NPR will expand collaborative regional newsrooms 

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NPR will work with stations over the next year or two to onboard three additional regional newsrooms, Chief of Staff Chris Turpin said during a network board meeting Tuesday.

NPR is working with the existing New England News Collaborative to make the collaborative into a regional newsroom later this year, Turpin said. NPR and the collaborative hope to have in place by July 1 a “formalized agreement to work together as a cohesive national-local editorial team, along with a business strategy to sustain the regional newsroom going forward,” Turpin said. 

The other two regions under consideration for collaborative newsrooms are Appalachia and the Mountain West, Turpin said. The states that would be included in Appalachia are West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and southern Ohio. Mountain West states include Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Nevada, according to a map shared by Turpin during his presentation. 

Conversations about newsrooms in those regions are “just getting underway,” he said. 

NPR and stations are currently collaborating on regional newsrooms in the Midwest, the Gulf States, Texas and California. 

Turpin discussed the newsrooms during an update for the board on the progress of the NPR Network, a board-approved project to grow audience and revenue through a host of collaborations between NPR and member stations, especially on digital platforms. 

Additional collaborative journalism efforts in the works include plans for NPR and stations to work together on two or three “signature” projects this year focused on climate, the election and another topic yet to be determined.

“NPR and member organizations have already been meeting to shape these projects,” Turpin said. 

NPR also plans to launch soon a collaborative beat and topic team to cover religion and spirituality, Turpin said. It is supported by a grant from The Lilly Endowment and will include NPR and station journalists in partnership with the Religion News Service “to help tell in-depth stories about the changing nature of faith,” he said.

Increased app presence for music stations

Beyond journalism, Turpin noted progress in other NPR Network initiatives, including the unification of NPR’s apps. In December, NPR finished migrating technology from its NPR One app into its flagship NPR app. NPR One is no longer available in Apple’s app store, and the app will shut down completely in March, Turpin said. 

“Attention now turns to building out the app,” he said. “The team is really zeroing in on ensuring that it’s appropriately audience-focused while better representing the full range of NPR network content and experiences.”

Users have told NPR they want “a long list of things,” he said, including dark mode for Android users and an easier way to find Morning Edition and All Things Considered

“There are also a number of planned enhancements that will make it easier for our audiences to turn to the app for election coverage from around the country,” he said. 

Work is also underway to expand the presence of music stations on the app, he said. Live streams of NPR music stations will be added to the app later this month and will be searchable, Turpin said.

“This is merely the first step in a longer process of discovery and prototyping to improve the visibility of music content in the NPR app,” he said.

Revenue gains

Turpin also shared details about the growth of the NPR+ podcast bundle and donations to the NPR Network.

The podcast bundle launched in November 2022 with 34 member stations as a way to offer NPR podcasts ad-free to new donors to those stations. Seventy-two stations are now participating, Turpin said. 

The bundle, which was initially made available only to new donors to stations, is now available for stations to offer to existing sustainers as a retention tool, he said. More than 4,500 donors have become station members through the bundle, and nearly two-thirds of those donors are new to stations, he said. 

Last year, in its first full year in operation, the NPR Network donation option brought in $1.6 million in revenue from over 15,000 gifts, he said. Of that, about $793,000 came from about 6,000 gifts during a year-end campaign. NPR saw year-over-year growth of 69% in revenue during that period and 68% in the number of gifts through the NPR Network donation button. 

The button is an option on to give directly to the NPR Network. Some of the revenue is distributed to stations.

As with bundle donors, 64% of contributors to the NPR Network are new to public media, Turpin said. 

“This approximately two-thirds numbers held steady for some time and shows that the program is succeeding in bringing new donors to our network,” Turpin said. “We continue to be bullish that over time, NPR Network donation will grow into a significant source of revenue for NPR and member organizations.”

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