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Slashdot Asks: Should NPR Stop Promoting Its Own Podcasts and NPR One App On Air? (boingboing.net) 143

A new "ethics" policy from NPR details new rules to stop promoting NPR One and its podcasts on the air, to ultimately please local station managers who pay the largest share of NPR's bills.

Chris Turpin, V.P. for news programming and operations, writes: As podcasts grow in number and popularity we are talking about them more often in our news programs. We are also fielding more and more questions from news staff and Member stations about our policies for referring to podcasts on air. To that end, we want to establish some common standards, especially for language in back announces. Our hope is to establish basic principles that are easy to understand and allow plenty of flexibility for creativity. These guidelines apply to all podcasts, whether produced by NPR or by other entities. 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.
Basically, NPR won't promote "the lauded, loved app that is basically the future of NPR" to listeners who would be most interested in it. How do you feel about NPR's new policy?
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Slashdot Asks: Should NPR Stop Promoting Its Own Podcasts and NPR One App On Air?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    TV stations, like Blockbuster, are dead and don't know it yet. I think it critically important that NPR promote its blogs whenever possible or risk fading to irrelevance in the future to a more savvy competitor.

  • Not promoting an app that gives NPR way too much information about viewers listening and usage? Not promoting an app that involves an amazing amount of poking and swiping to get to the content you want? Sounds like a good plan. I prefer listening to NPR more anonymously. I prefer less "curation" (a disturbing term on a bunch of levels) and more choice. We pick which NPR stations to support (and we do support them) and then we listen to their mp3 streams at the bitrates we want to. If we want to listen to
  • by EmperorArthur ( 1113223 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @04:21PM (#51772403)

    This might be part of their ethics policy, but that's not where it belongs. As much as people have wined and complained about it being unfair for companies, like Google, to advertise their own products there's nothing unethical about it.

    It's a competition issue. NPR gets a significant chunk of its money from radio stations. That's why not all NPR broadcasts are available as podcasts. This whole thing is merely about appeasing those radio stations who are worried about competition from podcasts that are more convenient and available.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhath ( 637240 )

      NPR gets a significant chunk of its money from radio stations.

      And where do you think the local stations get all that money? Hint: not from donations - those go straight to NPR.

      The local stations get their money from the federal government, then they hand it over to NPR. That's why NPR claims they only get 2% of their money from the government, but scream bloody murder if Congress tries to cut funding. Something over 50% of their revenue starts out as tax dollars or deductions before it gets laundered through the local stations.

      • by pla ( 258480 )
        Cite please?
      • by ripvlan ( 2609033 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @08:12AM (#51775371)

        I don't believe your statement to be true. The local public radio (at least here) gets the majority of its money from "underwriters" (local business) and member donations. This funds both local programming and NPR subscriptions. There are other states where public radio is funded by local universities. In other regions that don't have as much money - Corp for PB helps subsidize operations so that "everyone" has access to public radio.

        "More than 90% of VPR's funding comes from the local community." and "Less than 10% of VPR's funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting government"

        Others have pointed out that tax deductible donations are a form of gov't funding. But even then it is estimated to be 25% - not 50% (even Fox news quotes 25%) Using the same math - Religion is costing taxpayers $71 billion / year. I don't think one can compare NPR total $166MM budget to $71 billion / year.

        http://digital.vpr.net/support... [vpr.net]
        http://www.americanthinker.com... [americanthinker.com]
        https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

      • Public radio is tyranny! Tyranny, I tell you!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        And local stations get their programming and equipment how, for free? Or the federal government just creates it the same way they print more money? Maybe you should get a clue? Local stations have their own budgets, they aren't there simply to launder funds for NPR. That is one of the most patently ridiculous things I've heard lately, not that it should come as a surprise.

  • How do I feel about it? When did /. turn into Oprah Fucking Winfrey???

  • they are a technological anachronism. Just as the concept of a Local BBS existed only because of the cost structure of long distance phone calls in the 1980s/1990s, and the technological issue of a lack of intetworking, so the "local affiliate radio station" is essentially an anachronism. of the centralized wireless transmitter based delivery of audio to a mass audience.

    Radio towers are incredibly inefficient compared to the internet and essentially are an artefact of the 20th century. There is no reason to

    • I don't see anything anachronistic about local radio. You're stuck in the car and want to listen to something, so just flip on the radio. It works. No need to stream, pre-download the songs you want, pay for subscriptions, use up your bandwidth, etc. Nation wide radio conglomerates aren't that interesting, I want to listen to the local news not some clearchannel all-justin-all-day crap. My local stations have local news and regional news and local traffic reports and local advertisements and local spor

    • Bull. Local programming is of huge interest to local audiences. That older technologies were only capable of reaching a local area is just a happy coincidence. In any case it's still a whole lot easier to access FM radio in your car than some internet streamed service.

    • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @05:36PM (#51772797) Homepage
      Obviously you never listen to local PBS radio stations.
      If you did you would note the wealth of... wait for it... LOCAL NEWS
      Local news is something important to people that want to know what is going on in their local community, city and region.
    • Mod parent up. Whereas in the past local newspapers and local radio stations were the only outlets for national news, we've gotten far, far away from that.

      When the vast majority of listeners are downloading and streaming, the justification for a local radio station drops to well below worth it.

  • That costs the stations money for the stream. Radio in the modern age is experiencing technical dificulties . . .
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @04:41PM (#51772489)
    I keep my finger hovering above the skip forward button when I start listening to CBC(Canada's sort of NPR) podcasts. They pretty much inevitably promote insider (politically powerful) shows on shows that appeal to a specific and different audience. The promotions are for podcasts that are highly irrelevant to the podcast in question. A science show will promote an arts show, a business show will promote an arts show, a news show will promote an arts show, etc.

    To make it worse, the shows they are promoting are often long out of date when the podcast in question is something that is ageless and thus will be listened to potentially for a decade or more.

    I have a strong feeling that the CBC is deeply unhappy with podcasts because with listeners choosing what they want to listen to it is in complete opposition with how budgets are being distributed and how by putting certain shows in prime slots it then confirms that those shows are "popular".

    I would love to see the stats on podcast listening compared to what the CBC claims is the number of listeners to the live show.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that if the CBC was 100% driven by its listeners that the lineups, budgets, and shows would be wildly re-prioritized.

    Instead the CBC is driven by some mental image of what they should be doing.
    • Part of CBC's mandate is to promote Canadian culture. This is a necessity in the face of the unstoppable flood of US culture inundating the country from the South.

      This isn't a "mental image"; it's a responsibility baked into CBC's raison d'etre.

      Your "sneaking suspicion" is irrelevant...probably wrong, too. One of the highest-rated shows on CBC Radio, year after year, is "Canada Reads", a contest between five novels for which would be the best for a Canadian to spend a few hours with.

      • Do you know for a fact that my suspicion is wrong. Or is that something that you suspect?

        I will give you a fact to research and then digest. Check out the management companies behind the "Indie" bands the CBC plays the most and give extended interviews of. How is it that so many varied and diverse bands representing Canadian culture are represented by management companies that I can count on one hand. Management companies in Toronto? Management companies with former CBC execs on the payroll?

        I don't know
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Were does this quote come from? Even in TFA its a mystery quote hanging out there.

    NPR doesn't attract "station surfers" they have a dedicated audience that will tune in to there favorite shows. eg that audience will find the pod casts without the help of mentioning them on air.

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @04:59PM (#51772623) Homepage Journal

    The basic problem, as I understand it, is that NPR programs, which NPR member stations pay to carry, are spending too much airtime talking about how the listener can cut their local member station out of the picture and access all NPR program streamed over the internet.. That's a reasonable complaint by the member stations.

    The issue is that NPR wants to promote what it sees as The Future of NPR, specifically direct-streamed podcasts.

    The simple answer is for NPR to use the same tools as other companies do and run advertisements for their streaming/podcast/apps - paid advertisements.

    Simply put, NPR should figure out a pro-rated advertising rate (so many $ per minute), then refund the member stations every time a host promotes the podcasts, streaming service, smartphone app. That way broadcasters aren't paying NPR to educate consumers how to "disintermediate" member stations

    • My local NPR station is pretty bad. They are airing less and less time on local programming. Yet they somehow have money to buy its primary competing NPR station in the next town. They weren't getting any of my money before and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

      I download all of the NPR programming that I listen to (aside from top-of-the-hour news) in podcast form. I give money to the stations that produce those programs.

      It was lot easier when I lived in an area with an NPR station that I had no

      • When you start seeing things like an NPR station doing a buyout you know that they have been taken over by MBAs who have lost the plot.

        I suspect that there are lots of strategy meetings where they talk about efficiency, metrics, verticals, and whatever buzzwords they read recently in Success magazine.
  • Anecdotally, I listen to NPR in the car most every day and I make a yearly contribution to my local PBS station. I don't listen to a lot of podcasts, but I do sometimes stream This American Life or Serial when I'm driving long distances. In years when feel like I've done a lot of that, I've also made a contribution to the station that does those (WBEZ, I believe).

    I don't really know what NPR One is, and I am unlikely to replace my local station with it or any other podcasts. So from my perspective, this

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @05:22PM (#51772749) Homepage

    The summary seems a bit misleading. If you read TFA (I know, I know), you'll find:

    "Informational, not Promotional: When referring to podcasts, and the people who host, produce, or contribute to them, we will mention the name of the podcast but not in a way that explicitly endorses it."

    Still a bit odd, but not as bad as the summary makes it look, I think. No mentioning sites, but it's fine to mention the podcasts themselves.

    I admit, I'm left with mixed feelings. I can partly understand it. If it were, say, a book publisher, I can see why they might not want people to promote Amazon, since a lot of book sales still happen through local, indy booksellers, and I'm a fan of local indy booksellers myself. But of course, the podcast sites aren't a big for-profit corporation, so the analogy isn't perfect, but there are similarities.

    Another interesting quote:

    "No NPR One: For now, NPR One will not be promoted on the air."

    (Emphasis mine.) I'm a little reassured by that "for now". That implies that this policy may be subject to change in the future. That maybe things are still a bit in flux, and there's people in the organization who aren't 100% sure about this approach.

    So, yeah, I'm not entirely sure what I think about this. If they couldn't mention podcasts at all, I'd be strongly against it, but as it is, I'm kinda neutral. Not a fan, but I can't bring myself to care all that strongly one way or the other.

  • I understand this, as far as if they listeners are getting the feeds from the podcasts, the local stations can't tack on their begging for donations at any point. This could cause them to lose revenue.

    Unfortunately, this is short sighted, since you can't expect listeners to not take advantage of something which makes their life better.

    I use podcasts so I can listen to my favorite shows at my own pack, not only when they have them on the air. That would be insane to go back to that way of listening.

    They sh

  • "Establishing a public radio station" (or even a "public newspaper") is not an enumerated power of the federal government under the constitution. Neither NPR nor any other medium or art should be subsidized at the taxpayer expense.

    Let them subsist entirely on voluntary donations, then they can do whatever the hell the want.

    • Establishing a public radio station" (or even a "public newspaper") is not an enumerated power of the federal government under the constitution. Neither NPR nor any other medium or art should be subsidized at the taxpayer expense.

      Any sensible reading of the Constitution makes it perfectly clear that it is primarily about the structure of the government. Checks and Balances. You can, of course, list the "enumerated powers" of the federal government in a grade school primer sort of way. But there is hell of lot of room for interpretation and always has been.

      The geek will whine on endlessly about the corporate domination of popular culture, for which he has an insatiable appetite, but you need more than a copy of Blender to be taken s

      • We regularly ridicule countries with state-funded media for being mouthpieces. State-funded arts are also ridiculed because they produce art that hates the people. Why should my tax dollars go to bigots who think I am vile and full of hate, while these artists are just projecting their own feelings onto us?
        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          So first you falsely state that they hate the people, then based on that false assumption you the assume (again) that these strawmen (re: ignorant caricatures mentioned previously) are bigots.

          Do you ever get anything correct, or make any logically accurate statements?

          PS: PBS/NPR aren't public funded in the first place.
          It's a mix of private and public, with the overwhelming majority being privately sourced, either from donations or from operating within the marketplace.

        • Who's "we"? And can you name some specific countries?

    • The Tenth Amendment does not include the word "expressly" for the specific reason of not overriding the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article 1, Section 8. Powers are no more enumerated than rights are, though powers do have much greater constraints.

      In addition, the Supreme Court has upheld the broad interpretation of "general welfare" in Clause 1. So long as NPR is available for the *national* welfare and is not otherwise infringe on the state's power, the five cents it gets from the federal government is

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Pretty much as soon as the ink was dry on the constitution, the people who were trying to run the government decided that the constitution as written was too cumbersome. The "enumerated powers" are not some grade school interpretation, the constitution is very explicit that the federal government cannot exercise any authority that is not granted in the constitution. They even went on to underline this in the bill of rights.

        But going out to get a constitutional amendment every time you want to do something

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      well aren't you lucky because that's almost exactly how it works

  • NPR used to have a no ads policy. Now they have ads several times an hour, and always one congratulating themselves. It's disgraceful.

  • I no longer listen to my local Houston NPR station at all, just NPR ONE. I love it that I can skip past stories I'm not interested in. And I also like it that the local station can insert their own stories into the mix (which I can also skip if I want to). It's like having a TiVo for radio.

    The problem for local stations is, the app works so well that it just might put the local stations out of business, unless they can find a way to share the revenue. I'm sure that, in the interest of self-preservation,

  • by bano ( 410 )

    Perhaps if my local public stations offered more content than cartalk returns and prairie home companion for hours on end, they wouldn't have people listening to NPR content directly(podcast/app/other station streams). Oh and 14 hours a day of chamber music, yea for some reason one of the stations feels the need to live by the stuffy public radio stereotype.
    We had a decent station that offered a mix of modern music and public radio content, but one of the other public radio stations bought it and switched i

  • I've been around long enough to remember the nature of the content back in the 1980s and it sure as hell wasn't anything like it is today. Reporting back then used to be actual reporting. Now, they take the approach of cherry-picking one or two sob stories to get you to generalize on a larger issue. Decidedly unethical.

  • ... likely falls under the rubric of "un-American Activities". My word, how can they not realize this? They are covering the election, after all.
  • The local stations need more time to yammer about this law firm and that garden center that are valued sponsors. And to pretend that the guy who's his own engineer and producer is a host of All Things Considered.

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