University Station Alliance

Linking public broadcasting stations and their university partners since 2001

What We Know So Far

With the NPR Network Initiative, NPR wants to focus on monetizing and increasing membership on digital content distribution channels by creating an NPR Network brand. This will allow NPR to fundraise outside of stations, giving listeners the option to support the local station or NPR directly. It also allows the NPR Network to sell time on podcasts and digital platforms.

The NPR Network Initiative is a complex beast. It encompasses creating the

  • NPR Network BRAND and cobrand to unify the network and the stations across all platforms.
  • NPR Network Podcasts, is an audience building initiative that unites NPR and station podcasting efforts and opens cross-promotion inventory opportunities.
  • Digital Audio Exchange is designed to turn NPR stations’ unsold digital sponsorship inventory into revenue.
  • NPR+ Podcast Bundle is an initiative to drive station membership among NPR digital audiences with access to a bundle of sponsorship-free podcasts and bonus content exclusively as a benefit of station membership.

The final, and perhaps the most complex, element of the NPR Network Initiative is the plan to Grow Audience Support by allowing digital audiences to make gifts directly to NPR and/or to the local station.

The rational for the concept is not at issue with over 20 million listeners accessing NPR digital content only. The growth potential could be huge…or not.

The concept is strong…it’s the implementation that’s still wobbling. Key questions do not yet have solid answers, and some of the decisions to date are putting up roadblocks for adoption.

Among University/institutional licensees change often occurs slowly. Given the aggressive timeline for launching the NPR Network Initiative, convincing risk-averse, slow moving university IT departments to adopt Stripe is going to be a challenge and will prevent a number of stations from participation for months, if ever.