A few months ago we announced that Public Radio International was no longer going to be our distributor, starting in July. Today we’re announcing what we’re doing instead. It’s this: we’re going to distribute the show ourselves.
What’s this mean to you? Nothing! This American Life will remain on the same radio stations at the same times. Our podcast and website will be unaffected in any way. The only thing that’s different is the way we get the audio to your local public radio station. Public Radio International used to do that job for us. Now an outfit called Public Radio Exchange – PRX – will be delivering the audio files and billing stations. All the other things a distributor does – selling underwriting, encouraging stations to put our show on at better times – we’ve hired people to do for us. Radio – and the technology of moving audio over the Internet – has changed so much that at this point, there’s little a distributor can do for us that we can’t do on our own.
This is more detail than you ever wanted to know about how a radio show gets on the air, right?
When word got out that PRI would no longer be our distributor, the most surprising call I got was from Sirius-XM satellite radio. They asked how much money it would take to get me to quit public radio completely, to abandon terrestrial radio the way Howard Stern did, and play exclusively on Sirius-XM. So flattering! But of course, no chance of that happening. For better or worse, I seem to be a public radio lifer.
We have no beef at all with our old distributor, PRI. They did a great job for us for a long time, and were lovely to work with too. They’re smart and capable and great people to be in business with. When we first signed up with them in 1997, they doubled the number of stations carrying our show from around 110 to twice that in just three months, which was incredible.
The company that’s going to deliver the audio files of our show to stations, PRX, has this website (prx.org, duh) where anyone can post a story or a full series and try to get radio stations to run it. What they’re about is the democratization of public radio. Making it easy for you or any newcomer to get their work into the hands of program directors. I admire that. They also try to bring new voices onto the air with projects like the Public Radio Talent Quest, which they did a few years ago and which led to the creation of Snap Judgment and State of the Re:Union. Apparently we’ll be the biggest show on PRX, and I’m glad that in some small way this may help them popularize the PRX platform as a way to deliver programming. When you get tired of being a listener and decide to make your own show, seriously, you should give them a look.