Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Improving Public Radio Fundraising at the Local Local Level

I'm listening to WETA-FM's pledge drive - that week of programming public broadcasting inflicts on us in order to stay in business. The station's promised a shorter drive this time, and is playing more music during it than they used to. Every so often they include a story from one of their announcers, reminiscing about how they discovered and grew to love "classical" music. And I wonder:

Why doesn't the station catch and air listener stories?

The idea grew out of Chris Brogan's post on creating microcontent and hyperlocal media. I thought it might be easy for WETA-FM to set up a blog* to encourage listener's stories. During the fund drive they could scan the blog comments for stories, and promise to include some of them on the air. In fact, they could say "If you make a donation at any amount, and you've contributed a story to our blog comment section, we might just read it on the air." They could continue by contacting a few of the best storytellers and have them record their tales for broadcast after the fund drive is completed.

They're not doing that, though. They're not even reading contributor names on the air. Over the past weekend I heard one of the announcers mention "Of course, we can't read names on the air, because that would take too much time."

I tried to analyze exactly why WETA is not using "new media" to improve their fundraising, and I came up with these possible explanations:

they tried it once before, but the return on investment was nil;
they were still discussing it by the start of the fundraising drive;
they haven't thought of doing it;
they thought of it but weren't interested;
they came up with the idea but found too many internal controls to make it work.

I think it has a whole lot to do with the fact that so many people still don't know how to use "new media" and Web 2.0 applications, much less figure out how to make them work the micro, or neighborhood, level. However, I just heard the WETA-FM announcers mention that many people are pledging money online, at the WETA Web site. Now whether or not that's a sales tactic, I don't know.
*or some other Web 2.0 online application.

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