No, I’m not going to preach that public TV should stop using premiums to attract and upgrade members. Premiums are too effective to give up on them. But if we misuse them, they are also quite effective at undercutting the long-term relationships we want and need with viewers and members. As a fundraiser who has worked at stations as well as at PBS, I’m concerned that the way many stations now use premiums during on-air drives will make it increasingly difficult for them to secure renewals, annual upgrades, and additional gifts from members acquired using premiums.
And I’m even more concerned about what premium-driven pledging means to our existing base of the most loyal donors. In our move to “transactional marketing,” some have ignored an obvious fact — television is a mass medium.