Art Carden  

Listener-Supported Radio: What Should I Do?

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A lot of the radio stations and programs to which I listen in the car and in my office are "listener-supported," which means regular pledge drives and seemingly-endless appeals for money. I'd probably prefer that they simply monetize my ears by being ad-supported, but even that has its drawbacks. At least one station offers listeners the option of buying subscriber-only access to their pledge-drive-free online station, but I hesitate to buy in even at $5 a month because I'm pretty sure it would land me on every junk mailing list in North America.

So what should I do, dear readers? Grit my teeth and suffer through it? Download more music and arrange my own playlists? Or subscribe to satellite radio?

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CATEGORIES: Microeconomics

COMMENTS (18 to date)

Do what I do. Download a bunch of podcasts and listen to them in the car.

Colin Fraizer writes:


Mark Rand writes:

Most organizations will keep your information private if you ask them to do so. If you fear you cannot trust them to keep your information private, subscribe under a modified version of your name: Arthur or A.J. instead of Art, for example. The modified name won't add any protection, but you won't have any doubt about the source of any junk mail you receive after that.

I've done that for years (using dozens of variations on my name) and only had one problem. When I contacted the offending organization, they immediately stopped renting out my name.

Mike Hammock writes:

Art, do what Steve Fritzinger said. There are so many quality podcasts that there is no excuse for being stuck with radio. If you want, I'll send you a list of brilliant history podcasts that will keep you entertained for a long, long time.

Lars P writes:

Yup, you can get 80% of those shows (and much other good stuff) as podcasts now, and stream to it through your smart phone in the car.

Radio is becoming obsolete.

Of course, this does not really help with the financing.

shecky writes:

You really that worried about junk mail?

Frank McCormick writes:

Get audio CDs from The Great Courses.

Peter writes:

Everyone should have two email addresses, one real and one 'fake'. Use the fake one to avoid getting spam on your real address. Use the real one for important stuff and companies you trust.

Lupis42 writes:

Audiobooks. Podcasts. Pandora/Spotify/Google Play music.

Radio is for those unprepared moments when non of the above can be found.

F. Lynx Pardinus writes:

I'm curious--I typically ignore the spoken word (when I'm not driving a vehicle) because I read faster than I listen, stay focused more when reading than listening (I usually end up counterproductively surfing the web while I listen), and I seem to retain more information from reading than listening. Is my experience typical or atypical?

RPLong writes:

Satellite radio, Spotify, YouTube, EconTalk, etc.

Tom Jackson writes:

I listen to a lot of podcasts, too, and my own music, but don't overlook audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks downloaded from local public libraries on Overdrive, and to public domain books from

Arthur_500 writes:

If you want to listen to something other than ads then your only choice is to preselect what you want to listen to and download that. Remember, by doing so, your convenience is eliminating any sort of actual learning. You have already made up your mind what you want to hear.

NZ writes:

I'd probably prefer that they simply monetize my ears by being ad-supported

Do you really?

I've noticed that while TV commercials have improved to the point where maybe 50% are watchable and 20% are even rewatchable, radio ads remain almost always obnoxious and only get worse upon repeated exposure.

There are some rational explanations:

  • Radio is a more limited medium, so ad creatives have less leeway to work in and fewer ways to convey the necessary (but usually not entertaining) call to action and key product/brand info.
  • People tend to listen to the radio while driving, which means ads can't refer audiences as easily to websites or other media the way TV commercials can. This is another thing driving the poor entertainment/information ratio.
  • TV markets are much more finely segmented, so if you're watching TV you're more likely to see an ad that's at least somewhat relevant to you.

During pledge drive season, you can at least steer clear of listener-supported programs for long stretches and come back when you know the drive will be over. With ad support, the annoyance is basically unavoidable.

Partick writes:

Subscribe to audible and listen to audiobooks. I've found it's the best way to pass time in the car during the commute.

ThomasH writes:

Join as a sustaining member and turn in to the other listener supported station or C-Span during the pledge week.

Daniel Artz writes:

If you do decide to go with subscriber radio, do NOT assume that the list price means anything. When I purchased a new car about 4 years ago, it came with an XM radio and 4 months free service. The price was then going to go to $17.95 a month. I called close to the end of the free trial period to cancel, and the conversation went something like this: XM Radio Rep.: "why have you decided to cancel? ". Me: "Because the service is simply not worth $18 a month to me." XM Rep. "Don't you like XM Radio?" Me: "Yes, I like it, but not $18 a month worth." There was some haggling, and I got another 6 months at $4.95 a month. Then I called to cancel again. XM would not renew the "special pricing", so I cancelled. When Sirius merged with XM, I received an offer to restart service with a 5 month "Special" at $4.95 a month, which I accepted. But again, as soon as the special pricing was set to expire, I called to cancel; I'm currently on my 4th "special" at $4.95 a month (set to expire 12/31), and I fuly expect that to be extended again when I call to cancel in December. I like the XM Radio service, and at $5 a month, I'm willing to pay for it. If and when they ever insist on $12 or $18 a month, I'll do without it.

emerich writes:

Hard to believe the dead space filled with ads is really of so little value to you. The combination of all the above is the answer: podcasts; pay the subscription if you can't find podcasts; programs downloaded on your ipod/ipad.

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