By Guest Blogger: Nonso Christian Ugbode, Director of Digital Media at National Black Programming Consortium, iMA member organization
In 2011 BlackPublicMedia.org launched the "Black Folk Don't…" web series, a collection of expositional/conversational shorts about activities that black people supposedly did not do: tip, go to therapy, travel, go to the doctor, do winter sports, were just some of the titles in the first season. On June 26th, 2012 we will be launching another volley of shorts in the series - swim, get married, commit suicide, go camping, do atheism, have eating disorders - and it's interesting to see where the conversation has traveled thus far, and what part of it has resonated with a primarily public media audience, and what parts of it have worked to turn certain audiences away. I believe this is instructive as public media brands start to tackle the task of moving beyond traditional broadcast models, and welcoming the voice of communities too often left out of the wider streams of public media content. And beyond "welcoming" them briefly creating a permanent space for them as a matter of routine.
One of the biggest challenges we have as innovators isn’t necessarily the innovation itself. In a lot of ways, that’s the easy part. The hard part is selling our new -- and often complex -- plans. The hurdles are endless: Some people are afraid of change. Some don’t want to part with money or resources. Some just don’t “get it.”
At the conference last month, Mike Reszler and Kristin Calhoun taught a group of public media innovators this important but undervalued skill. They laid it out in four simple steps that should give you a stellar pitch in less than a minute. Their session was targeted to pitching your digital strategy, but it can be used in so many ways from convincing a reluctant colleague to energizing a sales team.
Since the session last month, I’ve use the process at least four times (probably more). Here’s how you too can find funding and influence colleagues in under a minute. I’ll use one of my recent pitches as an example. Read more >>
As I catch my breath after a week in Austin, I wanted to share five key takeaways from SXSW for my public media brethren. These lessons are distilled from festival speakers and sessions, conversations with other public media professionals who attended "Southby," and my observations of the festival experience itself.
1. Talk Less, Listen More
We don’t like going to dinner with someone who just talks about himself, observed panelist Liz Strauss at a session about measuring social media ROI. Similarly, we’re turned off by companies that just talk about themselves online. Translation: if all you do in your Twitter feed or on your Facebook page is hawk your own shows/content/services… it’s time for a course correction.
Social media is supposed to be social. Approach these spaces as two-way channels, not broadcast platforms. This is how you build the authentic relationships that will ultimately fuel deep support for your organization. Read more >>
By Amanda Hirsch
PBS stations need to be locavores, said Allen Weiner, VP of Research at Gartner, at the breakfast that opened this year's iMA conference. "I want farm to table content."
Stations also need to hire "rock stars" (a term I personally hate -- can we just say "talented people"?), according to a number of sessions I attended, and public media as a whole needs -- to put a fine point on it -- to be less white. Read more >>
The new Public Media Accelerator from PRX and the Knight Foundation is a fascinating concept, and if it works, it could reinvigorate public media and help position us for long-term success. How? By harnessing the business acumen of mission-driven entrepreneurs and tech smarty-pants; pairing them with public media’s existing assets, such as editorial excellence and community service; and fueling essential content and services in a financially sustainable manner.
(If you haven’t been reading about the Accelerator, then for additional context, I highly recommend reading this MediaShift article by PRX executive director Jake Shapiro and this Neiman Labs article by Andrew Phelps.)
To be clear, the Accelerator isn’t about incremental improvements to existing content and services. “We're excited about ideas that change the game through some systemic or business model insight,more so than smart improvements to the way things already work,” says PRX CEO Jake Shapiro. In other words, the Accelerator is about disruptive innovation – ideas that fundamentally change business as usual, the way Amazon.com changed e-commerce, or Netflix changed the way we access video. Read more >>
Localore is a $2 million initiative from AIR (Association of Independents in Radio) that is attempting to fuel long-term innovation at stations, with producers as the engine oil. Specifically, the project aims to use producer ingenuity and creative applications of technology to bring new audiences to public media (see AIR executive director Sue Schardt's comments to the NPR board last year on the importance of reaching new audiences). This week AIR announced the 10 winning projects that will receive Localore funding; see the press release and project list, and read Andrew Phelps' excellent summary for Neiman Lab. Each project is producer-driven, but based at a station (some of the producers are station employees, others are independents).
Inspired in large part by The Corner, an independent public media project funded under the last major AIR initiative, MQ2, AIR intends for Localore producers to "find the corners...to go to far reaches of the community where people don't even know about public media," Schardt explained. Jessica Clark will be documenting the status and outcomes of each project on the Localore blog, hoping to inspire similar work throughout the public media community.
The design of Localore assumes that it's easier for an individual to innovate than it is for an organization -- particularly an organization as under-resourced as many stations. Read more >
Need $40,000 to produce a local documentary? Just ask your audience.
That's what filmmaker Sam Mayfield did, for a film she's working on about last year's protests in Madison, Wisconsin. In a blog post on January 13, she wrote,
"We are currently trying to raise $40,000 of our $200,000 budget through Kickstarter, the online fundraising platform that facilitates grassroots investment. We set a target goal and must raise that amount or lose all pledged funds by the set deadline of 12 p.m., January 21. If we are successful, we’ll join over 15,000 artists, filmmakers, activists, and entrepreneurs who have collectively raised over $125 million using this innovative 'crowd-funding' model."
As of January 20, Mayfield had raised $41,162 (her campaign began December 27 -- that's over $40,000 in under 30 days).
Sound too good to be true? Well, in some ways, it is -- Kickstarter and other so-called "crowdfunding" sites like IndieGoGo aren't a silver bullet, where you simply set up a web page asking for money, and the donations come rolling in. (If only it were so!) On the other hand, a lot of independent producers are finding tools like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo incredibly effective, prompting influential nonprofit strategist and author Beth Kanter to recently ask, Are Crowdfunding Platforms the new Patrons of Independent Media?.
These platforms have been kind to a number of producers throughout the public media community. Read more >
Public media takes itself pretty seriously. But what if the best way to deliver on our mission wasn't through seriousness, but through play?
What's the #1 innovation that's needed in public media in 2012?
I posed that question to the public media group on Facebook, as well as to some additional colleagues via email. The responses ranged from a focus on cultivating a culture of innovation, to calls for more innovative content approaches, to the need to grow public media's audience to provide greater support for our existing innovations. And according to some, what's needed more than anything -- more than any individual innovative approach -- is a shared, collective vision of where public media needs to go next.
Here's a selection of the responses I received...
Public media is known for the exemplary journalism it produces, among other things (Masterpiece Theater... tote bags...). But increasingly, we're also known for the ways in which we include the public in our reporting. Take these projects, for example...
By Amanda Hirsch
SchoolBook is an ambitious new web offering from WNYC and The New York Times that provides news, data and conversation about New York City's schools. The site, which launched just before the start of the school year, has been lauded by members of the education establishment, parents and journalists, and provides an interesting model for other public media stations to consider.
The site includes news coverage, extensive data (presented in a clear fashion), and a host of interactive and social features, like wiki-esque pages for individual schools and the ability for users to "follow" individual schools. "SchoolBook was invented by The New York Times and WNYC, but it is your site to shape, define and grow," reads the site's About page, which goes on to clarify that the site is exempt from NYTimes.com’s digital subscriptions, and therefore free to access with a Facebook login.
I feel compelled to note that this is the second public media project I've profiled recently that was born from a hackathon...
By Amanda Hirsch
Here's a glimpse at just some of the innovative projects happening in public media right now:
Pandora for public radio? NPR just launched The Infinite Player, a curated, continuous stream of news, arts and life, and music content that learns your story preferences over time. "The player should deliver the type of serendipitous experience you expect from NPR, with recommendations based on your input, NPR editors' judgment and story popularity," writes Michael Yoch in an Inside NPR.org blog post about the launch. Over at Neiman Lab, Andrew Phelps says the Infinite Player "might be a perfect match for the Internet-connected car — and evidence (NPR) is thinking more like a digital start-up."
2 Million Votes Cast in
American IdolTPT's Photo Contest. Almost 8,000 users have cast 2 million votes and written over 80,000 comments on the approximately 50,0000 photos by Minnesotan photogs (professional and recreational alike) as part of TPT's Capture Minnesota photo contest. The station partnered with a publishing company to produce and manage the contest; the partnership will also result in at least one book showcasing the top photos, PBS reports on its Station Products & Innovation blog.
- Locavore? No, Localore. In the past, AIR made a huge splash in public media innovation circles with its indie producer driven Makers Quest projects. Now it's upping the ante with Localore (like "locavore," but for storytelling) -- a new project that aims to pair trailblazing indie producers with local stations looking to increase their capacity for innovation. Get an overview of the project, and view stations' video applications (their bids to be selected for participation). The application deadline is passed, but you can keep tabs on the project as it progresses by following the Localore blog.
What else? What's cooking at your station that we should be aware of? Don't be shy. Email me at pubmedia [at] amandahirsch dot com, or tell us what you're up to here.
"It's like I have good taste in music without even trying."
- A Gizmodo reviewer, after demo'ing the new KCRW iPad app
The KCRW Music Mine iPad app, launched in mid-September, is an ambitious bid to improve the experience of music discovery online.
Produced in partnership with PRX, with design by Roundarch and music intelligence powered by The Echo Nest, the app is, by all accounts, a success. By the numbers, the producers are on track to meet their goal of 50,000 downloads in the first 3 months (as of this week, they've surpassed 33,000 downloads). PRX developer Matt MacDonald shares his favorite stat:
"With ~51,000 total user sessions and an average session time of ~33 minutes, KCRW Music Mine has occupied 3 years, 2 months and 23 days worth of listening so far."
In iTunes, the app has been featured under New & Noteworthy, What's Hot, Staff Favorites and Essentials for Music Discovery. And there's been a lot of buzz, with positive reviews everywhere from the popular technology blog, Gizmodo, to Rolling Stone -- not to mention reviews from individual users on iTunes (84% of the ratings on iTunes so far are five-star).
In other words, Music Mine is just the kind of product public media needs to be creating...
What happens when you put documentary filmmakers and web developers in a room together for two days, and challenge them to experiment with new forms of storytelling?
They eat a lot of pizza. And bagels. And a Tupperware full of hard-boiled eggs.
Also, you get something like the "Living Docs" series, a new partnership between the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Mozilla -- part of ITVS's ongoing commitment to helping filmmakers extend their stories to the web and beyond. Matthew Meschery, Director of Digital Initiatives at ITVS, says Mozilla was a natural partner because the nonprofit technology org shares many values with public media, such as a dedication to making sure media remains publicly accessible. And Mozilla's Brett Gaylor (a filmmaker himself, whose "RIP: A Remix Manifesto" debuted at SXSW in 2009), writes, "Mozilla and ITVS believe the web opens unique opportunities for storytelling. Stories told using the connected technologies, reach, and audience that can only be found online."
“Should innovation be a priority for new NPR CEO Gary Knell? If so - what kind of innovation? If not - why not?”
I recently posed this question to an array of current and former public media professionals via email as well as the Public Media group on Facebook, inviting everyone to define “innovation” however they saw fit. As of this writing, I’ve received over 40 comments on Facebook, and several responses via email. The responses are diverse, but a few common themes emerged.
While some stations are still figuring out how to begin using social media, others are looking for ways to refine their social media strategies. Once you're set up on Facebook and Twitter, and you have a reasonable following on each of these platforms, and a good amount of user engagement (comments, re-tweets and the like) -- then what? How do you really measure your success? Is 1,000 followers good? Well, it depends on your market size, and on how engaged those followers are. Are they reading everything you post? Are they acting on the information you provide? Do you know what types of social media postings provoke the strongest response, or drive the most traffic to your website -- or the most membership conversions? These questions get at the true potential of social media, which at the end of the day isn't just about "being on another platform" for the sake of it (keeping up with the Joneses), but about leveraging the unique capabilities of social media to meet your organization's mission and revenue goals.
Of course, measuring the extent to which social media is helping you meet your goals is no simple matter. Fortunately, Kim Bui, Social Media Specialist and Community Editor at Southern California Public Radio has some insights to share based on her aggressive tracking of social media analytics -- and her equally aggressive follow-through, applying what she learns from analytics to refine her station's social media activity ("We use metrics to back up a lot of decisions"). Here's an edited transcript of our email discussion...
New from WBUR in Boston, Healthcare Savvy is an online community of patients who are starting to shop for health care based on quality and cost. Launched in mid-August, the site already has over 150 members, a mix of both patients and healthcare providers. This modest success has been achieved with little formal promotion, aside from placement on the WBUR homepage and a handful of on-air references. Also, right after the site launched, it got shout-outs from a few influential Twitter accounts, including GOOD.
Healthcare Savvy is spearheaded by Martha Bebinger, a former Nieman fellow and longtime health reporter for WBUR who also happens to have launched the station's original CommonHealth blog (now part of NPR's Argo network). Bebinger has been reporting on efforts to control healthcare spending in Massachusetts for years, but says that over the past year and a half to two years, interest in the subject intensified among listeners, who showed more interest in being part of a conversation on the subject...
On the heels of last week's post about Adam Schweigert's departure from public media, which provoked a fairly strong response (some of you even called iMA to thank them for posting it), we thought it might be nice to take a look at efforts to attract new talent to the public media community.
You may have seen the #pubjobs hashtag on Twitter in recent months, in connection with public media job announcements; that's the brainchild of Lars Schmidt, Director of Talent Acquisition for NPR since February. Ditto @nprjobs, an account Schmidt manages that currently has over 4,000 followers, where he regularly re-tweets job listings for stations and other public media colleagues...
When Adam Schweigert of WOSU announced that he was leaving public media to become a Strategist for a company called Mindset Digital, I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking, "What a tremendous loss for public media." During his 7+ years in the industry, Adam was a true leader, going above and beyond his significant on-the-job accomplishments to build a community of digital media practitioners -- for example, through the weekly #pubmedia Twitter chat he co-founded and helped lead. I asked Adam if he'd be willing to share some parting thoughts, and after taking a cross-country roadtrip and getting engaged -- he obliged.
KDHX in St. Louis is among the first public media stations to adopt a cloud-based CRM (or “customer relationship management”) system. If you aren’t familiar with CRM (I wasn’t, really, before writing this post), the basic idea is to have a system in place in your organization that allows you to track all interactions with an individual. So, if someone donates to your station, and then also volunteers at an event – you’d know this about them, instead of having the information saved in separate databases, in separate departments. Ultimately, tracking these so-called “touch points” allows you to personalize your customer service, because you can leverage everything there is to know about the history of someone's interaction with your station. CRM also allows an organization to track revenue, both historically and into the future.
Having “cloud-based CRM,” in particular, means having a CRM system that's based in “the cloud,” the nom du jour for an IT strategy that hosts computing services remotely – allowing increased IT capacity and capabilities “without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software” (Info World).
WGBH began CRM implementation on September 1, and other stations are planning to roll out CRM in the near future, so now seemed like a good time to speak with KDXH’s Director of Internet & Information Technology, Steven Ley, about how the station is using CRM, what they’ve learned, and what’s next.
According to Morgan Stanley, Internet usage on mobile devices is projected to overtake that of desktop computers by 2014.
In other words, if you don't have a mobile strategy - it's time to get one.
I'm noticing a troubling trend as I interview public media professionals about their innovative work.
They articulate their project's mission, which is usually right on the money, and has something to do with serving the community in new ways, mostly online. They give me a tour of their work, which is usually excellent. But when we get to the part about numbers... about the level of online participation... things get less exciting.
Late last year, public media station WHYY in Philadelphia launched NewsWorks, an ambitious online news portal. The site's mission: provide daily multimedia coverage of local news from Princeton, New Jersey to Dover, Delaware, complete with hyperlocal coverage of Northwest Philadelphia.
The biggest lesson so far? For a public media station trying to establish itself as a leading source of local news, partnerships may just be the secret to success.
Sometimes, innovation can be as simple as repurposing an everyday tool -- something you take for granted, something obvious, like... Google Calendar.
At KLRU in Austin, Texas, they're using Google Calendar to schedule and program updates to the main promotion area on their homepage. Web Developer Jesse Overright explains that as they were planning a redesign of the KLRU site, they decided to really emphasize this promo area, and began discussing what would need to be in place technically to allow them to seamlessly schedule different features to appear on different days and times. They started talking about content management systems with calendar functionality, before Overright realized, "Wait a minute, what if we just used Google calendar?"
Public radio stations are increasingly getting into the visual storytelling game. For some, this may seem anathema to the magic of radio, which relies on the power of the audience's imagination to conjure a story's visual elements. But a growing number of stations are remaining true to their radio roots while also populating their websites and social networks with photos and videos that allow them to document the life of their communities in new ways.
But here's the thing: I need your help!
What projects have you recently come across that make you think, "Yes, that is EXACTLY what we in public media should be doing more of"?
Which colleagues do you look at and think, "That person really gets what public media should be all about"?
I want to talk to those people. I want to profile those projects.
Thanks in advance. I can't do this without you.
Stephen Yasko, General Manager of WTMD 89.7 in Towson, Maryland (just outside Baltimore), is proud -- and with good reason. He’s launched an innovative game powered by Foursquare, which has already generated enough revenue to cover production costs and then some, and has city residents buzzing. The game is The Great Baltimore Check-in, and it launched just over a week ago, on July 4...
iMA is alive and well! Read the initial Blog Post from our new Executive Director, Jeannie Ericson, describing the re-energized iMA and welcoming you to the new web presence.