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FutureStarrNPR to Cut 10% of its Staff in 'a Major Loss' for the Public Radio Network
Public radio network NPR has announced plans to reduce 10% of its staff, becoming the latest media company to make painful cuts amid a dramatic slowdown in advertising revenue. CEO John Lansing informed employees on Wednesday that their financial outlook has become significantly worse.
NPR has joined a host of media companies, such as Vox Media, Gannett and Spotify, that have cut staff in recent months amid declining advertising revenue and concerns about an economic slowdown.
John Lansing, CEO of NPR, reported that their ad revenue is down 15% year over year despite a near freeze on hiring and the cancellation of most travel. To make up for the shortfall they plan to generate more digital income by licensing podcasts like How I Built This to streaming services such as Amazon and partnering with member stations to provide better coverage across one platform.
NPR recently appointed a Chief Content Officer who will be overseeing both news and programming. This includes several new podcasts such as Up First and Consider This. NPR's podcasting department has more than doubled in size over the past year as it strives to attract an increasingly diverse audience.
But advertising revenue doesn't cover all expenses, and NPR is in the red - as it has been for three of the past four years, according to The Washington Post. To generate more digital income, they plan on licensing How I Built This to streaming services like Netflix or Amazon.
NPR is not alone in cutting staff during this difficult economic climate; other media organizations, including The Washington Post, Gannett, NBC News and CNN have also recently made cuts. At least 100 employees will be affected by NPR's decisions which will be finalized by March 20. The network CEO stated he will consult with unions representing employees including SAG-AFTRA to ensure no disproportionate impacts are felt by people of color or any historically marginalized groups. Furthermore, they plan on improving organizational efficiency as well.
NPR is the latest media company to announce staff reductions, announcing Wednesday that 10% of their workforce would be lost in what CEO John Lansing described as a "major loss." He wrote in a memo to NPR employees that the network faces an $80 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30.
Lansing stated that these cuts are necessary in order for NPR to remain relevant and focus on what matters most to its listeners. He anticipates making a final decision about which positions will be eliminated by March 20, according to an NPR spokesperson.
As the global economy weakens, companies that made risky bets are scaling back their expansion plans - often leading to job cuts. Tech giants like Amazon and Google have signaled large layoffs ahead of anticipated slowdowns in growth.
NPR relies heavily on corporate sponsorships for much of its revenue, and that hasn't been an easy path in recent years. This issue has been a problem that NPR executives have been grappling with for some time, Lansing noted in his memo.
Last autumn, NPR embarked on a strategic reorganization that reinstated the role of chief content officer in both their newsroom and programming division. This move is intended to converge their coverage, as well as the digital strategies of their member stations, into one cohesive unit.
Many of NPR's efforts are designed to save costs, but they also aim to make the organization more competitive, especially with podcasts. NPR has had several popular podcasts that have become major parts of its business recently, including Planet Money and Throughline.
NPR is also creating a digital fundraising strategy through their new unified funding model, in which the public broadcaster and its member stations will share digital revenue. This plan seeks to generate more income without relying too heavily on traditional advertising sources that are becoming increasingly difficult in the industry.
NPR's decision to reduce 10% of their staff is a devastating blow, but it isn't the first time media companies have had to let employees go due to declining advertising revenue. Companies such as Gannett, Washington Post, Vox Media, BDG and Sinclair have all announced job cuts this year.
John Lansing, NPR CEO, confirmed that job cuts will impact at least 100 people but did not specify who would be affected or able to keep their positions. He expressed hope that final decisions on job cuts would be made by March 20th; furthermore, he pledged not to disproportionately impact people of color or any other historically marginalized groups in making these decisions.
These layoffs are just the latest in a string of cuts made at news organizations this year, many amid fears that an economic downturn might be imminent. Some organizations have cut hours and pay, while others have ceased publication altogether.
Some have launched podcasts, which are usually collections of audio stories or interviews. NPR's "The Daily" is one such example - it reworks news articles. Other podcasts cover topics like books, movies, sports, technology and more.
Other news organizations have begun training young journalists in reporting and producing radio-style reports online. NPR runs an internship program called Intern Edition that gives participants the skillset needed to craft story ideas, locate sources, record interviews, write a script and read it aloud.
NPR has also created other methods of sharing radio-style reports online. In 2005, it began creating podcasts about topics like gambling and politics.
Another way is through text messaging and photos from citizens reporting on local events, which could help NPR or a member station cover them live. Thomas believes such citizen journalism could be the future of broadcasting, explaining that it provides more detail than what traditional wire services have time for.
NPR has also encouraged its members and student interns to create their own podcasts, including original shows on topics like Benjamin Walker's Theory of Everything or Love and Radio.
NPR, a public radio network, broadcasts programs to hundreds of local public radio stations throughout America. It is managed by an executive director and board comprised of representatives from each member station.
NPR's mission is to deliver an objective daily product that upholds the highest standards of broadcast journalism. Additionally, they strive to offer extensive coverage of public events, issues and ideas as well as acquire and produce special public affairs programs.
NPR's programs are largely supported by charitable donations and corporate underwriting. Additionally, NPR receives grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - a government agency that funds public radio stations - as well as from private local and national media companies.
NPR provides a range of music and arts programming in addition to its core news programs. Popular programs include Fresh Air (1975), an interview program; Talk of the Nation (1991-2013), an interview and call-in show; and Car Talk, a weekly show that features interviews with famous car owners.
NPR does not disclose its overall revenue, but it has an impressive track record in corporate underwriting. Last year alone, they booked $134 million worth of such deals.
Recent growth in NPR's corporate underwriting has been driven primarily by the network's increasing podcast revenue. According to NPR, their podcasts have generated more than $10 million in ad revenue during this time.
Over the past three decades, NPR has actively opposed numerous attempts to restrict government funding for it. To this end, they have spent over $639,000 in lobbying expenses in an effort to prevent or defeat such initiatives.
Lansing made the announcement of job cuts with the assurance that NPR would collaborate with unions like SAG-AFTRA to make sure employees are not disproportionately impacted by them. He explained that union leaders had already spoken to him about potential impacts from job cuts, and he had informed them in advance about NPR's budget plan in order to prevent any layoffs.
NPR is not the first media company to reduce staff, but it does join several other top outlets who have recently done so: Washington Post, Gannett, NBC News and CNN have all recently reduced their staffs.