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Newsflash: Distribution is Good

Sometimes you read stuff in the radio trades that have almost no basis in truth.

Take this item from Inside Radio:

Public radio will be furious over the latest defections to XM — “Prairie Home” and “Marketplace.” Oh, those two staples of public radio will continue to be syndicated by Minnesota-based American Public Media. But yesterday’s announcement is raising adrenalin levels — because these cornerstone shows will no longer be exclusive to local radio (and the web). The migration of content to satellite can diminish the franchise value to broadcasters who’ve invested years in building it up.

Is this so?

Maybe we should ask (drumroll please) someone in Public Radio.

John Decker is the outstanding programming chief at KPBS in San Diego.

John tells me that Marketplace has been available in podcast form before this announcement, and as segments streamable from their website. APHC is just now making their podcasts available; the programs have been streamable from their site for a while. In other words, the cat has been out of the bag and stretched out in the sun for some time now. Satellite radio is just one more channel of distribution for this content in a world where unique and compelling content wants to be widely distributed across channels.

Hence the value of unique content, folks.

While the stations fund these programs (in part, with your contributions) they will rightly ask “what’s in it for us?” But as John points out, anything that makes these programs more popular makes them more popular across all channels of distribution, including radio.

And if your listener is supporting only a program and not the station which knits programs into wholes, you’ve got a station with a problem, friends.

Furthermore, says John:

The folks at Audigraphics conducted some research last spring (Audience 2010) that dispelled the myth that public radio shows should not be on satellite; They should. Not only is there no evidence that satellite distribution hurts terrestrial loyalty, but there is no evidence that maintaining terrestrial-only broadcasts increases loyalty.

In other words, let your flower bloom in a thousand places.

What’s more, Public Radio continues to have a lot of growth potential, in my opinion, because of its strength in in-depth information and its ability to do things unaffordable for commercial radio (ironically). As John says: “News is our future and that’s where our energies should be.”

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