NPR President Vivian Schiller said some very provocative things this morning at D8, the Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital conference, according to a live blog of her appearance. Early in her Q&A session, Schiller tells the Journal‘s Kara Swisher: “First of all, note we don’t call ourselves National Public Radio anymore. We’re NPR.” The change reflects NPR’s job to provide universal access to news and information, she explains, “that used to mean radio, but we don’t think we should be limited to that anymore….We just wanted to reach more people, on more platforms. We want to make it as widely available as possible.” Schiller predicts that radio towers will be gone in 10 years and Internet radio will take its place. “This is a huge change and we should embrace it. Mobile will play a big part.” Schiller also hints at changes in NPR’s business model: “We ask our listeners to contribute, and about 10 percent of them do, pretty consistently. That said, on a B2B level, this could change. Our stations don’t pay for our Web programming right now, but that could change. They get it free with the radio license fees they already pay.” What role do stations have in this new paradigm? To produce local and state coverage that NPR itself can’t provide, Schiller says. “We are commited to providing that coverage via local affiliates.” Note: the live blog is not an official transcript.
The headline to this post should be “NPR head says stations will be unneccessary in the near future.”
I don’t understand what’s controversial about Vivian’s comment. Should she go to a meeting of digital pioneers and tell them that “we’re sticking to radio and we have no interest in digital media?” An audio stream is the same thing whether received on an AM/FM radio, a computer or an iPhone.
I don’t think anything is implied here about stations being unnecessary in the future. Those that are developing great local content to complement that of NPR and others will fare just fine in the future.
Anonymous Two says they don’t understand what’s controversial? Well, let’s start with the idea that the “R” stands for “radio,” and that without “radio,” Vivian doesn’t have a job. She would also have very few “users” of the online content she loves so much.
The tens of millions of radio users (listeners) constitute the vast majority of her organization’s base. If you need an analogy, check out the article in the 6-4-10 Huffington Post “The Artur Davis Lesson: Act Like A Democrat in Democratic Primaries” detailing how the African-American Davis ignored the African-American party base in Alabama and got crushed in the gubernatorial primary. If Vivian Schiller thinks radio stations are superfluous to NPR, she is dangerously stupid.
Sure, she has no radio background. Sure, she came from the New York Times dot-com division, following a career in cable TV. So, no, we shouldn’t be surprised.
For Schiller’s enlightenment, the 2010 Infinite Dial study issued last month by Edison Research and Arbitron shows terrestrial (AM/FM) radio with 92 percent reach and online radio stalled at 17 percent for the second straight year. That’s a 92-17 lead. Overall online usage is also at a plateau. Presumably her forecast for an online takeover of radio is based not on research or observable societal behavior, but on her gut feelings. Not a good idea for a radio CEO.
All NPR General Managers should be furious. And if you multiply that fury by 300+ radio stations, it should be enough to send Viv back into cable TV… or newspaper websites… where she obviously belongs.
Anywhere but radio.
Certainly not National Public… Whatever.
Wow, that last comment is really uninformed. Have you not seen the proliferation of mobile internet devices? Like TV broadcasters, you’re living in the past, not the present and more importantly, future.
All communications are headed to IP based distribution. Its cheaper, universal, scalable, more efficient, and no one has direct control over it. Everything. Landline phones, TV, Radio, all of it can already technically be done on the internet, and it doesn’t require a special chip or hardware, and its available NOW.
NPR has a fantastic mobile app for smartphones, and they even have the foresight to have release the cource code into the public domain, and allow users and fans to help make it better! This is what a public service should be doing, not fighting the future and trying to limit our access and options with outdated licensing models and inside the box thinking. Very soon even cars are going to have internet radio, BUILT IN. Even sooner, you’ll be able to play their radio on your new internet connected TV while watching commercials or playing games. Its 2010, beam yourself up to speed and dont knock forward thinkers because they dont dwell on the past.