Understanding the Public Radio Program Economy

Sept. 17, 2013
Atlanta, GA

In this session, organized in collaboration with the Public Radio Program Directors Association, we examined the size and composition of the total public radio program economy.

Mark Fuerst presents his analysis during a keynote session at the Public Radio conference. (Photo: PRPD)

Forums Director Mark Fuerst presents his analysis during a keynote session at the PRPD Conference. (Photo: PRPD)

Our analysis began with a review of some new elements in the system: Kickstarter funding and “direct-to-producer,” small-gift fund raising. We analyzed the CPB Annual Financial Reports from 290 public radio licensees to identify trends in program and production spending over the last decade (from 2001 through 2012) and compared those changes to the increase in national syndication fees at the three major program networks (NPR, PRI and APM). The comparison demonstrated the continued strength of public radio’s economy, driven largely by the growth of individual giving, accompanied by a shift in program investment toward local/regional productions and a concentration of financial strength in the top tier of stations (measured by annual budget).

We compared the financial results in public radio with the disruption of the national newspaper economy and identified four specific vulnerabilities that could lead to “unraveling” in the decade ahead.

Presentation material

Powerpoint from PRPD Conference Session, September 2013  (revised and edited)

John Sutton’s Analysis: Revenue Impact of Digital Disruption prepared for PRPD Conference

Background material

A digital revolution for public radio fundraising, commentary by John Sutton

Alliance for Audited Media Digital Publishing Survey (2012)

Analysis of Public Radio Licensee Programming and Production Expenses 2001 vs 2012

Internet Advertising Revenue Report for FY2012

Infinite Dial 2013 (part of continuing Edison/Arbitron Research Series)

The Smartphone Consumer 2012 by Edison Research