain about ads."

On the lying about willingness to pay reference, I was referring to actual data I've seen, which I posted below. This was from a media company I worked at (reposted here for context):

1) we surveyed users willingness to pay for a premium, ad-free content product

2) 32% said they would pay $1 or more per month

3) we launched said product

4) under 4% converted at $1 per month

We have to be careful when we look at isolated data points. One, uh, "trick", I've seen newspapers in particular pull which will immediately cause me to not support them are confusing subscription terms.

"Special! $1 a month for 12 months". Well, that's $1 per month, that's perfectly affordable... except it's going to auto-renew at a mystery rate that you won't tell me.

My other recently seen favorites include, "Only $X for ultra premium content". What the hell is "ultra premium content"? Is it possible for me to still be walled out of parts of the newspaper? Are these like editorials (who cares) or like major stories?

"Only $1 a week". Ok, that works out to something like $52 a year but why in the world are you giving me a batshit insane term like weekly payments?

Patreon, Nextflix, and many others have this figured out: "It's $x a month. It'll stay $x a month for the immediate future and we'll let you know about price increases in advance." Done. Don't charge me by section, don't charge me in weird terms, don't throw opaque special offers at me.

Also there's no neat way to unsubscribe, you need to convince somebody via chat that you really don't want the subscription anymore. This seems quite toxic pattern and will keep me from subscribing to services doing this, such as NYT or WaPo, even at their discount rates.

> My point on Tim's post was that a majority of his most passionate followers (people who also follow him on twitter and would take the time to answer a survey) would not pay for his content

It's a fair statement that most people won't pay, but that is totally different point that the one you made in the previous comment.

Your prior comment was clear and direct. You stated that many people are flat out lying (with your emphasis on the word "lying"). Then you linked a blog post as an example of that.

I agree with the thesis that many people will not pay for non-ad supported content. I don't know that I agree that people are lying or dishonest about it. I certainly disagree with the characterization that they are flat out _lying_ about it.

It depends what metric you are targeting. Some people create podcasts as an avenue to promote themselves, their projects, or their business. Tim Ferriss is one of those people. Other people create podcasts as their primary way to make a living. It doesn't make sense to put your podcasts behind a paywall if you are in the first group because the primary metric you care about is total listeners. However if you are in the second group a paywall might make sense since you probably don't care much about total listeners or conversion rates. The metric you care about is money and it doesn't take more than a couple thousand listeners before you can pull in a livable wage from listener supported podcasts. Just check out some of the numbers for podcasts on Patreon [1].

[1] - https://graphtreon.com/patreon-creators/podcasts

I think you are confusing patrons with podcast listeners.

What you see on Graphtreon is the number of patrons, meaning podcast listeners who decided to donate to the podcast through Patreon.

I don't know what the average conversion rate is, but I think it's safe to assume that patrons only make up a small percentage of total audience, I'd be surprised if it was higher than 5%.

In fact, it's probably significantly lower than 5%, my guess would be that it's more like 1%.

So, your assumption that it doesn't take more than 2000 listeners before you can pull in a livable wage is wrong, but maybe you meant patrons.

It depends on what your definition of a livable wage is, but my guess would be that you'd probably need an audience of at least 100,000 podcast listeners to make $5000/month on Patreon (assuming 1% conversion rate and an average donation of $5).

Also, it seems to me that you are confused as to how Patreon model works, creators who use Patreon don't put their main content behind a paywall, they simply throw in some extra goodies for patrons.

I am very familiar with both podcasts and Patreon. I contribute to multiple podcasts on Patreon. Creators have a lot of freedom in how they setup their Patreon. It might not be the most common setup, but there are certainly some creators that keep almost everything behind the Patreon paywall. In those cases a listener is the same thing as a patron. That model isn't great for exposure and doesn't provide an easy avenue to grow the podcast without other means of promotion, but I have seen it be very successful for creators who already have a niche of fans who will support them. To repeat myself, the viability of the different approaches depends on what metric you are looking to optimize.

> It turns out, a vast majority of people who complain about ads will not put their money where their mouth is.

Not quite.

If the baseline is that ads can provide enough revenue, and you're specifically paying to remove the ads, then that's a much smaller number. He has what, two ad slots, repeated at start and end? If that's $30 CPM at two per week, that's 26 cents a month.

The minimum subscription was $9.95 a month.

As somewhat of a tangent, I would like a way to pay $5 a month in a single spot and have it be apportioned to all the podcasts I listened to in that time, but that doesn't really exist as a service. Even though that's much more money than my listens are worth in ad revenue.

I'd think the apple news+ service they've started might end up being something that can go in that direction. Patreon as well, or even Spotify. I've started listening to podcasts via Spotify as the player has more fine-grained speed controls. I'm sure they could track my listens to that. letting podcast creators sign up to get paid a portion of listens would be useful, and something I'd support (maybe a $12/month price point vs $10? and split the $2 among the episodes I listen to?)

I think your tangent is describing youtube red. Assuming all your favorite podcasts are also on youtube.

Yeah, if they were on youtube. Youtube red is a good model, and there's a reason I've complained in the past about how the very broken 'google contributor' should just copy it.

> I try to avoid advertising as much as possible, and it's sad that they are one more place it's invading.

It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid.

Wow. I am actually amazed at the disingenuousness of that twisted interpretation of what you quoted.

People will pay for what they value. The value of media has been utterly destroyed by ads. Ads are the problem.

Show me a single study proving that "ads" are the reason consumers won't pay for journalism anymore and I will 100% change my opinion.

Why is this something that needs a "study"? You can make corporate-funded user research come to any conclusion you want. It's obvious on the face of it that the more you rely on ads the more ads control the content and eventually become the content. No company funded by ads is going to publish a study saying people don't like ads.

Yeah so social studies based on internet polls aren't science (see parents) and making decisions or drawing conclusions from them is probably worse than going off anecdotal evidence, because at least you aren't confident in how right you are when going that route.

The entire point of ads is to lower the price and increase circulation. It's not a consumer driven decision.

Consumers will pay. The funding of newspapers is a major factor of why current journalism isn’t worth paying for: clickbait headlines, access journalism, slideshow content, listicles, opinion sections. There’s plenty of ad-independent journalism out there if you look that successfully funds itself through donations or memberships.

Anymore? Advertising has been the major source of newspaper revenue forever.

> People will pay for what they value. The value of media has been utterly destroyed by ads

... because people won't pay for media. is it because they don't value them?

>"It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid."

Nowhere did I see in the OPs post that they believe people who create content shouldn't be paid. NPR is a publicly funded non profit which also gets revenues from corporate sponsors, endowments and foundations[1] and this model has served them and their listeners well.

The OPs concerns as I understand it is one that is grounded in the excitement surrounding this new windfall of ad revenue from podcasts and it's possible effects on an organization that proudly proclaims their independence.

Lastly aside from a couple of programs(All Things Considered and Morning Edition) NPR is not a content creator. They purchase content from PRI, WNYC Studios, and American Public Media. They are more of distributor and reseller of content.

[1] https://www.npr.org/about-npr/178660742/public-radio-finance...

I think they are arguing for NPR to get more funding from the government, in the form of taxes. That is how public radio was traditionally funded.

> It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid.

Most of the media we consume is probably detrimental to us, even before advertising is factored in. It's not a bad thing when people have to make a choice in whether or not something is worth the money, and end up deciding it's not. It seems like people are better able to understand monetary costs than time or brain space costs.

As an aside, some of the highest quality content I've found is free and without advertisements (for example, the Ottoman History Podcast or the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean Podcast).

I've felt Dan Carlin (Hardcore History) has always had a very fair approach - the latest episodes are available and free with no advertisements. If you want the back catalog in it's entirety, it's a single lump sum of $50.

Wouldn't Patreon's success be a counterpoint ?

The vast majority of people don't pay, but there seem to be enough people paying that it at least balances the ad dependency of a number of creators. I might be biased, but most of the content I really didn't want to go away or bend backward to get sponsors seem to have successful followings (99pi, the whole radiotopia rooster, Hello Internet, CGP Grey, a few minor ones like rebuild.fm)

I think more and more the creative process could start by kickstarting the project and gauge how much of a public there is willing to pay for it, before going full steam ahead.

None if the podcasts I listen to have ads. I listen to about 15 distinct podcasts. There’s clearly a market.

> It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid.

I don't think this is true at all. Nobody thinks musicians shouldn't be paid, but until Spotify everyone was downloading music.

> Oh, but you will gladly pay for quality, ad-free content, you say?

I would definitely pay. I just don't want to pay for every single article I read by having going through a signup flow. Usually I can't even pay for a single article because you need to get a subscription.

I would easily pay €10+ a month for a place where I can read all the articles I want from all the publishers I'm interested in. However, like in the video business, this doesn't seem feasible. So you end up with multiple subscriptions just to get the 1 piece of content a month that you want to consume from either of them.

> I don't think this is true at all. Nobody thinks musicians shouldn't be paid, but until Spotify everyone was downloading music.

Spotify is hardly an example of successful funding for artists, though. They’re just as exploitative if not more so than the industry was before.

> Nobody thinks musicians shouldn't be paid, but until Spotify everyone was downloading music.

This is even worse IMO. People think musicians deserve to be paid but still manage to rationalize taking from them without paying instead.

Nothing wrong with buying merch and concert tickets while pirating the discography. Fuck the record label.

Yeah there is. Taking something you shouldn't is by almost any definition wrong. Except when it comes to music and movies apparently.

Grandpa’s property rights have no weight in the digital era. If you’re going to make something free to copy the last thing you should do is get mad when people copy it. What’s the point? Just charge people to watch you make it.

> It turns out, a vast majority of people who complain about ads will not put their money where their mouth is.

No matter how many times this pans out, people try and convince themselves all netizens are altruistic, with the means to bankroll content creators. That just doesn't measure up to reality.

Your parent comment said nothing about paying in order to avoid ads and made no assumptions about any of the points you responded to. It was just lamenting ads.

And I was lamenting people who lament ads.

This remind me of when steam tried to monetize mods and the ensuing outrage forgot to mention that some of the biggest modders (as is most popular skyrim mods) receive less than 100$ for years of work in donations.

> It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid.

I mean if I happily give away all my blog posts for free under creative commons, why is it unreasonable to expect most other people to do the same? People who derive value from the Internet should just create one or two things per year to give back, whether that's a blog post, an app or website, open source software, or something else.

I do think there is a need for a small percentage of people to create content full time. But at the same time right now there is also a huge oversupply of content, and we'd probably all be better off if 95% of it went away.

> It's unfortunate that internet people have been falsely conditioned to believe the people who create the media we consume shouldn't be paid.

Don’t get paid, not shouldn’t. The issue isn’t the reader’s lack of willingness to pay here lol.

As someone who only vaguely remembers NPR from their childhood, my primary association of NPR is with their podcasts. And those things are full of ads. So I initially found this post very confusing.

I guess in the past there might have been something called NPR which did not have ads?

This wasn't the case as recently as a few years ago. I used to listen to the podcast version of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me exclusively, and remember musical interludes that immediately went right back to the show.

One time I was driving in the car at just the right time and heard Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on the radio for the first time (as opposed to in podcast form) and was startled that there were ads. Now of course there are a ton of ads, but I remember being surprised by how NPR seemed to be a holdout to the Mailchimp/Casper/Blue Apron-fueled ad craze.

As someone who thinks Wait Wait Don't Tell Me is the absolute worst pile of garbage NPR has ever produced, what do people see in that show? Honest question.

Found this review [1] a few years ago and was glad to find I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand that apparently much beloved show.

[1] http://www.imnotlaughing.com/index.php/radio/46-wait-waitI

I'm a big fan of WWDTM, because I find it funny. IMHO, it's the second-best podcast I listen to. It's relatively light, doesn't take itself too seriously, doesn't pretend to be a serious quiz, and the guest panelists are good enough in the small doses that's dished out.

WWDTM was amusing for its first few years. It had the "new kid on the block" vibe, and countered much of the too-serious-by-half general sense of NPR. Having the morning news announcer, Carl Kassel, as the announcer, in a very non-serious role, was also amusing. That held up for most of the show's first decade.

But yes, the bloom's off the rose. The show is now 21 years old, it's an institution itself, is no longer a refreshing change-up from normal programming, and comes across as increasingly crass rather than clever or irreverant. Worst was realising that several of the panelists were far better in their off-show personae than on, a fact and awareness which had failed to penetrate WWDTM's format and shtick itself.

I stopped listening years ago.

Amen to that. Anodyne snark becomes cloying quite quickly.

Big thumbs up to production staff of "How I Built This". Huge thumbs down on Guy "exaggerated incredulity" Raz.

Also on the shit list: moth radio hour and ted radio hour (damn you Guy Raz!)

And a resounding meh to that most sacred of NPR institutions: car talk. Neither funny nor helpful.

I wonder if the ads are put in there by the local distributor. In my area NPR radio station has no ads except when they run a campaign asking for donations.

They always say "We don't have ads, we have underwriters". I think the difference being the sponsor has copy that the announcer will read, but they can't do all the annoying audio effects that traditional advertisers use.

Personally, I don't much mind it. Gotta pay the bills somehow.

Maybe depends where you are, but NPR is big here in central Iowa (iowapublicradio.org). I think it's pretty big in Minnesota as well.

It's the double standard hypocrisy that's troubling many. You're either a publicly funded medium that doesn't run on ads or you're not. Currently, my impression is constant corporate sponsorship designed to make said corporations look good with pauses to raise more money from the public. During the pauses the sponsorship ads don't run so you feel like you are the sponsor.

That distinction has been steadily eroding. Over on their television broadcasting counterpart, the PBS NewsHour plays straight-up commercials from financial planning firms prior to each episode now.

Isn't having the talent do the add read, worse than playing in professional adverts.

or I am spoiled by the BBC.

I think the difference is they limit it to sort "Mission Statement" type blurbs, instead of "COME TO JimBob's CHevy for GREAT DEALSS!!!!"

NPR was established by an act of congress, and was meant to provide for a public radio system. It never had ads until recently.


NPR was initially funded by the government. I would much rather any media be ad supported than government supported. Given a choice between dealing with business motives and government motives, I trust government a lot less.

You should really distrust them equally. They're effectively one in the same in our current society. Who do you think is paying the government representatives to make business friendly choices that enrich their friends?

The difference is that I trust businesses whose motive is purely logical - make money - a lot more than I trust government run by people who either have “cultural interests” that are directly opposed to my views and very existence.

Business doesn’t have the power to take money, property, liberty, or my life.

...you've never read much labor history, have you?

Business has the power to do all of those things. And has _frequently_ exercised that power through out history.

The fact that it isn't right now (or is to a lesser and less obvious degree) is the result of government exercising its power to keep business in check. Those laws that government is still (half heartedly) enforcing are a hold over of a time when the people had more control of the government, and business less.

...also, while we're here... what cultural interests are opposed to your very existence? Genuinely curious. As someone of Jewish heritage, I'm well familiar with ideologies opposed to my very existence, but I'm curious what specific interests you're referring to and on what basis you believe they are opposed to your existence.

That if you are not a White Christian you don’t belong here and you are not a true American or that you are a second class citizen that shouldn’t be treated equally by the justice system. There was always the undercurrent of it - especially in the south, but in the current political environment, it’s very front and center.

Again, I am not saying that it is a majority of Americans but because of the electoral college and the allocation of 2 seats in the Senate regardless of population, that viewpoint has an outsized voice right now.

They're government funded, aren't they? Doesn't that mean people playing politics with that funding, pressure to appoint connected people, and editorializing stories that might reflect badly on Congressional members of their oversight committee and budget? Even on the charitable side, aren't a few of their donors largely outsizing most others? Are their workers unionized? I don't think being ad free or nearly so is any guarantor of independence.

NPR mostly has gotten is funding through payments by public radio stations, who mostly get their funding through pledge drives. There is a little funding that comes from the government.

About 15% of NPR funding comes from government grants.

NPR is corporate propaganda for people who think their above the type of propaganda you see on FOX news.

I use to listen religiously for about 3 years, until the 2016 election. The way they talked about the democratic primary, it was very very obvious they were biased towards favoring Hillary. They were telling outright lies about Bernie and his policies. Haven't listened to them since, but I've seen stories about how much worse they've gotten. I think they're mostly funded by the Koch's.

You didn't notice any other bias from NPR? I listen to it all the time and only for the bias to know what's in the minds of a certain slice of society.

It goes back much further than that. They took a distinct left turn after the 1994 election.

I think the myth of any "balanced" news source is exactly that, a myth. All human organizations have an internal culture, and that produces bias.

My view on public broadcasting is that its culture is CLEARLY left-leaning. That is, I don't think you could get hired and build a career in that world if you were known to be politically conservative or libertarian. Subconcious bias is worn on their sleeves, and they do tend to ensure that it always gets the last word (e.g. see virtually any interview segment involving gun control or illegal immigration).

However, I also think they TRY to be objective in their content. Even if there may be bias in story selection or story structure, I think they try to provide the building blocks so that you can think for yourself. One POV might consistently get the last word, but the other perspective(s) are represented in a segment.

Anyway, this topic and thread were on my mind, because I happen to be in the middle of reading the book "Listener Supported", a book on NPR history from longtime insider Jack Mitchell. The last section in the book deals with criticisms of bias that NPR has received over the years.

Mitchell is pretty candid in acknowledging public broadcasting's progressive roots and culture. However, I was surprised that most of the discussion involved attacks on NPR from the LEFT! A lot of people feel the same way as parent comment. Not that NPR is culturally right-wing, in the same manner as Fox News. But rather that its bias is not sufficiently left-wing. Or that it's a "trojan horse", appearing leftist yet subject to manipulation and too much a servant of the status-quo.

This perspective is interesting to me, if a bit frightening. Particularly reading the claim "they're mostly funded by the Koch's", and not seeing a SINGLE person on Hacker News counter that 8 hours later. In reality, David Koch has only made donations to the PBS show "Nova", has never donated a dime to NPR, and this is such a prevalent fake news trope that Snopes has had to cover it:


You think about this sort of thing being right-wing material, spread by old people on Facebook. It's sobering to see its inverse here.

I used to love NPR but then I realized their content is exclusively liberal. Now I am disgusted by how partison they are. It's like if you listen to the news you don't get a fair report on things but a one sided view, mainly those who suffer under conservative government.

It can be argued that large majority of Americans have liberal values. Many of them have non-liberal identity that makes them think they are non-liberal.

For example:

61 percent of Americans, 42 percent of Republicans, approve of labor unions

66 percent of Americans think money and wealth should be distributed more evenly.

80 percent of Americans think some corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

78 percent think some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

76 percent believe the wealthiest Americans should pay higher taxes.

60 percent of registered voters believe corporations pay too little in taxes.

87 percent of Americans say it is critical to preserve Social Security, even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by wealthy Americans.

67 percent of Americans support lifting the cap to require higher-income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages.


Many of the people in your stats simultaneously hold other conservative or centrist values that both parties supported 15 years ago, like being strict on illegal immigration, crime, and late-term abortion. A large number are proud gun owners. Many union workers who like tariffs are now finding that the mainstream left has abandoned such policies in favor of soft negotiating stances on free trade deals. Remember the anti-globalism Seattle WTO protests? It wasn't conservatives doing the marching.

For their variance from the new zeitgeist they are currently being labeled racists, sexists, etc. Would you stay consistent with your argument, call them liberal, and accept them knowing that? Not many do, especially not liberal politicians and media, which is why they are voting the other way.

They didn't leave their values behind, the liberal party did.

Amazingly, when voting time comes, the country tends to appear center right. Could there polls be wrong?

No the polls are correct. Many people’s overriding concerns don’t show up in any of the parent poster’s numbers. Poll after poll shows the majority of Republican voters concerns are for more “cultural” than economic. Especially when you take into account how electoral votes are distributed.

Much of the country is gerrymandered. The popular vote skews less center right than the outcome of the election suggests. And only about half the country votes in the first place.

If you look at where the newly appearing votes went in big wave elections (notably Obama) a big chunk of those votes are left leaning.

The USA appears to be more than "center" right, but that's beside the point. People weigh certain issues more heavily than others. So while someone might be pro union, they might vote for an anti-union candidate because of another stance they are more passionate about.

In the US voting is first past the post, so the election result can differ radically from popular opinion.

Senate representation is also skewed.

Uhh, I'd check the popular vote counts over the last 25+ years.

We've never had a plebiscite on any of those issues. Conservatives have a structural advantage in the House and Senate due to the way liberals bunch up in cities.

So radio should be one-sided? NPR should be partison?

One sided view hurts all people.

Why do Americans use liberal to mean left?

Because Democrats were the liberal party a very long time ago, in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Americans continue to use Democrats and liberal interchangeably, even though Democrats are no longer liberal on most issues.

They use it liberally

I find politics can also be dragged into a lot of their podcasts even when they are not political in nature. With the mixing in of the heavy liberal views it can be hard to enjoy listening to some of the content, especially as a non-american :(

Like most of the media, it has a strong establishment bias. The center-left types are somewhat liberal in the older sense of the term[1], but establishment conservatives seem to be pretty welcome as well (Diane Rehm used to have people from AEI on all the time). Non-establishment types across the spectrum are frequently laughed at, ignored or dismissed. Osita Nwanevu had a decent column touching on this kind of bias in the media[2].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nFvhhCulaw [2] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/03/there-really-are...

I listen to mostly the economics podcasts “Planet Money” and “The Indicator”. I consider myself a bleeding heart libertarianism capitalist. (ie Don’t increase minimum wage but pay more in taxes to help people help themselves.) I don’t see any real bias in their reporting.

Also, a “This American Life” episode about illegal immigrants working at a chicken plant (?) in Alabama single handedly made me see a few of the points that I thought were just right wing talking points.

Of course I don’t agree with the demonization of “other”. I am a minority who grew up in the south and whose parents grew up during the tail end of Jim Crow.

Listen to the one where The Indicator ponders if the Chilean dictatorship was worth it because they now have some good capitalism going. It's awful.

Freakanomics does the same thing - argue a contrarian point. This includes the famous study about whether increase abortions reduce crime.

And before anyone replies about how horrible this study was, the author explicitly said that public policy should not be based on his study and advocated more spending on education and other safety net ideas.

If you want a contrary take on NPR and particularly how their political coverage is awful, Erik Loomis, a professor of union labor history and about as far left as you can get, has a number of articles on how NPR fails the national discussion


The only political coverage worse than public radio is every other media outlet.

And people wonder why twitter is popular for politics.

I assumed twitter is popular for politics because it's a self perpetuating loop of outrage. If only we could harvest such outrage into electricity...

I think the main problem with NPR news is they always play dumb. If somebody tells them "2+2=5," they just repeat it, if even it's been proven a lie, even if they've been saying the same lie for 30 years. It's not objectivity, it's just enabling liars.

Yes. Recently they've been corrolating the deaths from bootleg THC cartridges with the banning of flavored nicotine vapes, which is nonsensical but they've parroted it multiple days in a row. There's clearly a propaganda campaign against vaping by big tobacco, with anti-vaping ads everywhere, Trump speaking about it, etc. they are playing along.

Big tobacco owns a hefty minority share of the major nicotine vape companies.

They could just be hedging their bets.

This problem is not exclusive to NPR.

No, but other outlets also aren't put on a pedestal and given public funding.

Maybe I missed something, but my impression was that this guy's beef with NPR is that they attempt to be unbiased?

I give them major props just for attempting. It's obvious on many of their interviews with more right wing guests that the reporters are more or less gritting their teeth to get through it, but they do attempt to let both sides make their voices heard.

I'd say his beef is that the NPR refuses to call a spade a spade, using euphemisms instead. And furthermore that using such soft language protects ignominious people.

This guy is a professor? Kind of ironic right off the bat he dismisses his wife's opinion and then claims journalism that refrains from labels is toxic.

Listening to NPR with my dad on the weekends growing up in Tulsa was my favorite thing on the planet and basically the reason I wanted to become a journalist.

But like everything else in digital disruption that seeks to “make the world a better place,” there are unintended consequences.

NPR’s immense success with podcasting could come at the expense of local public radio affiliates around the country. They pay great sums of your donated dollars to NPR (and American Public Media and Public Radio International and BBC, etc — NPR is sort of the Kleenex of public radio in the United States) for the rights to shows a whole lot of Americans still listen to the ol’ fashioned way in their cars or at work over the air.

Eventually we’ll listen to only streamed or internet-based content, I’m assuming. So the question is what happens to the affiliates most people are far less familiar with than the NPR brand?

(“I heard it on NPR.” You technically heard it on KQED, or KUT, or WGBH, or whatever.)

One suggestion for their future is to take advantage of the strong community trust and ties many of them enjoy and beef up local coverage where newspapers are fading away. Stream the content and broadcast it over the air.

Share resources between stations like several have done in Texas for the morning program Texas Standard. There are numerous stations in other states doing this or attempting to do it. And of course, be savvy with social, and even consider experimenting with targeted ads and paid (or donated) search.

Support these efforts, or better yet, join them. Digital affords an enormous amount of local potential with a relatively small team and budget where newspapers traditionally faced gargantuan printing and operational costs.

As far as I can tell, IPR (Iowa Public Radio) is doing basically exactly what you are suggesting. Their big thing during pledge drives is that they are currently growing their team rather than cutting back like traditional news media.

I think IPR used to maybe be several different stations that conglomerated a decade or so ago. Not sure.

NPR is such a national treasure.

Here in Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio is one of the few places that does detailed stories on rural area outside the cities.

That's MPR, not NPR. NPR is basically just a content provider, much like when you read a national AP story in your local paper.

Isn't that like saying that CBS is a content provider? Obviously the big parent company is the one providing content for the local stations.

NPR isn't the only content provider. There's also Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM), both of which were apparently founded by several public radio stations. And many public radio stations produce and syndicate their own shows independently.

Suffice it to say, NPR doesn't own any of these companies or stations.

Just to fill out the confusion roster, there's CPB, NPR, APR, PRI, and PRX, at least:

CPB: Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

NPR: National Public Radio.

APM: American Public Media.

PRI: Public Radio International.

PRX: Public Radio Exchange.

I won't go into histories and distinctions, but those are the major organisations within the US.

Local stations can also sponsor their own content and get content from sister stations. Content providers don't always have stations. They have affiliates.

I've been thinking for a while that the podcasting business is ripe for disruption in terms for revenue models.

From my understanding, podcast creators have to track down and get potential sponsors to sign on (if you're lucky and already have a big audience maybe they come to you). Then you splice in the audio of their ad into your podcast.

Whereas I've thought that an easier model for everyone would be to have an ad service that automatically serves ads into your podcast. Similar to how web site advertising currently works. As a creator you simply tag locations in your podcast where you want ads to appear and the duration of the ads. You also give the ad service a set of key words it uses to serve the most relevant ads to listeners. No chasing money and negotiating payments. Just sign up to the service, tag the audio stream, and provide relevant keywords.

An argument against this way of using ads in podcasts is that you lose control over the content and quality of the ads. I think we've all seen the broad range of quality in ads seen on websites...

The other revenue model is a packaged subscription model through some kind of syndicate. It's difficult to get people to pay for a single podcast, but if you packaged up a few under a small monthly fee maybe keen podcast listeners would be more willing to pay. Could be a good way to capture people who want an ad free experience, but don't want to pay for each podcast individually.

Perhaps I'm not aware and these models have been tried already?

> I've been thinking for a while that the podcasting business is ripe for disruption in terms for revenue models.

Don't worry, your widely known ideas for making podcasts bad have already been considered and implemented.

> Perhaps I'm not aware and these models have been tried already?

Yes. The former is DI / DAI through podcasting platforms (rather than the more artisanal and self-hosed podcasts, whether it's baked-in or DI). The latter is subscription platforms like Acast Access, Spotify (which bought several podcasting studios like Gimlet and Parcast) or Luminary, or "premium podcasts" features (with either subs or one-off buys).

Spotify bought Gimlet? Wow. I haven't listened to podcasts for a while. Sounds like a lot has changed.

Gimlet has become NPR lite. Overly scripted, no spontaneity and everything is over produced.

Dynamic ad injection is done by several actors, including https://www.adswizz.com/

Example of podcast subscription to listen ad-free https://www.stitcher.com/premium For radio shows https://tunein.com/premium/

That would be great, since I can just block those ads with a host file change.

DAI already exists and is performed server-side (usually badly). Outside of walled gardens, podcasting clients are unlikely to provide ad-hoc client-side support for ad-splicing.

I really wish there was some option to pay for ad-free NPR podcasts. I do this with a few others via Patreon, but some quick Googling didn't find anything similar for NPR.

I'd do this for my fav podcasts.

I have mixed feelings about this, since on several NPR podcasts Exxon has sponsored and advertised their carbon capture investment, despite it being a greenwashing campaign that comprises such a tiny percent of their overall new investment.

How can NPR not ultimately be captured by corporate interests with for-profit sponsorships?

Professional ethics and integrity, plus occasional review by an ombudsman? Same as many other vocations...

I enjoy their non-journalistic shows, e.g., "A Prairie Home Companion/Live From Here" and "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!", but not enough to donate when I know the money is also going to pay for their "journalism", and especially not when they clearly prefer the (fatter) checks from the corporations.

But professional ethics? Fox News, MSNBC, and those other infotainment gutters are bad, but NPR is insidious: it's biased toward the class of established political powers and corporations, like a Pravda for America but dishonest about it.

Just because they run sponsorships, doesn't mean that they are automatically going to do whatever it takes to make their sponsors look good.

I think they do a good job of being objective and have a good track record for being highly factual.

Actually that’s exactly how I interpret the ads. How else is there?

They always preface stories that involve people who have sponsored them in past by stating that they have sponsored them.

Plus, they've been sponsored by many other organization, such as Earth Law Center (something like that). Does that mean that they are captured by them too?

If a politician prefaced every speech with "Politicians lie" does that absolve the speaker of accountability for lying?

Because it's already a state-media propaganda apparatus?


NPR is not perfect - in particular, I have some issues with the artifical equivalency between our two major parties implied by NPR interview programs.

With that being said, your claim is 100% complete and utter bullshit, unsupported by even your own source.

Claiming they're a PYSOPS unit is overcomplicating the matter. NPR basically practices access journalism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Access_journalism) and claims not to.

I'm trying to find the old story from when NPR got caught re-using VoA propaganda (which was then a violation of federal law), but instead found this, of a similar vintage:


EDIT: Ah, here is some remnant of the story. NPR was using a VoA reporter to push the State Department line on Haiti: https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Amelia_Shaw

...and here is her LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelia-shaw-82421a29/

Access journalism ??

Oh, you mean Terry Gross' excellent and astonishingly comprehensive interviews with virtually all movers and shakers of the last 3-4 decades?

That's what I like about NPR the most. Prairie home companion, wait-wait don't tell me... BORING. it's time to change the station.

Terry Gross' excellent and astonishingly comprehensive interview of each and every member of the E Street Band.

I don't think you're disagreeing that it's state media, so at worst I'm at 50%.

BBC, RT, France24, Deutsche Welle, PressTV, and Telesur all exist to promote a state interest. How are NPR and APM different?


Comparing the BBC to RT demonstrates the complete emptiness of your claims. Certainly, publicly funded media sources can be expected to have inbuilt biases, but to pretend that institutions with editorial independence should be compared to actual propaganda outlets which have actively participated in centrally orchestrated and well documented disinformation campaigns is ridiculous.

BBC World Service and RT are absolutely comparable. Both are very obvious in pushing the agenda of their state sponsors.

If you want subtlety, watch France24 English. If you want the propaganda arm of a dying empire, BBCWS is for you.



Doesn't it say that it only happened in the 1990s? Where's the evidence that it has continued?

Shameless plug: I built adblock radio, for radio and podcast ads


Support is mainly for radio streams though, more work is needed to make it work on podcasts.

this pleases me in so many ways.

as a former public radio listener, who grew increasingly tired of finding something else to listen to during the all-too-regular fund drives, i very much appreciate the ability to skip forward on podcasts.

i'm also happier paying for good audio content than i am willing to pay for a dozen different news site subscriptions. my regular day is full of visual-attention-required tasks, and having an audio-only source of information and entertainment is worth paying for.

it's nice to know that it appears to be a successful business model for NPR.

They've experimented with "silent" fund drives lately in Iowa, where if they raise a target amount then the full fund drive is skipped. I like that a lot, as well as the fact that their programs are all podcasted.

I find the silent drive to be soooo painful. It's the most passive aggressive form of fundraising. I think they've gotten better at it the last couple times around, but the first one was rough.

"We're just going to keep this silent drive going until we get the money!" ... A month later "Come on people, going to have to do a real pledge drive since no one is paying up..."

One beef I have with NPR podcasts is that they often crank up the loudness of the ads way higher than the rest of the podcast.

When I already have the volume adjusted so I can hear the podcast over local background noise, the commercials are genuinely painful. Especially when I'm wearing earbuds and can't instantly lower the volume.

I'm sure they have reasons, but it really pisses me off.

I love NPR since I was a little kid. High quality information, also and especially on financial topics.

[GERMAN] I also love listening to the German counterpart of NPR/ SeekingAlpha > AlleAktien.de ( https://www.alleaktien.de )

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