As it upgrades NPR One, NPR will promote app on-air

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April Simpson/Current

NPR is planning to increase promotion of its NPR One app and aims to fix issues flagged by member stations, according to a memo sent Friday to station leaders and network staff.

NPR One’s donation prompt for WBEZ in Chicago.

NPR prompted criticism when, in guidelines to staff posted publicly in March 2016, VP of News Programming and Operations Chris Turpin said that NPR should not promote NPR One on the air for now.” As Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote at the time, “This seems dumb to a lot of people.”

Now the network is planning to step up promotion and marketing for NPR One at least through October, according to last week’s memo. That will include on-air mentions of the app within NPR’s national programs, according to Turpin and Chief Digital Officer Tom Hjelm, authors of the memo.

The spots will reinforce “the message that listeners can use NPR One to stay connected to NPR and Member stations,” the memo said. Listeners will be told that they can use NPR One to hear podcasts featured on air and get updates on breaking news. Underwriting spots may also promote the app.

NPR also aims to improve how the app connects users with their local stations, especially in markets with more than one public radio station. “We’ve heard from many stations (and seen for ourselves) that the methods used to send a user to one station vs. another, particularly in multi-station markets, need to be reset,” Hjelm and Turpin wrote. “There is no simple solution that will work for every station and satisfy every user, but we are committed to trying to tackle this issue in partnership with stations.”

NPR will also explore adding local sponsorship to the app. “Here too there are many factors to weigh — such as the allotment of inventory, resource requirements and the integration of ad platforms — and no simple solutions,” the memo said. “… We will be looking for station input and partnership in determining how we can best realize this opportunity.”

Furthermore, NPR One will begin offering streams of music stations and introduce one-touch donation capability to more stations. It began offering the feature to NPR One users streaming WNYC in New York City, WBEZ in Chicago and KQED in San Francisco last month.

According to Hjelm and Turpin, 60 percent of NPR stations are feeding content to NPR One. Sixty-six percent of NPR One users hear content from member stations. And the number of locally produced podcasts and series available on NPR One is up 57 percent since the beginning of last year.

The app has gathered 1.4 million email addresses, which are shared with stations. Some stations report that upwards of 90 percent of the NPR One users’ emails are new to their databases.

The memo also said that 52 percent of NPR One listeners are under 45. According to an NPR spokesperson, 39 percent of the network’s broadcast audience is under 45.

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