An article in Fast Company suggests that, with its booming online presence and willing-to-donate audience, National Public Radio may be the future of news in the U.S. The conflict between local affiliates — who do most of the fundraising, and pay to broadcast NPR content — and the push to make more shows available online is discussed, though it’s not really anything I hadn’t heard before. One thing I hadn’t: from 1998 to 2008, while audiences for newspapers declined 11.4%, and network TV news dropped 28%, NPR’s listenership grew 95.6%.
NPR’s listenership has nearly doubled since 1999, even as newspaper circulation dropped off a cliff. Its programming now reaches 26.4 million listeners weekly — far more than USA Today’s 2.3 million daily circ or Fox News’ 2.8 million prime-time audience. When newspapers were closing bureaus, NPR was opening them, and now runs 38 around the world, better than CNN.
Another point made in the article: NPR.org isn’t able to provide good local news. This seems like an obvious niche for the local affiliates, many of whom produce their own original journalism (though with variable success). Seems like the ideal would be for my profile on NPR.org to know my zip code, and mix locally-produced content into my programming stream. When it was time for a new travel mug, the main site could direct my donation to the affiliate, maybe collecting a share for the national programming in the process.