Is NPR Hip?

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By Lauren Smith
Staff Writer

In a society where technology is constantly transforming and changing, how does a non-profit organization like NPR (National Public Radio) stay relevant when your 39 years old and air on what might be considered a dying medium? Simple, you stay ahead of the trends.

First of all, some of you might be saying, “What is NPR?” Not everyone is familiar with the company which defines itself as a “not-for-profit, privately supported, membership organization”. I’m sure that description has certainly piqued your interest. But NPR has become of late, more popular with the 20 something and college crowds. Formerly stereotyped as being the news outlet for conservative, 50 something white men, according to NPR, their listenership has gone up 40% since 2000.

So how is it that NPR is gaining listeners when other radio stations and markets are losing them? By making themselves available on several different formats, they’ve seen continued growth. NPR can be listened to in the Scranton area on the local PBS affiliate radio station WVIA 89.9 fm. NPR is also available through Sirius Satellite radio, downloadable podcasts, free streaming radio, and through Worldwide and Worldspace which is available to over 100 countries. If that wasn’t enough, you can access the text only version of NPR’s website from your PDA or smart phone at thin.npr.org.

Another reason why NPR has been able to reach younger demographics is due to social media marketing. According to businessblogconsulting.com, many not-for-profits like NPR are turning to social media marketing instead of direct marketing because it is more effective at reaching younger, more sophisticated demographics. Some forms of social media that NPR has already embraced are company blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.

In an online post dated from April 5th, 2004 Rick Bruner of ExecutiveSummary.com writes, “National Public Radio personality Chris Lydon is one of the only folks blogging, as far as I can tell.”

Now if you check NPR’s website there are almost 20 blogs from different NPR personalities and employees, all categorized by topic such as music, news, or programs.

Some of the other ways NPR has taken to reaching its new younger audience is with a Twitter and Facebook page. As of March 4th, 2009, NPR has almost 34,000 followers on Twitter and can be found “tweeting” about NPR blogs, news, media trends, and all things NPR.

On NPR’s Facebook page there are discussions posted to fans with topics such as “What else should NPR be doing on Facebook?” and “Under 30 and listening to NPR? Tell me more.” Under the first discussion, Andy Carvin of the NPR Social Media Desk asks fans,

“Would you want to see more of our content appearing automatically and available for your profile pages? Should we use the discussions to host chats with NPR personalities?”

Hundreds of NPR “fans” respond to their Facebook discussions offering helpful tips and praise for the non-profit organization, specifically those of the younger demographic that NPR hopes to target.

So what does this tell businesses in our struggling economy? Make yourself accessible, and most importantly listen to your consumers, in NPR’s case – your audience.

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