KQED Takes a Technological Step Toward Killing the On-Air Pledge Drive

4/26/11Follow @wroush

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enough people actually started getting their radio via Internet. “Now we’re at a reasonable tipping point of mobile/Internet listeners and devices/platforms,” he says.

Shapiro thinks the pledge-free drive “isa natural extension of the notion of a membership benefit and pledge premium.” The tension, he says, “is a philosophical one around public radio’s deep-rooted commitment to universal service, including a mission of reaching under-served audiences and addressing market failures in commercial media. Does paid access to a better listening experience further skew public radio to catering to those with means? This is already a sore point in a public radio system that primarily draws an educated and therefore more affluent audience.”

“Ultimately I don’t think a paid premium service as a primary delivery of public radio is a likely or desirable outcome—that’s XMSirius,” Shapiro continues. “The revolution is in rethinking the relationship so we’re not asking for support through the pain point of a pledge drive, but more in the pleasure of enjoying or being inspired and moved by stories you can’t get anywhere else.”

Judging from early reactions in the twittersphere, other public radio stations will come under swift pressure from their listeners to offer something like KQED’s pledge-free option. “I’ve been wishing for something like this from WNYC for ages,” tweeted John Borthwick, CEO of tech investing firm Betaworks New York. But of course, there’s one barrier left to overcome: few people can access Internet streams from their automobiles, where many commuters spend the most time with public radio. “Finally I can get rid of those stupid pledge drives,” tweeted one KQED fan. “Now if I can just get this in my car.”

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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