LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Public broadcasting sponsors have a new name to add to their Rolodex. Stephen Moss is the new CEO of National Public Media, the corporate sponsorship firm for National Public Radio, PBS and WGBH, taking the reins for departing CEO Robert Williams, the founder of National Public Broadcasting who retired in June.
Mr. Moss is new to radio and public broadcasting, but has 25 years of experience domestically and abroad in traditional and new media, including early stints with Thompson Financial Publishing and McGraw Hill's business publications. More recently, he's held positions at Microsoft, where he launched MSN's video service and eventually ran Bill Gates' Corbis Corporation as general manager; at Double Click Media in China, where he launched the company as CEO; and as VP-business development at Evri, a company that supplies search and social media tools to newspapers like The Washington Post and The Times of London. Mr. Moss also spent five years working with CNN during his days at Seavex Limited, a TV and print media rep firm that most closely resembles his new role at National Public Media.
"This is a chance to get back into an organization where I have a real passion about the media we are creating and the mission for the company," he said.
Mr. Moss is also keenly aware of the initial challenge presented by public media sponsorships -- the limitations placed on the ad messages themselves (i.e. no sales-based promotions). But NPR has found ways to closely align sponsors and content, most recently with the rebranded Ally Bank (formerly GMAC)'s sponsorship of "Planet Money." The consumer-oriented financial program teamed with Ally's new consumer-oriented image, following GMAC's troubles as a primary lender to now-bankrupt General Motors and Chrysler.
"What companies get really excited about is scale and organization, and all of that exists here," Mr. Moss said. "There are different ways of connecting those sponsors and advertisers to an incredibly influential audience."
Mr. Moss represents the first major hire under new NPR President-CEO Vivian Schiller, who joined the radio company in January from the New York Times, where she ran operations for NYTimes.com. Ms. Schiller said Mr. Moss' diverse background in sales, technology and ad representation makes him "the kind of person that can succeed in public media. We recognized that Steve is the kind of guy who would be very successful, collaborative, open-minded and ambitious with an asterisk next to it -- ambitious about a cause, which we are."
Paula Kerger, president-CEO of PBS, said she was drawn to Mr. Moss' experience with helping companies reinvent themselves, which PBS and NPM have been attempting in recent months. PBS opened its vast video vault in the spring with a Hulu-esque relaunch of PBS.org, designed to attract more online video advertisers, while NPR launched an NPR News app for the iPhone that has logged over 1 million downloads since August. That's in addition to the 15 million monthly downloads of NPR podcasts, which routinely rank among the iTunes top 10 most downloaded.
"We're really looking at expanding our work in social media and the online distribution of content where it's appropriate," Ms. Kerger said. "Steve is a real change agent who will help us bring teams together to look at these properties more holistically."
Despite the continued audience growth, NPR has suffered the same revenue woes as its radio peers, with revenues down an estimated 23% to 25% in the first half of 2009, a figure on par with the industry-wide losses reported by the Radio Advertising Bureau in July. Ms. Schiller said NPR had a better-than-expected third quarter in sponsorship dollars, and expects to see similar improved performance in fourth quarter.
"I don't want to say we're out of the woods just yet, but everyone seems to like using the phrase 'green shoots,' and we're definitely seeing those," she said.