Today's Wall Street Journal runs a front-page piece on how public radio stations are "scooping up new sponsorship by mimicking the tactics of commercial broadcasters," but at the risk of alienating listeners. The story is only online for subscribers, but here's a snippet dealing with KPCC, the station based at Pasadena City College.
KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., has adopted many of the ad sales strategies of commercial radio. KPCC is a subsidiary of American Public Media, St. Paul, Minn., a nonprofit company that also owns Minnesota Public Radio. The station's director of underwriting sales, Sandy Hollischer Brull, previously worked for Clear Channel, the U.S.'s No. 1 radio company.
On a recent afternoon, Ms. Brull pitched Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, a private, nonprofit institution, using a bound presentation promoting the demographics of her station's listeners, including their income, education level and career status. Ms. Brull proposed several campaigns for the hospital, including sponsoring a podcast on health issues. She flipped through charts showing how KPCC listeners are more likely to drive a luxury foreign car than other radio fans in Los Angeles, and how likely they are to shop at Sears.
Over a lunch, Ken Wildes, a vice president for the hospital, said he'd buy airtime for a campaign that could start at the end of April. Since Ms.
Brull joined KPCC in 2001, underwriting income has increased to $3 million a year from $561,000, far outstripping the rate of growth in audience support or foundation grants.
So far, the increasing sponsorship hasn't dented KPCC's audience. The station counts 400,000 listeners per week, compared with 225,000 in 2000.
The LA Observed reader who emailed me the story writes, "I drive an ancient, decrepit Honda and I enjoy shopping at Sears. Whenever I turn on KPCC, I feel so much more. . .successful!"