Turning public radio’s funding model upside-down

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As public radio listeners gain more options for listening to and supporting their favorite shows, the value proposition that’s at the center of local station membership revenues is about to be up-ended, writes radio consultant Mark Ramsey. Listeners now can directly support programs like This American Life, and this gives them less incentive to contribute during a local station’s pledge drive, he says. The station’s role in presenting the show also changes — “from distribution partner to advertising vehicle” — because local broadcasts become a highly effective way of turning more listeners on to the program.

Under a system of direct listener support of public radio programs, the fees that stations pay for national programs should be discounted, Ramsey writes, and local outlets should put more of their money into curating a unique localized listening experience for their audiences.