Disrupting Ourselves

Some random thoughts for a mid-summer day.

On Monday with the soft launch of NPR One, NPR and its Member Stations begin a brave experiment as an industry through the creation of a product that has been developed to, quite frankly, disrupt our existing business model that we have been comfortable with for decades.

For historical purposes, for the past fifteen years we’ve been discussing disruptions to our business model that began with satellite radio, internet streams and podcasts. However, the NPR One app, while not perfect, is the closest, and best, product developed to date that could redirect our audience away from our audio streams (both terrestrial and Internet) to an experience that is similar to our streams but brings with it opportunities and challenges that may change the station relationship with our audience and with NPR.

The promise made with NPR One is that NPR has developed a series of default station experiences within the app to ensure that end users get a genuine local station experience. That is a true statement.

However, the traditional business model where on-air pledge has been our primary vehicle for acquiring new donors to our organizations ends as our audience moves to experience content on the app. And that may not be a bad thing.

This app will provide us with user data that may be our next evolution in how we acquire new donors and deepen our relationship with existing donors to our organization.

The app will provide new opportunities for corporate sponsorships on a digital platform that may be enormously attractive to national and local underwriters.

So if you take those two things together, it looks like our traditional business model evolving to reflect the digital world that the rest of the media landscape has pretty much already evolved into in one way or another.

But, there’s a lot of unanswered questions ahead for us as we wander down this experiment that officially begins on Monday.

And most of the questions that I have relate to our speed to adapt our organizations to meet this evolution of our business model.

There are content and workflow questions.

There are systems and staffing questions.

There are a huge number of strategic questions around marketing this product mainly focused on who the target audience is for NPR One?

My reason for this post is to not raise the flag of surrender or to play Chicken Little and say the sky begins falling on Monday.

What I would like to ask my colleagues across the system is to join me in a conversation here on the questions you are asking inside your organization to adapt to this evolution ahead of us.

And while the sky isn’t falling on Monday, if we’re not asking questions then we’re in some deep trouble.


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