NPR One will test in-app donations with U.S., U.K. users

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NPR will begin testing functions in its NPR One app this summer to help users donate through the app, including listeners in the U.K.

Starting in June, NPR One users in New York, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago will be able to use a “one-touch” donation process, according to NPR Chief Digital Officer Thomas Hjelm, who discussed the plans at an NPR Board meeting May 4. A five-day international pilot in July will take a similar approach to collecting donations from NPR One users in the U.K., marking the first time the network will accept donations directly from listeners.

NPR One users must now go through several steps to donate to a station through the app, including redirection to a station’s donation page. The one-touch function will allow users to simply tap a donate button and enter an amount or choose from predetermined amounts.

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It will use Apple Pay and Android Pay as payment processors, with neither getting a cut from transactions. Users will incur no transaction fees other than possible charges from credit card companies, Hjelm said.

“That’s the good news,” he said. But rolling out the new function to more stations will require “a great deal of heavy lifting,” Hjelm added.

NPR chose to work with stations in the four pilot cities because they have the resources and ability to integrate with the platform, Hjelm said. NPR expects to expand one-touch giving incrementally to more stations.

“If NPR were in a position to collect donations on behalf of the stations, we could scale much more quickly,” Hjelm said. “But the fact that there are so many integration forms, so much customization from station to station, that’s what slows down the process.”

The test is expected to begin June 6. For the international pilot, NPR chose the U.K. because it offers a purer test of the function than Canada, where some listeners connect to U.S. stations, Hjelm said.

NPR One users in the U.K. make up the app’s second-largest English-speaking audience outside of the U.S., after Canada.

No one-size-fits-all solution to collecting international donations is possible because financial and legal implications vary among markets, Hjelm said.

Data from the pilot is expected to be available by the end of July. If it succeeds, NPR will provide the donation functionality to U.K. users on a permanent basis starting in the fall.