Posts Tagged ‘public radio’

Crowdfunding For Public Radio?

June 24, 2010

The evolution of media is something on everyone’s mind these days. Whether it is speculation on the possible demise of the traditional newspaper or the development of digital age tools for reporting, it is a huge subject. This is exactly why the Knight News Challenge was created, wherein the Knight Foundation awards several million dollars each year for “innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization.” In other words, bringing the news into the 21st century.

The Public Radio Exchange’s StoryMarket project has just been awarded $75,000 in the Knight News Challenge. Additionally, it will build on — and collaborate with —, a prior high-profile Knight winner, to apply the principles of crowdfunding to public radio.

Here’s a quick description taken from the official announcement of the Knight Grant, as found on the Neiman Lab article about this subject:

Building on the software created by 2008 challenge winner, this project will allow anyone to pitch and help pay to produce a story for a local public radio station. When the amount is raised (in small contributions), the station will hire a professional journalist to do the report. The project provides a new way for public radio stations to raise money, produce more local content and engage listeners.

Another very important thing about this approach is that it addresses an issue facing all radio stations, public and commercial: the need for more local content. In the current markets, radio stations are trying harder and harder to engage with their audience through a return to local reporting. Story Market is something to watch because the stories produced, if successful, will be dictated by that local market.

Image: Knight Foundation Logo / Fair Use: Reporting


Public Radio Media Hub Forming in California

March 22, 2010

There’s a little station in Pasadena, CA, that is not so little anymore. KPCC has watched its audience triple over the past decade, blithely ignoring any trials and tribulations undergone by other broadcasters. It has been no slouch at accruing awards either, garnering over 200 journalistic honors including three Distinguished Radio Journalist awards from the Greater L.A. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2008 top honor for Breaking News from the L.A. Press Club

Operated by Southern California Public Radio, KPCC is preparing to become a veritable hub of public radio in the Southern California area . [SCPR is the nonprofit company that operates KPCC (89.3 FM), as well as KUOR-FM (89.1) and KPCV-FM (90.3).] This Saturday, they will debut the tools needed to live up to that status:  a $24.5-million broadcast facility that contains 13 studios and control rooms. For contrast, since 1993, their facilities were in the library of Pasadena City College and had only one primary studio.

We’ve even got confirmation on one piece of original programming that will be coming down the pipe. Madeleine Brand, former co-host of the NPR  newsmagazine Day to Day, will be hosting a new local newsmagazine which will debut this Spring. It will be nice to hear her voice again since Day to Day was cancelled a year ago as a result of economic factors.

Steve Carney at The Los Angeles Times writes:

KPCC has thrived by tapping a board willing to write big checks and hit up their rich friends for contributions. Taking the lead are Gordon Crawford, managing director of the Capital Group, the Los Angeles investment fund manager, and Jarl Mohn, who built E! Entertainment Television.

Crawford, chairman of KPCC’s board, and Mohn, vice chairman, contributed about $4 million each to the five-year capital campaign for the new headquarters. They are also champions of a consolidation plan that has already put two additional stations under the umbrella of Southern California Public Radio[…]

“Using these public airwaves for a public service that’s devoted to discussing the issues of the day is kind of critical to our democracy,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, the more we learn about each other, the better we’ll get along.”

The approach seems effective so far. Between the brilliant new production facilities and having three stations to work with, the growth is obvious.  I am curious about the further evolution as well as its sustainability in the face of a possible opinion backlash. Consolidation is often viewed with suspicion, especially where media is concerned.

Image: tandemracer / CC BY 2.0

Widgets for Public Radio!

March 20, 2009


Public Radio International is getting widget-ized! As of last Wednesday, March 18, you can download NewsGator-powered widgets that allow users to embed Public Radio content on websites, social networks, or blogs. Using the widgets a blogger or webmaster can embed audio or news streams from Public Radio to enhance the existing content. Widgets are available now via the PRI site.)

Brian Heater at AppScout reports:

The media organization has produced a number of themed widgets, including Economic Security, Global Health and Development, and Social Entrepreneurship.

“We want to be where our audience is, reach new audiences, and give everyone the option of listening to the PRI content they want on-demand,” said PRI executive VP, Cory Zanin of the new apps.

Now, for the web-savvy, any of this content could be pulled into a site via RSS feed, but having the widgets out there makes it as easy as cut-and-paste. Since the widgets are also official they remove potential issues of copyright that may come up when capturing a syndication feed.

All in all I would say this is a good thing, something that more commercial stations should consider. The objective is to be where the listeners are, that’s why I love it when Jeff Haley speaks about the importance of mobile to the future of radio.  Widgets like this can allow branded programming to spread as far as the audience base. I know that I will be adding widgets for the New Orleans-based stations to my personal blog as soon as they become available…

Photo courtesy of kurtthomashunt, used under its Creative Commons license

Interview2020: Ken George, New Media Production Manager at WBUR

March 11, 2009


(@ericguerin and Laura of listen to @kengeorge ramble. Photo Courtesy of WBUR.)

I’ve had the privilege of striking up an online friendship with Ken George, WBUR’s New Media Production Manager in Boston. You may recall that I posted about his efforts at the station as an example for stations everywhere. With that in mind, I managed to twist his arm into an online interview about social media in the context of his radio work.

The results? Some excellent perspective and some terrific advice.  Tune in to this:

Radio2020: So, as the New Media Production Manager for WBUR, what social platform have you been most excited about implementing? Which one seems to be the most vital part of your strategy?

Ken George, WBUR: A gentleman far more knowledgeable about radio than I could ever realistically aspire to be recently posted on his blog that radio is now in the “relationship business.” When put that way, then the value of social media is self-evident.

But simply slathering on social media varnish without an underlying attitudinal shift on the part of the organization will doom the effort (and justifiably so). What is vital? I think, an open mind, a willingness to engage listeners on their terms, to listen, and to stop thinking that the world revolves around those of us inside the studio.

This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I feel it is far too early for me to answer your questions regarding platform. I have observed a hefty response to our Twitter initiative. And our Facebook page has accrued a large number of “fans.”

But it is those conversations in almost real time that Twitter enabled, that has, for me, fostered a deeper connection with our listeners. Individuals have emerged from that mass of quantified data. Names and faces have supplanted anonymous listeners.

Radio2020: I see that WBUR is everywhere. Flickr, Twitter, Utterz, YouTube, Gather, MySpace and Facebook all have a WBUR presence. Tell our readers a bit about the strategy underlying the station’s use of these social media. How has it enhanced community participation, for instance?

Ken George, WBUR: We have only been seriously engaged in the social media space for under a year, so our strategy is still very much in its infancy. A lot of what we do I’d classify as listening. We solicit feedback from users, specifically through the use of blogs and Twitter, about how to leverage the digital space to more effectively serve their needs.

A powerful component of our community building strategy (are) our monthly “meet-ups.” These events inevitably evolve into intelligence-gathering bull sessions on everything from the public radio business model, to hyper-localism to user-generated content. Another issue that has arisen is the desire of some users for micro-pledging applications, something we are now actively considering for the next fund drive.

I am obsessed with this notion of radio as convener of community. Our most recent initiative, The Public Radio Kitchen, leverages the “Web 2.0” space to convene a community of pubic radio foodies. We have the brand, they have the knowledge, so why not bring the two together online and in the real world?

Radio2020: What sort of metrics do you use to measure success with social media? Do you use a “software as a service” (SaaS) like Radian6, Google Analytics, conversation monitoring, or some other approach?

Ken George, WBUR: We love geeking out over metrics. We obsessively keep track of the number of followers social media is attracting as well as (the) sites’ traffic. Google analytics is a must.

Sadly though, too many organizations get hung up on ROI (Return on Investment) at the expense of the bigger picture. I am well aware of the issue. I am also fully cognizant of the fact that the folks most responsive to 90.9’s social media forays do not represent our average listener.

That said, our average listener won’t be average forever. Yes, I have doubts about the efficacy of all of our social media initiatives. But the world is changing, and at a rapid clip at that, a fact most saliently brought to my attention each Tuesday night in an undergraduate course I attend, in which I am in the unenviable position of being the “old man” in the classroom. Talk about a wake-up call. If radio managers could only listen as these kids talk media. It’s a salutary antidote to any of my self-doubts regarding social media.

Radio2020: What advice would you give to other stations just starting on their social media journey? What tools or applications do you advise them to embrace?

Ken George, WBUR: The best way to get something done is (to) begin. Don’t obsess about tools. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude.

Most of the stuff if not free is very low cost. Station managers: Open up an account on Blogger and WordPress. Encourage your staff to do the same. Experiment with Facebook. Start Tweeting. Host a Tweet-Up! How about a listener photo project hosted on Flickr?

Radio2020: After eight years of doing this, what would you say are the most valuable lessons learned about the use of social media in the radio arena?

Ken George, WBUR: As I mentioned above, social media involves an attitudinal shift. Engaging listeners requires an authentic, consistent dialogue with them. Throw up a Flickr photo gallery and think you are doing social media, and you are only fooling yourself.

Listeners and users are smarter then generally given credit. Try to fake it with them and you lose.

Be prepared to spend a considerable chunk of your time doing this. That said, it is a helluva lot of fun.

Radio2020: And, as always, our traditional ending question: Ken, what is your favorite thing about radio and why is it important to you?

Ken George, WBUR: I spent much of my childhood in the shadow of the great WGY, then the “50,000 Watt Flagship Station of the General Electric Broadcasting Company.” That I still remember that tag line is indicative of my hours listening as a kid.

Then, the station was invested in the community. It covered the mayor’s race, and school board. On-air hosts appeared at grocery store openings and school events. Yet listening was a deeply personal experience. It was though those speakers where speaking to me. That childhood experience sums up what I like best about radio.

The Radio Bookmark

January 30, 2009


How many times have you been in the car listening to a game or a news story and had to park and get out before it finished? I know it’s happened to me innumerable times. Sometimes the luxury of time is there and you can sit in the car and listen to the end, but far more often that is not the case.

Now there is a gizmo that can solve this problem for some listeners. Some public radio stations are using a device that attaches to your key chain to bookmark stories being broadcast so that you can listen to the rest over the Internet.

Via Jim Finkle at Reuters:

The radio bookmark, which looks like a car-door remote control, logs the time of the show a user wants to pull up. At home, a search engine accessed through a website checks to see what the station was broadcasting at that time and delivers the audio recording over the Internet.

“It’s kinda neat. You just press a button. Then you take it and plug it into your computer and up comes the story,” said Mike Steffon, director of marketing for Boston-based public radio station WBUR.

The devices are being used as premiums for donations, the primary revenue source for public stations. At this point he maker of the devices, Sky Blue Technologies, has no plans to offer the unit to commercial stations. The idea and implementation are worth watching though. While this exact device may not be offered to the commercial broadcasters similar functionality could well be inspired for the iPhone, Blackberry or other portable devices.

The concept is the key. I’ll be quite curious to see what this approach inspires!

Photo courtesy of kozumel, used under its Creative Commons license

Sound Exchange and Public Broadcasters Reach Royalty Accord

January 20, 2009


While all eyes are focused on Washington, D.C., today for the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, other issues of import are occurring despite being eclipsed from the spotlight. One of those is the fact that the  long-running dispute over webcasting royalties has now been partially resolved.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and SoundExchange have reached an agreement establishing both the royalty rates and payment plan for streaming music between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2010.

Via Sci-Tech Today:

“This important agreement will ensure that the artists heard on public radio station Web sites will receive compensation and will enable public radio webcasters to continue to meet their public service, nonprofit missions,” Pat Harrison, chief executive of CPB said in the statement.

So that still leaves us with the question of how things are going to shake out on the for-profit end of the spectrum. The Sci-Tech article goes into much greater depth than I am able to here so I advise giving it the once over. As our stations expand into the new frontier of cyberspace, these royalty issues are of incredible importance. Decisions made here will directly affect the evolution of the medium.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents […] traditional stations, said it looks forward to sitting down with SoundExchange “to craft equitable streaming rates that enhance the online music experience and expose more artists to our listeners.”

In the meantime, this is big news for public radio across the board.

Photo courtesy of A., used under its Creative Commons license

Drive Time – The Takeaway vs. Morning Edition

October 10, 2008

John Hockenberry is a name you might be familiar with. One of the earliest National Public Radio (NPR) correspondents and newscasters, he has been active in the industry for quite some time. Now he finds himself in a position many would see as adversarial, but one that he considers a matter of apples and oranges.

Mr. Hockenberry is the co-anchor of a new radio show called The Takeaway, which is syndicated by Public Radio International (PRI). As he builds up a network of public radio stations to broadcast the program, he finds himself going head to head with NPR’s venerable Morning Edition.

Mr. Hockenberry denies that The Takeaway is an attempt to clone or reinvent Morning Edition. Stressing immediacy and on the fly content as opposed to the traditional format of other programs, he compares it to a dialogue.

Via Bill Virgin at

“The Takeaway,” he says, is “live, conversationally driven,” an approach that “allows us to take advantage of the instantaneousness of information sources.”

“Morning Edition,” by contrast, is a magazine show, he says. “It’s pretty much all on tape. … Conversations are a great medium for advancing knowledge about things, whereas sometimes packaged pieces are obsolete the moment you feed them onto the satellite. Live has a lot of advantages.”

That calls for a certain amount of flexibility and nimbleness in running the four-hour show. “The work is remaining vigilant to how quickly things are changing in a news environment,” says Hockenberry, whose resume also includes stints at NBC’s “Dateline,” MSNBC and ABC. “There’s no such thing as a line-up in our show. We sort of understand what we’re doing 20 minutes ahead. On a really quiet day we understand what we’re doing two hours ahead. We may set a tentative agenda the afternoon before, but that could change completely by morning.”

It will be interesting to see how this immediacy translates into a drive time program. While drawing a lot from the social media world as far as interactivity and speed of reaction, the show still has obstacles before it. First, there is the large and established audience for Morning Edition,  a dedicated crowd that I predict will be hard to woo away. Second is the fact that it is based in New York. I don’t have any problems with New York, but is does create a significant time difference to listeners on the West Coast, possibly problematic with a drive time program.

Looks like another interesting option is out there on the airwaves. Drop us a line and let us know what you think of it since its not broadcast here in New Orleans yet.

Photo courtesy of Burning Image, used under ts Creative Commons license