Public radio tattoos make a comeback

The latest package of public radio fundraising premiums allows devout listeners to temporarily brand their passion for their favorite shows on their forearms — or elsewhere. A set of eight rub-on tattoos in colorful vintage designs tout the titles On the Media, Fresh Air, Morning Edition, All Things Considered and This American Life. They’re offered to stations by longtime pubcasting premium distributor VisABILITY in Lyons, Colo. The temporary tattoos are the second to be created for listeners who want to express their support for public radio through body art. Ira Glass, whose cleverness in creating pledge-drive premiums helped to build station carriage for This American Life when it was a new public radio series, first approached  VisABILITY owners Janice Gavan and John Burke about pubradio tattoos in 1998.

Few ‘Magic Moments’ in March pledge

Pledge results reported by public TV stations from recently concluded on-air fundraisers were down 20 percent to 25 percent from the March 2012 drive, according to Kristen Kuebler, director of station research for Arizona-based TRAC Media. For most stations, the March fund drive is typically the biggest of the year, and revenues generated from it influence budgeting for the next fiscal year. Stations reported to TRAC and PBS that audience response to the latest pledge shows was tepid at best. The top-performing show among TRAC’s client stations was Magic Moments: The Best of ’50s Pop, a program that was first released for public TV broadcasts in 2005. It brought in 8 percent of all pledges, below their strongest show from the March 2012 drive: a self-help special from motivational speaker Wayne Dyer, Wishes Fulfilled, that generated 11 percent of total dollars raised by TRAC stations.

New channel in Pittsburgh: All-pledge, all the time

WQED has come up with an idea that initially might make some public broadcasters cringe: an entire multichannel fully devoted to fundraising. Yes, all pledge shows, running 24/7. That’s exactly what WQED Showcase will be. The Pittsburgh station will debut its fourth channel possibly as soon as November. Station President Deborah Acklin came up with the concept for the potential revenue stream, which appears to be a pubcasting first.

Pledge Pipeline, 2011-12

Current’s first Pledge Pipeline previews 36 shows heading to public TV on-air membership drives in December 2011, March 2012 and beyond. Producers and distributors provided this information in response to Current’s questionnaire. December ’11
’60s Pop Rock: My Music
Producing organization: TJL Productions. Distributor: PBS. Length: 75 minutes in four acts (SD 4:3).

What feels really good: helping others ‘be more’

‘PBS gives everyone the opportunity to explore new worlds” — this is the meaning that station communications to viewers and donors should evoke, the network says. PBS plans to test new messages with stations and make a new round of spots for its “Be More” brand campaign based on new research about language that moves people to donate to pubTV. The network’s goal is to create more consistent messaging across the system, says Judy Braune, v.p. of strategy and brand management. “When we set out to do the research,” she says, “we were looking to answer the question, ‘How can we position PBS stations as a cause that people want to support for the long haul?’”

PBS discussed the research findings at the PBS Development Conference in October and will review them at the PBS Content Summit in January and at PBS Showcase in May. In March, PBS plans to supply stations with new messaging materials to use on-air, online, and in direct mail and e-mail fundraising efforts.

We’re sending the wrong message with premiums

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.

Station coffers gain from advances in the pledging arts

For the second year in a row, spring pledge revenues are up for public broadcasting stations around the country.The gains are a welcome relief to fundraisers throughout the system, who face the challenge of improving revenues from all other sources as federal funding declines. Development professionals from both television and radio say their recent successes are largely due to good programming and the increasing sophistication with which stations conduct on-air campaigns.Propelled in part by a sleeper special “Les Miserables in Concert,” public TV’s drive set a dramatic new record of more than $50 million raised nationally. 1992

Dollars pledged
$39.5 million
$38.3 million
$50.2 million

Number of pledges

Average pledge

Break minutes

Dollars per minute

Stations reporting

Source: PBS


Tallies aren’t available for public radio, but stations generally report results that kept pace with or bested the inflation rate. While many stations set new records, the gains were mostly modest compared to last year’s, when congressional threats to public broadcasting’s federal funding spurred donations. Big stations around the country set aggressive goals based on last year’s results, and fell short.