Public radio beg-a-thons

Scott Fybush
Tue Oct 6 17:27:28 EDT 2009

Garrett Wollman wrote:
> <<On Tue, 6 Oct 2009 13:10:46 -0500, "Laurence Glavin" <> said:
>> So I flipped to WBUR for the repeat of the 8:00 am to 9:00 hour, and
>> they ran the same Ira Glass-guilt-inducing message THREE times, and
>> included no more than 20 minutes of program content; all the rest of
>> the time was begging!
> I've often wondered if public radio could raise money more effectively
> by doing less-intrusive fund-raising more frequently (or even
> continually).  Pledge drives are one of the things that put me off
> from supporting public radio.  (Although public television is arguably
> even worse, so I try to support only those stations that I believe
> really deserve the money.  Sorry, WGBH!)

"Arguably"? At least the public radio drives are wrapped around the 
actual programming that listeners are being asked to support. There are 
many in the public broadcasting world who are critical (and rightly so, 
I think) of the TV model that pulls the regular programming off the air 
completely in favor of what can sometimes be a bizarre melange of old 
musical acts, self-help gurus, and who even knows what else sometimes.

As for the frequency of pubradio fund-raising, that topic is discussed 
often among programmers as well. At WXXI, where our drive gets underway 
next week, we pitch for three weeks out of 52. The drives never exceed 
seven days, and when they're over, we leave the listeners alone for 
anywhere from three to five months before the next drive hits.

Stations have considerable leeway to decide how much of a program hour 
they want to pre-empt for pitching. We rarely exceed 16-18 minutes of 
pitching each hour, and try to do most of it during the slots in the 
program clock that would otherwise be filled with local continuity. I 
can only recall one instance in which we knocked out most of a 
half-hour, and that was at the very end of a drive where we were about 
to fall short.

Other stations do things differently. Our neighbors to the east at WAMC 
pitch more often, and for much more of each hour...and they raise a LOT 
more money as a result, but at the expense of considerably more audience 
annoyance. Other stations have tried to minimize their drives, but the 
result tends to be a significant drop-off in membership dollars.

If you have a better solution, I'd be happy to help you hang out your 
consultant shingle to sell it to the pubradio world... :)


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