Tuesday, November 26, 2013

WBAI’s phony, manufactured money crisis

According to Steve Brown, as he states in his letter to Pacifica Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, that's exactly what it is:

Tracy –

Love you for trying! But the only ones whom your sensible explanation will reach are (a) those who understand the situation, and therefore need no explanation, and (b) those who also understand the situation, but pretend they don’t, and try to keep anyone else from understanding it.

I refer, of course, most specifically to Ed Manfredonia, who is obviously too smart to be as stupid as he pretends. I also include whichever persons or organizations may have prompted and/or paid Ed Manfredonia to behave as an incontinent troll, whose mission is clearly to befoul as many parts of the Pacifica community as he can slither his way into, sometimes with faux naïve accusations of financial impropriety, but more often with vile, sexually-loaded attacks on various board members of WBAI and Pacifica.

Please ignore trolls like Manfredonia and save your (surprisingly still abundant) energy for the things that matter -- for as long as they continue to matter – which, given Pacifica’s present trajectory, might not be much longer.

Now – about positive effort: May I say (for the umpteenth time) that it is of no help to keep repeating that Pacifica’s troubles are caused by its taking in less money than it spends. I mean, duh! This is no more helpful than saying that a prize fighter lost a fight because he decided to step into the ring with one arm tied behind his back. The helpful and pertinent information in both cases would be -- not what was done -- but why it was done.

Prize fighters are not stupid enough to step into the ring with one arm tied behind their backs. Even if they were, their handlers would not allow it. Unfortunately, WBAI’s handlers are not so conscientious. They do let WBAI step into the fundraising ring with one arm tied behind its back. In fact, they have been letting it do so, every day, for at least the past 10 years. Which is why WBAI can’t raise enough money to stay alive.

The truth is, WBAI was always capable of getting enough money to cover its expenses – except for the fact that, from as early as 2003, all of its handlers (aka general managers), when shown how to raise large sums of money, would invariably say, like Bartelby, “I would prefer not to.” Hard to believe?

Here are some examples.

EXAMPLE 1: When WBAI managers were shown (as early as ten years ago, and every year since), how they could collect the 30% of fund-drive pledges that traditionally went uncollected (a loss of about $1.2 million per year, or about $12 million to date), each one declined – even though collecting that money involved no expense, nor any drain on station staff or resources. To this day, station management still “would prefer not to,” and still, therefore, continues to lose up to $1.2 million per year (a sum that, all by itself, would be enough to pay off all of WBAI’s debts, and ensure its ongoing solvency virtually forever).

EXAMPLE 2: As early as 2003, it was explained to WBAI management how to place membership ads in left-leaning publications -- such as The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Columbia Review of Journalism, Mother Jones, and many others, as well as how to place WBAI “teaser” banners on left-leaning websites such as AlterNet, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, TruthDig, etc. When test ads and teaser banners were created, it was found that they could raise up to $60,000 each time they ran (the average was $15,000-$40,000), with the station having virtually nothing to do but deposit the checks.

But that wasn’t all. That’s because the money raised when the ad ran was not the only benefit of the ad. For each ad also signed up as many as 1,400 new WBAI members. And since each member is worth approximately $133 per year to WBAI (i.e., $2,400,000 yearly revenue divided by 18,000 members), it meant that an ad which made up to $60,000 when it ran, would also generate an additional $125 x 1,400 = $175,000 in donations during the rest of the year, for a total of up to $235,000 per year. (My numbers may be slightly off, but their thrust is 100% accurate.)

But that was for just one ad, running one time, in one publication. If a successful ad were to run three times a year in that publication, it could (allowing for a 50% fall-off due to reader fatigue) raise up to $352,000 a year. And If 2 or 3 or new ads were created for that publication (as, in fact, they were) the amount could be as high as $1,056,000 per year in additional revenue, with virtually no effort on the part of the station (other than the effort of depositing the checks). As with the uncollected pledge revenue, mentioned above, this source of revenue, too, all by itself, could have paid off all of WBAI’s debts, and ensured its solvency virtually forever. But management was not, and is still not interested (don’t even ask about the half-dozen feeble-minded reasons offered for its lack of interest).

[Whoops. Last minute note: As of 8 PM tonight, Berthold has tentatively given me a yes on fundraising ads. Let’s see how it goes.]

EXAMPLE 3: Offering 3-month trial memberships for $1 to listeners who are non-members “so you can sample the joys and rewards of being a WBAI supporter.” Why do this? Because although we have barely 14,000 members who send us an average of $133 a year, we have approximately 182,000 non-member listeners who never send us a dime. But we can assume that these non-member listeners like us, and like our programs, because – well, because they are listeners. So allowing them send us $1 for a 3-month trial membership would give them a way to relieve their liberal guilt about listening for nothing (which is a kind of theft). We would make this offer for 1 minute, at the end of every show, 24 hours a day, for two weeks. We would repeat it every 4 months. I estimate we would get at least 25% of those listeners to respond. That would be about 45,500. We would then have their names, addresses, emails and, perhaps, phone numbers. This would enable us to promote them in the usual way, by selective email and snail mailings. Within a year we could transform up to 25% of those into full members. This would bring WBAI membership to approximately 27,000 within 12 months, higher than any WBAI membership level in history. These members, all things being equal, could generate up to $3.6 million in revenue – an amount that, with its concomitant $900,000-$1 million in grants, bequests, and CPB payments, would double WBAI’s current revenue stream and allow it to hire a full-time 20-person paid staff, pay off its debts, and easily fund ongoing operating expenses (without having to conduct ruinous month-long fund drives).

EXAMPLE 4 ... but why go on? I have a dozen of these, and I am sure you get the idea. Which is that WBAI’s crisis is, as it has always been, a phony, manufactured money crisis, with no basis in fact, but only in stupidity and incompetence, fortified by overweening arrogance. Without a significant change in management, and management attitude, things can only end badly for WBAI, in the short term, as they will also end badly for Pacifica, in the long term (which, given the way things are going, may not be very long at all).

Stephen M Brown

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