I generally listen to NPR while waking up and working in the morning and late afternoon news periods. But last week, my exposure was limited only to the time it takes me to turn off the clock radio I’ve forgotten how to program properly. This is because of WAMC’s bizarre pledge drive srategery. Your typical NPR or PBS sandwiches the begging for money around programming that people may want to hear. When I moved up here and the first pledge drive started, I realized to my increasing horror that WAMC’s pledge drives cut out the carrot and rely solely on the stick. No programming at all — not even news updates on the half hour! — just people asking for money, with maybe a brief interview with an author plugging a book that’s being used as bait or something.
That this creates radio that’s well beyond unlistenable goes without saying — without hesitation I can say that I would rather listen to any wingnut talk radio or all-bands-who-sound-like-Creed station or even a station consisting of nothing but Cokie Roberts editorial comments. What I don’t understand is how this could be even in the self-interest of the station. The canonical public media fundraising model seems to be theoretically sound — people will sit through the fundraising pitch to get to the news stories or Monty Python movie or whatever, and will therefore likely hear several while being reminded of why they like the station. Telethons bring in the Fabulous Baker Boys to try to maintain viewer interest. LGM blegs are, for better or worse, interspersed among the usual complaints about bad cocktails and local public radio stations. But who the hell could listen to someone read a 1-800 number hundreds of times an hour with nothing to break up the tedium? The fact that the pledge drives still go on forever suggest that the pitches can’t be very efficient on a per-minite basis.
I gather from a Facebook inquiry that this model is unique — does any other NPR station do this?