Some feel that this attitude—that the primary way NPR should serve its listeners is by supporting its member stations—keeps it from leading and innovating in the digital audio space. Shouldn’t it be focusing instead on its audience, wherever works best?
“The most uncharitable way to read this is to call this a hostage situation,” said Nick Quah, author of the popular digital audio industry publication Hot Pod. NPR, he said, “probably has the potential to be the most reliable network of journalists across the country that can serve listeners and readers directly. The tension I personally feel as a consumer is that the member stations are holding them back. NPR’s original mission was to serve the member stations, understanding those stations as proxy of the American public.”
This structure and this set of incentives have very negative consequences, Glass told me. “When it comes to innovation, they’ve always been terrible,” he said. “They have a terrible track record. The Fox Network in any given year invents new and more kinds of shows than NPR does by far.”