Radio Without Radio?

Why Desiring God Will No Longer Air on Radio Stations

September 12, 2006

Dear Friends,

We want to inform you about a major ministry transition that will occur at the end or September. The DG Board and Management Team believe that the Lord is directing us to redeploy our forces and resources on battlefronts where they will be more effective in winning the war. Therefore, after much prayer, research, and discussion, we have decided to cease broadcasting our radio program on traditional radio stations. The last day our program will be aired is Friday, September 29, 2006.

Now, just to be clear, we are not ceasing to broadcast our program. We will continue to produce Desiring God with John Piper. But instead of airing it on traditional radio stations, we will broadcast it on the internet and with alternative media like podcasts.

Radio without radio stations? Why? The first reason is because of a change in radio that is taking place, and the second reason has to do with investing resources strategically as this change occurs.

Radio Is Changing

We currently air the program on about 160 radio outlets around the country. We also broadcast it at desiringGod.org, OnePlace.com (a website featuring many evangelical teachers) and as a free podcast at iTunes.com. Now here’s the interesting thing. The folks at OnePlace.com tell us that Desiring God is among their most requested programs (50,000 to 70,000 requests per month). And our iTunes podcast consistently ranks in the top ten most requested programs in the “Religion & Spirituality” category (total subscribers currently unavailable). We frequently hear from online listeners. In fact, 85-90% of responses we receive from people who listen to our program come from those who listen online. But we’re not seeing growth in responses from radio station listeners, even though new stations were added this year.

Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. But one simple fact is that radio is changing. Just a few years ago traditional radio was still the best way for a ministry like ours to make our message accessible to the largest number of people. But we are finding that this is no longer the case. A rapid technological evolution is occurring. Five years ago most adults in the U.S. did not have access to the internet. Today most use the internet regularly and most have broadband access. Five years ago few regularly used portable MP3 players. Today the popularity of these portable devices is skyrocketing. 59 million iPods have been purchased since October 2001—30 million of those so far this year! What’s happening is that more and more listeners are choosing these new technologies over radio so that they may listen to teaching programs whenever and wherever they wish. This is especially true of those under 50 years old, who comprise the great majority of our listeners.

Spreading and Stewardship

Our calling from the Lord is to put our resources into as many hands, ears, and eyes as possible, while using our resources most strategically, so that people around the world will be transformed by the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. So there are four words that shape our strategy:

* Accessible: We want people to have convenient access to as many of our resources as possible. Our new website has been designed for this purpose.
* Portable: We want our resources, whenever possible, to be in a portable format, so that you and others can read, listen, or view them where and when it’s convenient for you.
* Transferable: We want many resources that you can easily pass along or show to others, so that the vision of God we love together will most effectively spread.
* Economical: We are pursuing strategies that we believe will be the most effective at spreading a passion for the supremacy of God, while keeping our costs and prices low.

In light of the changes in radio, and these four criteria, radio station broadcasts no longer seem like the best use of our personnel, time, or financial resources. Our radio broadcast has limited accessibility—it only plays where and when stations are airing it. Radio is generally portable, but you can’t choose when you will listen to what. And radio is not nearly as transferable as an internet broadcast for passing along to someone else.

But the economical criterion clinches it. Altogether it currently costs us about $500,000 per year to broadcast our program on about 160 stations. When we launched our program in February 2004, we were told to expect stations to support themselves through the financial gifts of listeners in about three to five years. However, after two-and-a-half years, our total radio-designated support is about 35% of annual station costs. And the growth trend is so gradual that it appears station broadcasts would need to be subsidized indefinitely by the generosity of supporters who do not listen to the program on the radio. This makes the prospect of putting the program on new stations very difficult.

Here is another way to view the strategic spreading difference between the internet and radio. In 2006 we expect to have over 12,000 new people respond to us because of our internet outreach. But it currently looks like we will only about 500-600 new people will respond because of radio. Therefore, in light of the low listener response and the high broadcasting costs of traditional radio, we believe that it would be wise to take what we are investing into stations and redirect it toward other creative spreading strategies that will reach thousands of new people more effectively.

Radionet Lives On

It is important to emphasize that we are not abandoning what we sensed was a call three years ago to broadcast a radio program. What we’re doing is responding to what we see the Lord doing, namely opening new technological doors for the spread of the gospel. Three years ago we called our strategy “Radionet.” The idea was to use radio to reach new people and point them toward all of our resources on the internet. We still believe in the idea. But because listeners are bypassing long-form teaching programs on the radio, we want to use that spreading tool in other ways.

One possibility we are researching is 60-second spots that would air on all sorts of radio stations. Many stations play such short-form programming for free. The spots would give listeners a brief, compelling word from Pastor John and encourage them to go to our website for more information. Pray with us as we discern the Lord’s direction for this and other possibilities.

Though it will relieve some financial pressure, this change in radio strategy does not mean that we no longer need financial support. Under God’s providence, our friends make it possible for us to extend the glorious gospel of our happy God to thousands. So now, with broadcasting fees no longer being paid, we can allocate funds to more effective strategies.

Thank you very much for standing with us in the spiritual war. Battlefronts and tactics change, but our mission does not. We consider it a great privilege to join with you in seeing as many people as possible freed from the suicidal slavery of selfish pleasures to enjoy the freedom of the Son of God and the true pleasures at his right hand. If you have any questions you would like to ask or comments you would like to make, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you would like to give us your views on how we can improve the program in our move to online only broadcasting, please take our survey.

Your partner in spreading a passion for the supremacy of God,

Jon Bloom
Executive Director

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