NPR’s Pledge Drive Challenge Grant Scam

NPR Pledge Drive ScamAh, the NPR pledge drive!

The only time I listen to NPR is when I’m driving. And since I hate driving and don’t own a car, I don’t often listen to NPR. And I’m glad, because it always annoys me. It is a parade of typical, biased, American media. If the reporting is on an official US enemy, the reporting will be distinctly negative. And so on. Today, I heard a report on the US military bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. And it was just taken as given that the US military was totally without any culpability and they were simply duped by those cunning Afghani forces. Really: it was that bad.

But it seems that every time I am forced to drive and end up listening to NPR, there is a pledge drive going on. One thing that’s interesting about this is how much NPR (and PBS, of course) are like the American government itself. The lower and middle classes pay for the vast majority of the operating costs. But both the US government and NPR do the bidding of their wealthiest members. I am given a guilt trip in the pledge drive to give money, but the rich actually get return on their investments.

The Challenge Grant Scam

There is an illustration of this that really bugs me because it offends my sense of math: the pledge drive “Challenge Grant.” This is when we are told that if there are (usually) $1,000 in pledges during the current break, that amount will be matched by some business. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t add up. Let’s assume that there are two pledge breaks per hour for 12 hours of each day. That’s 24 pledge breaks per day.

“Challenge Grants offer your company valuable exposure on KQED… During a KQED pledge drive, your company is recognized as the provider of a Challenge Grant.” —KQED

And the pledge drives are generally two weeks long. So that’s a total of 336 pledge breaks. (I’m certain that it’s less than that, so this gives NPR the benefit of the doubt.) There are also a lot of $500 Challenge Grants, and almost none above $1000. So the $336,000 in Challenge Grants is probably way high. It’s probably less than half of that.

But the KQED pledge drives generally raise about $2 million. Or at least that’s what they used to raise when I listened to the network more regularly. If that’s the case, then Challenge Grants make up at most 17%. Now that’s interesting, because that is suspiciously close to the 19% of NPR corporate funding. So I wonder if these are just contributions that would be given regardless.

Pledge Drive Math Doesn’t Add Up

The bigger issue, however, is that at 17% (At most!) of pledges, the Challenge Grants are always met. If even half of them failed, NPR wouldn’t come close to reaching its goals. So the Challenge Grants are just a lie to get people to pledge right now. But clearly, they would work a whole lot better if they were $10,000 instead of $1,000 — or the every more pathetic $500. So why aren’t they?

Well, KQED tells you why in its webpage, Pledge Challenge Grants, “Challenge Grants offer your company valuable exposure on KQED.” Indeed they do. The company name is mentioned at least three times and it is often accompanied by extra verbiage about how the company has been supplying fine whatever to the Bay Area since whenever. It is, in other words, straight advertising to a relatively affluent audience. And it doesn’t sound like an advertisement; it sounds like the company is just socially responsible.

The Big Lie

I find it really annoying because the hosts lie about it. They talk about how they will have to send the money back if the challenge isn’t met. And that’s true; it’s just that the challenge isn’t ever not met during the pledge drive. In fact, I assume that during a 10 minute pledge drive, the challenge is met within two minutes tops.

I know a lot about NPR pledge drives. If you want to know more, check out June Thomas’ article, Let’s Get Those Phones Ringing! The Cunning Genius of the Public Radio Fundraising Drive. But they are still effective. Yesterday, I decided that I really should send them some money. And then I stopped myself because that is crazy!

Instead, I went over to Democracy Now! and donated the money to them. There are two reasons. First, they need it a lot more. Second, it’s a really important news outlet whereas NPR provides better but not qualitatively different news coverage than CNN. And that reminds me, I need to give to FAIR too!

Remember: the Koch brothers don’t give to Democracy Now! and Fair. But you know who they do give to, right?

Cornerstone Content Begins

Cornerstone ContentI finally started my first project to create cornerstone content. This is a fascinating thing about the internet and search engines. Having a hundred small pages on a subject does not get you to rank nearly as high as having a single substantial page. So given that I have at least a couple dozen pages on various aspects of Don Quixote, I’m in the process of creating just such a page. But it will be months in the making. I just wrote the beginning of it. The article is called, Don Quixote in English Language Translation.

Thus far, it is all original content. In fact, the article is worth checking out. I talk about what Don Quixote is. People think of it as a novel, but it’s actually two novels. And they are rather different. It’s too bad that the first novel isn’t published alone any more. As it is, I think the thickness of the book puts people off. And the first novel stands all by itself. In fact, there really is nothing in the second book that is part of our cultural identity. And I say that as one who thinks that second novel is superior. Anyway, check it out. Even though it is a page (as opposed to a post, which is what this article is), you can still leave comments.

Eventually, I will get to the point of doing a summary of the stuff I’ve written about on the blog. This is actually kind of backwards. The idea of cornerstone content is that you are supposed to start with that. But who thinks about such things when you start a blog? In fact, even after all my work with Quality Nonsense (where I always have to think about SEO), I didn’t think about this kind of stuff on Frankly Curious. My thinking started to change when I installed the Yoast plugin for WordPress.

Yoast is a bit of nag software that reminds you of things and alerts you to things that you do wrong. For example, it has you assign a “focus keyword” for each post. For this article, it is “cornerstone content.” And then it is very unhappy if it constitutes less than 0.5% of the words you’ve written. At the same time, it doesn’t like it if it represents more than 2.5%, because apparently Google will think that you are “keyword stuffing” and would potentially see the page as spam.

How Cornerstone Content Will Make Us Famous!

Another big thing that Yoast does is keep track of the focus keywords that you’ve used in the past. If you’ve used the focus keyword once before, it warns you and mentions that you might check out it’s page, Using Cornerstone Content to Make Your Site Rank. But if you’ve used the focus keyword more than once before, it complains. It’s complained a lot about “Donald Trump” and “Bernie Sanders” and “Hillary Clinton.” Which, makes me think that the next election cycle I might start a page for the election itself. That’s undoubtedly what smart and experienced bloggers do.

In addition to this, my “boss” Toni thinks that Frankly Curious gets half the traffic that it ought to considering the quantity and quality of the content. And I would definitely like to get more traffic. And that’s especially true when it comes to something like Don Quixote. the truth is that there aren’t really any sites that answer the common question, “Which Don Quixote should I read?” And given the fact that I’m also a big advocate for the book, I’d like to have more people ending up here.

But using cornerstone content has a good aspect to it that has nothing to do with making the site more popular. I do want to put together all my thoughts on Don Quixote and other subjects. Just the same, most people are not interested in reading 20,000 word articles. So this is perfect. People can get here because Google likes these long articles, but then they can quickly find links to specific information that they are looking for.

Of course, I don’t know how well this is all going to work. The experts claim this is the way you are supposed to do things. Right now, a search of “don quixote translations” brings up my very old article, About to Read Don Quixote in the top ten. It’s a clever idea for an article but I know infinitely more now. And I’m keen to share that knowledge.