As major news broadcasters are struggling with declining audiences, National Public Radio just released numbers showing it's bucking that trend. NPR says its audience has grown to an all-time high.
News organizations expect a bump in interest when big stories break, and NPR — like others — saw a spike during last year's presidential election that helped drive the news audience to a record 21 million listeners per week. But NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller says last year's 9 percent increase is part of a long-term steady trend up.
"It may take a big news event for someone to discover us," Schiller says. "But the interesting thing is — to use a Silicon Valley expression — we are a very sticky news organization. Once people glom onto us, they tend to stick with us."
However, in the current economy, NPR's audience boost is not translating into a boost in revenues. NPR says funding is down from most of its major sources — including corporate underwriters, foundations and the networks' own investments.
Analysts say NPR may be benefiting from the changing media landscape. But like other news organizations, NPR will have to adjust its business model to adapt to the increasing force of online news.
"The news industry has not figured out how to essentially monetize all those online eyeballs and viewers, so that they're trapped between the old model and the new model, which has yet to produce the kind of money that's needed to subsidize quality journalism," says Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Schiller — who took the helm at NPR in January and was formerly head of digital efforts at NYTimes.com — says that will be part of her focus.
In the meantime, the network continues to tighten its belt. NPR recently laid off 7 percent of its staff and cut two daily news shows. Now, with an $8 million budget gap still projected for this fiscal year, officials say more cuts are coming.