There has been a thread of recent posts relating to an online business model in the emerging public media blogosphere that pubcasters should be reading. I linked to the first two on 8/28, but I'll collect them all here and add a couple of comments. Suggest reading them sequentially.
From 7/31, Jake Shapiro posted one titled Membership, talking about revenue sources for podcasting, and specifically about the applicability of the membership model. John Sutton followed on 8/27 with Will Listeners Voluntarily Support Web-based Services?, bringing in the "Stairway to Given" concept. Then Jake responded to John's post on 9/5 with Ooh, it makes me wonder. On the same day, Rob Paterson comments on both in Adding Value in a Digital Era - Business Model for Public Radio?.
I'm going to just throw a little math into the discussion about relationships online. In round numbers and on the average, public radio listeners (individuals) use their station about 8 hours per week, while public television viewers (households) use their station about 2 hours per week. So the turnover of audience for public television is much greater than for public radio and, because of that, we know that for a given reach and frequency goal (serving here as a stand-in for effective branding, promotion, etc.) the greater the turnover the more spots you need to run to achieve it.
But online use has much greater turnover still. Looking at my radio operation's web stats tonight, nearly ¾th of its unique visitors over the last 13 weeks made only one visit. Only about 15% of site visitors stayed long enough to even count as listeners if they were recording it for Arbitron. And just over 60% visited only one page. This isn't a fertile environment for relationship giving unless you're counting it as deepening a relationship that started on air -- which I suspect most public stations are doing because that's how they're building their sites. Parenthetically, one interesting exception to this is web listening. The last time I charted this, the on-off listening patterns were about the same as one would see looking at a station's Arbitron mechanicals, though the overall numbers only added a couple of percent to our over-the-air listening.
I think that this suggests that, in addition to TSL and TSV, we need to be conscious of TSB -- time spent browsing -- and look for ways to increase it. One sip of water does not a well make, but my station's web stats are suggesting that building online listening and making local/regional news content prominent (the other thing that seems to have better performance in this regard) are places to start. I also like Terry Heaton's suggestions about aggregating blogs and other locally generated content. --Dennis