KUOW

Northwest Public Radio’s news/talk KUOW-AM/FM Seattle (1340/94.9) has been selected as the test station to receive donations from listeners who stream the station via Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon has teamed with National Public Radio (NPR) and KUOW in rolling out the new donation option.

NPR and KUOW were invited by Amazon in April to begin collecting donations, according to Current. NPR is not actively advertising the feature as it works out details on how to match donations to the preferred station of the donor. KUOW has let its listeners know about the new option for station donations. The station ran a spot in its live stream for two weeks when the feature was first made available. In its June pledge drive those messages were also broadcast on the station’s over-the-air signal.

Jemma Hovance, KUOW’s director of research and IT, says one-third of donations made through Alexa were from new donors, adding that approximately 25% of the station’s monthly streaming sessions come through Alexa. Hovance told Current that the station has received 35 donations through the smart-speaker donation option. These donations averaged $50 each, with one $200 donation also received.

Amazon and NPR have been able to take donations through Alexa since last summer. The fact that membership drives are held locally and benefit the individual station has been something NPR is trying to work through. NPR chief digital officer Tom Hjelm said Amazon is “not in a place where they are able to scale this and work directly with the entirety of the public radio system.” The exception was made for KUOW, which is in Amazon’s home market of Seattle. NPR is working with an advisory group of 10 member stations to figure out the best method to funnel donations made to NPR to stations. Currently if a listener tells Alexa “I want to donate to NPR,” that money is placed in a separate fund, not the general NPR fund, Hjelm told Current. The network then attempts to match the donation to the station the user was listening to. “If a donor came from a particular market, as best we can we try to identify that station so that the money and the data goes back to that station,” he said. For markets with more than one public radio station, NPR is planning to reach out to the individual donor to see where they want the funds distributed to. If a station cannot be identified the donation would go into a shared fund.

Hjelm says the eventual goal is to have listeners donate through Alexa “in as frictionless and automatic a way as possible.” By the time NPR is actively promoting the option, “we’ll be in a position to take advantage of it,” he said.