Posts Tagged ‘WBUR’

“Con Salsa” Radio Show in Boston Celebrates 35 Years!

June 21, 2010

This week, we celebrate a landmark for Latino radio in general and WBUR of Boston in particular. This past weekend, WBUR’s Con Salsa show celebrates 35 years on the air. According to The Boston Herald, the show is going to ring in its anniversary with a big club party tomorrow:

“Con Salsa!”, a Saturday evening show on Boston University’s public radio station, 90.9 WBUR-FM, is sponsoring a Tuesday concert with Cuban timba band Pupy y Los Que Son Son at the Wilbur Theatre to mark the event.

The show has a history of being a community hub as well as an entertainment program. The call-in portion of the program has a long pedigree of highly personal messages being shared over the airwaves: marriage proposals, confessions of infidelity, messages for troops overseas, and much more. As a matter of fact, the show has quite a reputation for being a forum in which people share messages with those in the Massachusetts jail system, a topic I wrote about back in February 2009.

Image: Theresa Thompson / CC 2.0


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.

Radio – A Human Connection for Prisoners

February 25, 2009


It seems that I repeatedly find instances of radio being used to connect people. As I dig through the world news each day, there are always tales of radio broadcasting across national borders to the subjects of repressive regimes. I discover how radio has been used to bring messages of hope to people held in hostage situations. Now that trend continues with an article I stumbled upon about radio being used to communicate with the inmates of the Massachusetts prison system. Not only that, but since the show in question is streamed, they also broadcast messages to troops stationed overseas.

“Con Salsa” on WBUR 90.9 FM in Boston has long had a tradition of highly personal, targeted dedications like this. Confessions have been made, marriage proposals offered, and simple messages of love and compassion spoken through the one medium of connection available: over the air.

I think this is a great example of one of the ways radio has more in common with social media than any other traditional medium does. It is the interaction, a sense of person to person connection that makes me say this. Messages like these, call-in shows, the ability to make requests all are part and parcel of radio and have been the basis of its social nature ever since both radios and telephones became commonplace. In addition, in the case of “Con Salsa,” there is a cultural aspect as well.

Via Russell Contreras at the Associated Press:

“There’s a strong oral tradition in Latino communities,” said Mari Castaneda, a communication professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “And these shows allow people to tell the world what they are going through, that it’s possible to love someone who’s been placed outside of society for whatever reason.”

Castaneda said the shows are popular particularly with Latino listeners because the hosts don’t judge and they allow callers to speak freely — sometimes asking for forgiveness for infidelity or even breaking up over the airwaves.

For many families, it’s the best way to get out a quick message because prisons may be far away or limit visits. In Massachusetts, for example, visitation rules vary among institutions and phone calls can be made only during certain times, said Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction. But prisoners are allowed to listen to the radio through headphones, she said.

A human connection. That is the truth that underlies both radio and social media. The ability to interact causes a fundamental change in the way that people both use and relate to the medium in question. It is  the difference between being in a cafe talking to someone and listening to a speech.

Photo courtesy of Gabu Chan, used under its Creative Commons license

WBUR Kicks It, Social Media Style!

February 11, 2009


I spend a lot of time rooting around the Internet looking for various things. In the case of this blog, I continually seek out positive radio stories, particularly those centered on the evolution of radio in the age of social media. Since I make my living as a blogger and social media consultant, I also tend to keep tabs on what is happening in my industry as a matter of course.

Today I get to combine the two. You see, Chris Brogan, the man who personifies social media expertise to those in the know, recently blogged about his experiences attending Boston radio station WBUR’s  “Tweet-ups.”  Now the fact that WBUR is hosting Tweet-ups in the first place is great news, it means they are really taking the bull by the horns and embracing social media and the enhanced level of interactivity it gives them.[WBUR Post on the first 2009 Tweet Up]

Now, I have constantly made a point of emphasizing the use of digital tools and new media as integral to the evolution of radio as a medium.  Allow me to share some of Mr. Brogan’s thoughts and questions on the matter. Keep in mind this is coming from one of the sharpest and most well known voices in the field of social media as he talks a bit about WBUR and its ongoing program of leveraging web 2.0 tools.

Via Chris Brogan’s Blog:

Because once we know the face behind the voice, it’s a lot harder not to want to see the institution survive and thrive.

Will the walls of public radio become porous and let in more two-way experiences? I believe that’s where lots of media experiences will shift. We’ve seen the host-caller model for decades. What comes next (perhaps) is dozens of hosts and a few curators, plus the ability to interact at different levels. We see this last piece realized in the frequent use of, “For more information, visit and click on ‘news’” types of moments in broadcasts.

By the way, want a sign that WBUR gets it? Check out Inside WBUR. Front and center of the page? A Flickr photo slideshow of what? Mostly people visiting WBUR during these social outreach events.

This station is using Flickr (the source of all the Creative Commons images I use to illustrate my posts), Twitter, blogs, and is hosting face to face meetups with the community developed using these tools. This sort of wholesale adoption is something other stations should observe and consider emulating, WBUR has not missed  beat. If you want to take a look at what a solid stance in social media should look like for  radio station check out the WBUR- In Focus page. They present the ability for listeners to interact with the station on that listener’s preferred platform. Only use MySpace? No problem, WBUR is there. Facebook? Likewise. YouTube? You betcha!

It is such a simple thing, find a way for listeners to interact in whatever way and on whatever level they wish. It’s all about the conversation, social media is merely a variety of new ways to communicate and expand that conversation. As Chris Brogan points out, since public stations like WBUR rely on listener contributions, allowing more opportunities for those donations to be made is extremely important.

The lessons seen here easily translate to non public radio, after all it is radio’s engagement with its audience that is important. Ratings are one direct metric of the importance of this audience loyalty. It is vitally important to remember that the conversation, not the application, is the important part. An honest, human interaction is the one essential component of making social media work. Without that, it rapidly becomes perceived as SPAM.

Tweets: @WBUR, @chrisbrogan, @radio2020

Blogs: WBUR- The ConverStation , Chris Brogan- Community and Social Media

Photo courtesy of Chris Brogan, used by permission