William H. Kling Award, PRI
William H. Kling Award, PRI

For Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Public Radio.  June 8, 1997.

Remarks of Steve Salyer, President of PRI.

The William H. Kling Award for innovation and entrepreneurship in public radio recognizes a person within our industry whose creativity, drive, and willingness to take risks embody the entrepreneurial spirit. The award winner this year is David Giovannoni.

David is a pioneering researcher and analyst.  Every day his work informs the decisions of public radio programmers, producers, and networks.  The company he founded in 1977, Audience Research Analysis, and its innovative product, AudiGraphics, are now woven deeply into the fabric of our industry.

He has revolutionized public radio by changing how we measure audience service.  His prolific writings and his landmark studies have given the system powerful tools to create better programming and to make better programming decisions.

Some people worship David’s research; others fear its effects.   But all agree he’s pushed fundamental questions about program value, price, and impact to the forefront of system debate.

These are some of the best-known aspects of David’s remarkable career.  But if you talk to those who have worked closely with David, many feel his work has helped them personally.

David has created a new language – a whole new culture in which producers and stations can communicate.  We now talk on the same terms – loyalty, power, affinity – and we use them to serve audiences more effectively.   Before David, most of that language didn’t exist.  Now it’s vernacular.

He invented the concept of program economics as we’re applying it in public radio today – a tool to quantify listener-derived income, like underwriting and membership.  Before Giovannoni, the main consideration for programmers was the expense of a program.  He added the question, "What does the show bring in?" and offered equations to help provide answers.  As government funds dwindle, and stations increasingly learn to operate on business models, program economics become critical.

Clearly related to this, David was one of the first to ask, "What are the true measures of public service?"  One of his most passionately held notions is that public radio should always strive to be a stronger public service for all Americans.

He’s probably the most gifted teacher in our system.  How many of us have sat in a numbers seminar – I know I have – and just when a few eyes are beginning to glaze over from data overload, David stands up and says, "Now what this means in plain English is…" and immediately the air clears.  He has uncanny gifts for simplifying, for making difficult concepts understandable and accessible.  Again, we and our listeners profit.

Best of all is the empowerment David’s work has provided nearly every public radio professional.  One veteran of public radio summed it up wonderfully, by saying, "The beauty of David’s entrepreneurship is that he has made us entrepreneurs; he’s made us smarter.

All these qualities speak powerfully to the Kling Award’s criteria: honoring innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as breakthroughs in ways of thinking that encourage others to pursue pioneering public broadcasting avenues.

Remarks of David Giovannoni.

The Kling award is only a few years old.  But the spirit of innovation that it recognizes is the key to making our industry the best public service it can be.

Certainly the spirit of innovation characterizes PRIboth in its programming, and in its distribution of that programming.  For instance, PRI has raised the level of dialog with stations as its has worked to place the right programs on the right stations at the right times at the right price.

  • The goal of putting the right programs on the right stations recognizes that not all programs are for every station – each program serves a certain kind of person, and that may not be the person your station is striving to serve.

  • The goal of airing the right programs at the right times recognizes the economics of programming – that national programming is not just an expense, but an investment in public service, and that the return on that investment rests as much on decisions made at the station as it does with the producer or the distributor.

Public radio would be a very dull spot on the dial without its investment in innovationparticularly innovative new talent and programming that keep it fresh and viable.  Public radio would be a very inconspicuous spot on the dial without its investment in understanding its audience.   Talent and understanding.  Together, they work in concert to make public radio more important to even more people.

I hear the return on this investment every day, on the air.  That's the return I seek.  That's what makes public radio the best radio.