NPR doesn’t have much substantial competition; they’re a multi-skilled media outlet capable of covering various news with a powerful reputation. To top it all off, they’re membership-driven, and are widely circulated through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
On Facebook, almost 1.5 million fans “like” NPR. This past Friday, they used their status update function to seek interview subjects who had experienced smoking “fake pot”. Over 1,100 people commented.
The dialogue wasn’t overly helpful in the sense that most comments weren’t volunteer efforts, but perhaps they generated a discussion about the validity of the story, suggesting the reporter was heading in the wrong direction. How interesting, that a reporter might (unsuccessfully) use a social media resource to find a subject, and be overwhelmed with potentially helpful responses on the content of the story…
The high number of responses to an NPR status update isn’t unusual. Members are consistently linked in to the efficiently updated online news. The site and its social media connections are well-kept and promoted, which is especially key in maintaining a happy group of members who pay the bills.
NPR is supported by foundation grants, personal member donations, and corporate sponsors. Public Service Announcements are injected in radio podcasts such as This American Life, urging listeners to donate what they can to ensure the quality of NPR broadcasting continues.
“MinnPost”, a non-profit online publication based in Minnesota. Their aim, like all other non-profit media organizations, is to “create a sustainable business model for this kind of journalism, supported by corporate sponsors, advertisers, and members who make annual donations. High-quality journalism is a community asset that sustains democracy and quality of life, and we need people who believe in it to support our work.”
Like NPR, MinnPost is member-supported and relies heavily on donations. Upwards of 2,300 members made donations to the three-year-old publication between $10 and $20,000 per year.
Their site features multimedia stories from the Minnesota region, as well as international, arts, political, and “community voices” , a section about community issues ranging from regional to international.
Both NPR and MinnPost demand member support so they may continue to produce high-quality, honest journalism while avoiding catering to advertisers’ agendas. The recent uprising of such publications is both surprising and refreshing in the age of recession and cynicism; people still want quality news, and are willing to pay the price.