GUEST: Hal Trencher, Senior Vice President, NYPR, WNYC Studios (former Vice President, Sponsorship Sales, NYPR)

               Ivan Zimmerman, General Counsel for New York Public Radio



  • Presentation from Hal Trencher
  • Q&A with Hal Trencher and Ivan Zimmerman
  • Public Comment
  • Community Advisory Board business




  • Hal came from AOL and the for-profit media background, attracted to the station by NYPR’s people and mandate.
  • The sponsorship team historically functioned as a “liberal arts type organization” in which “everyone did a bit of everything” without specialists in particular areas. Hal created an agency team and a local team. One works with advertising agencies and the other is more focused on local sponsorship for the broadcast. Some sponsors have found NYPR on their own, while other relationships have been initiated by the organization. There is a higher standard for who is being accepted as an underwriter than there is for advertisers in the for-profit marketplace.
  • Broadcast radio underwriting used to be ~65% of sponsorship revenue, with the balance coming from podcast underwriting. Podcast underwriting revenue has now surpassed broadcast revenue.
  • Hal’s team has recently made a greater effort to work with performing arts (i.e. Broadway) sponsors. Unconventional sponsorship opportunities, including at physical venues for WNYC-affiliated events (i.e. at the Skirball Center for Alec Baldwin’s upcoming Here’s the Thing event) are also being developed.
  • Sponsorship has increased 82% since 2015, from $13.8mm to $30.7mm. NYPR has focused on increasing average commitment size by 58% within the last year.
  • Major underwriters include Quicken Loans, Blue Apron, Squarespace, Audible, ZipRecruiter, Morgan Stanley, Constant Contact, New York Presbyterian, Harry’s, and the Hospital for Special Surgery. The ten largest underwriters make up ~35% of underwriting support. Most buy across the entire NYPR portfolio.
  • The podcasting boom is a transformational opportunity for media. Podcasting listenership and revenue figures are staggering. There will be a temptation for podcasters to increase ad density. Because of NYPR’s unique value proposition—a clean, brand-safe environment—the organization strives to avoid this.


Q&A WITH Hal Trencher and Ivan Zimmerman

  • How much time is devoted to sponsorship in a broadcast hour?

○        Up to 6 minutes of underwriting messages in a typical hour (versus 18 minutes in an average hour of commercial radio). NYPR has no intention of increasing this in the future.

  •  How long are NYPR’s podcasts and what is the typical distribution of underwriting messages for the format?

○        Podcasts are typically 10-60 minutes in length. For the typical 30-60-minute podcast, approximately 6 underwriting messages are presented: 2 in the pre-roll (before content), 2 in the mid-roll (halfway through) and 2 in the post-roll. Shorter podcasts typically do not include underwriting messages at the halfway point. Listeners are less likely to listen through messages in the post-roll than those in the pre- or mid-roll.

  • Can sponsors ask for specific time slots or programs?

○        This is common in the podcast format, where sponsors typically have extended relationships with particular programs. In broadcasts, underwriting messages are typically scheduled within time windows, not by program.

  • How can a listener differentiate between NPR and WNYC underwriting messages?

○        WNYC hosts typically read WNYC underwriting messages. They also generally feature language like “WNYC is supported by” or “Support for WNYC is provided by.” Syndicated underwriting messages (i.e. those included in an NPR-distributed show) are typically read by hosts of that show, or are read within the show. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the station to comply with FCC guidelines on underwriting messages. WNYC has from time to time rejected NPR underwriting messages.

  • Are sponsorship messages regulated in the non-broadcast space (i.e. online stream or podcasts)?

○        The underwriting and enhanced underwriting guidelines are only applicable to over-the-air broadcasts (i.e. AM and FM station). With that said, the tone of on-air underwriting messages is typically reflected in their podcast counterparts, staying true to the NYPR family of brands.  NYPR generally avoids any form of direct-response messaging, even where allowable. The FTC regulates the kind of messages that can be conveyed through the digital formats mentioned.

  • How codified is the approval process for underwriting messages at NYPR?

○        There are immutable guidelines that are both regulatory and internal. Every message must go through discussion in a multi-level approval process before it sees airtime. Anything that feels wrong (fails the “gut-check” or may be construed as at odds with the values that NYPR stands for) is not considered.

  • How would the station deal with association with controversial sponsors?

○        There is a diligence process for any new underwriters. If, at any point in the relationship, unsavory or otherwise harmful behavior is discovered, the underwriting relationship would cease (i.e. no further messages would be broadcast over the air or in new podcast episodes). Moreover, the presence of an underwriting relationship is not an endorsement of a sponsor by the station; it simply means that the sponsor likes NYPR and its content (does not imply any reciprocal approval).

  • Is there a positive “halo effect” provided to sponsors?

○        The sponsorship team is careful to avoid any and all endorsing language and any implications of endorsement. NYPR does not go out of its way to create halo value for sponsors.

  • Is that belief of lack of implied reciprocal approval naïve? What does the organization do to ensure this is the case?

○        There is thought placed in message scheduling in order to limit anything that could be perceived to be a conflict of interest. The station avoids making value judgments on specific sponsors; rather, specific messages are measured against regulatory guidelines and station standards.

  • Is there cannibalization between the stations’ sponsorship efforts and corporate donor relationships?

○        Generally, corporate funds for philanthropy and marketing come from different buckets.

  • What are some examples of sponsors that the station has turned down for underwriting opportunities?

○        E-cigarette companies have been turned down in the past. Furthermore, if a potential underwriter is not willing to conform to the reserved style of NYPR underwriting messages, it becomes impossible to accept the sponsorship opportunity.

  • What is the average length of a sponsorship engagement?

○        Widely varies in broadcast; generally, an annual or season-long basis in the podcast space.

  • Will the rapid growth in podcast underwriting revenue (and the resulting revenue mix-shift) result in changing priorities for NYPR?

○        Although the podcast medium is a greater source of fiscal support for the station, there is an ever-increasing commitment being placed on radio. Neither is being sacrificed in favor of the other.

  • How much does an underwriting message cost? Are there any worries of saturation?

○        There are always daytime, afternoon, and evening underwriting opportunities available. No more than two or three sponsors pledge at the same level for underwriting spots. Rates depend on the relationship’s length and quality. As the station pursues fewer, larger relationships, this will evolve.

  • In broadcast, do the 6 minutes of underwriting messages include PSAs?

○        WNYC does not broadcast PSA’s.

  • Several members of the public representing Brooklyn350 expressed concerns about continuing Williams Company, an energy infrastructure company, as a sponsor for WNYC citing what they believed to be Williams lack of social responsibility in preserving the communities in which they work. A document detailing concerns was presented to the CAB, Hal Trencher and Ivan Zimmerman.
  • Responding to a public comment from the September meeting with Laura Walker, Jacob mentioned that WNYC is collecting family immigration stories from listeners via, for use in an upcoming project.
  • No additional comments (all were directed toward Hal and Ivan, during the Q&A).

Public Comments




  • Barbara requested that CAB members pass along their listening logs, to the extent they are being recorded.
  • Carole mentioned the need for WNYC to alert listeners of episode re-runs, to avoid confusion.
  • Motion to adjourn.




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Meeting: 6:30 PM, The Greene Space, 44 Charlton Street, New York (Google map)

Guest:   Matt Katz, WNYC On AIR Reporter



Adam Wasserman

Andrew S. Greene (excused)

Anita Aboulafia (excused)

Barbara Gerolimatos, Chair

Carole Chervin

Chad Bascombe

David N. Sztyk

Donna Blank

Erica Johnson

Grace Clarke, Vice-chair

Jacob Wojnas, Vice-chair

John Bacon

Kathryn Tornelli

Lisa Nearier

Liz Buffa

Marlene Birnbaum

Merwin Kinkade

Michael Brown

Michaela Balderston (excused)

Nancy Walcott, Vice-chair

Peter Kentros

Samantha "Sam" Pedreiro (excused)

Stan Ince

Theodore Schweitzer


*italics = not present


  • 25 members of the public
  • Brenda Williams-Butts, Vice President of Recruitment, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Mary White, BOT Liaison (excused)