Facing dip in sponsorship income, NPR cuts back on hiring

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April Simpson/Current

NPR began to “severely restrict hiring” Wednesday to counter an expected drop in sponsorship revenue, CEO John Lansing told staff in a memo shared with Current.

NPR’s budget adopted in September anticipated a negligible year-over-year decline in corporate sponsorship revenue. But citing “overall weakness in the advertising industry,” Lansing said the organization now expects a $20 million shortfall in sponsorship revenue for fiscal year 2023. That’s about 15% less than budgeted and about 6% of total projected revenue.

“You have seen the headlines about drastic steps being taken by many commercial media companies to shore up their revenues in the face of a global economic contraction,” Lansing wrote. “Unfortunately, NPR and NPR Member stations are experiencing the effects of those economic challenges as well.”

Despite new revenues from licensing agreements, Lansing said the organization will still need to make up $10 million. Its near total hiring freeze includes “slowing down” the search for a CCO, Lansing said.

The CEO announced in September that NPR would hire a CCO. At the time, Lansing called the role “essential to how we accomplish the ambitious goals of the NPR Network.” 

NPR also plans to cut discretionary spending, Lansing said.

Lansing expects the cost-saving measures will suffice to stay on budget, which already anticipated a $5.2 million deficit. 

“We are acting quickly to address the budget shortfall for FY23, to preserve and protect our critical public service and prioritize our people,” Lansing wrote. “Our mission is unchanged as are our commitments to reaching and engaging audiences across the country with our journalism. We are facing a deficit in our budget, not in the importance of our work.”

The network expected corporate sponsorship to be its largest source of revenue this fiscal year, accounting for nearly 42% of income. It budgeted station fees, the next-largest source, to account for about 30% of total revenue. 

“As we did during the pandemic, we are prioritizing our staff and not anticipating layoffs at this time,” Lansing said. 

2 thoughts on “Facing dip in sponsorship income, NPR cuts back on hiring

  1. It remains to be seen whether NPR will continue to alienate it’s audiences with the continuous onslaught of extreme liberal ideologies. Doing so has a price to pay for donations…and it will take more than rhetoric to move back to center. Americans can tell when reports are slanted and no longer represent the middle ground politically or socially. Sponsorship requires unbiased stance from this once neutral media organization. But in the absence of this, expect more losses in the revenue stream. Leaving part of the country out of the equation is extremely poor management practice.

    • Sorry, Edwin, but it’s continually been debunked that that NPR promotes liberal ideologies. It’s a sad state of affairs when conservatives have gone so far right-wing that they believe this. Sponsorship to NPR is down because companies are overall reducing their advertising budgets, that’s all there is to it.

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