NPR’s Mohn bolsters Morning Edition promotion challenge with prize

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LAS VEGAS — Addressing station executives here Wednesday, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn offered a free year of Morning Edition as the grand prize for the winner of his “Spark Project,” a campaign to boost the newsmagazine’s audience.

Mohn delivered a keynote speech at the annual Public Radio Super-Regional Meeting, held this year at Caesar’s Palace. In his speech, he called on the crowd of mostly general managers and station executives to move out of their comfort zones and unite in a push to cross-promote Morning Edition.

The CEO is asking public radio stations to air 100 promotions a week from Jan. 14 to June 15, 2015, highlighting local and national stories airing within the newsmagazine. The project is slated to run from Jan. 14 through June 15, 2015.

The strategy would depart from most public radio stations’ promotion of about 12 different things at a time, Mohn said. “So none of them get the kind of juice behind them that they need,” he said. “We need to focus on one major initiative.”

A focused, aggressive marketing campaign might seem anathema to those in public radio, Mohn said. “I think many people in public radio are very modest,” he said. “Modesty in people is a virtue. But modesty is not a virtue in our goals.”

Mohn also addressed claims that so far participants are only in small to medium-sized markets. He pointed to 16 larger-market stations that have signed on including Boston’s WBUR, WDET in Detroit, Georgia Public Broadcasting, KERA in Dallas and KNPR in Las Vegas. (UPDATE (1:42 p.m.): An NPR spokesperson later told Current that WBUR’s participation is not confirmed.)

“What does this tell us about what’s going on in public radio?” he said. “Well, it tells me that there’s a great desire for all of us to do something bigger together.”

The project could achieve a “very doable” goal of raising the average-quarter-hour audience for the 35-year-old show by 10 percent. In an email sent to station executives before the Super-Regional, Mohn said that audience for the show has been “slowly” declining and that a 10 percent boost in listening could raise local underwriting revenue by close to 3 percent.

To add a competitive element, NPR will convene a panel of marketing experts from outside the public radio industry. The station that the panel chooses as having the most creative promotional effort will win a yearlong waiver on paying fees for Morning Edition.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that stations will contribute 100 promotions a week to air along with 100 weekly promos from NPR. Stations are being asked to air a total of 100 promotional spots.
  • Aaron Read

    Change the title card and jingle at the end, and you’ve got the perfect Morning Edition commercial right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UinoNx2Tpr4

    Anyone got Bruce Campbell’s contact info?

  • Agilejack

    Seems to me that the prize should go to the station that sees the biggest growth in audience. Creative is one thing. Effective is totally different.

  • Steven

    As a WDET listener, this is awful. They play the same nationally produced commercial over and over again, and it sounds like it was produced in the 80s. Better luck next time, NPR.