NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller says that “radio and NPR [are] doing very well, but we have to think now about becoming our own disruptors before we take the path of newspaper companies.” Speaking on a Fast Search Webinar, the former GM for NYTimes.com opined that “digital media is more compatible with radio than any other legacy media. Radio is very specific. It is compatible and not really competitive with the Web or mobile experience.”
The Web and mobile can especially be leveraged to deepen and extend NPR’s core audience of 30 million listeners, and to localize that relationship via local NPR affiliates, says Schiller. “People listen to us through the filter of the local station. The opportunity is to further exploit the local relationships and create a network of digital properties” that are locally controlled, rather than run by NPR.
“We can help and enable them,” she says. In fact, local can’t succeed with national. And vice versa. “I fear for local news organizations,” says Schiller. “There needs to be a national-local partnership to be successful.”
Addressing criticism that NPR should stick to its knitting in radio, Schiller says the Web will actually emerge as a second “core” for NPR. “People say this is a big mistake to take our eye off of radio. But anybody familiar with Clayton Christensen [the author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma”] knows “this is exactly the time you have to think about cannibalizing yourself.”
NPR also has to go beyond its current efforts on the Web. NPR.org is “very successful as a companion to radio up to this point. That’s a good thing. It is the No. 1 reason [listeners] come to listen to the end of a story or find out more info about what they heard on radio. But it is not enough. NPR.org has got to be a destination in its own right. It should be a destination for people interested in the kinds of values we represent.”
Schiller added that a site redesign will be completed in “a couple of months. It will prove that out to be a viable destination.”
A recording of the Webcast, which also features Consultant Scott Anthony of Innosight, is here.