Bill Kling is the long-time President & CEO of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media. MPR is the most financially successful public radio operation in the country and arguably one of the most important non-profit institutions in its home state (in quantifiable public service "gross tonnage," it has no peer, but Bill might give community significance a more sophisticated and probably less quantifiable definition).
On July 28, he gave a speech to the Public Radio Development & Marketing Conference which deserves a wider audience in the public radio and television communities. With permission, I've uploaded a transcript of the speech to this site (see link below) but am quoting only one section here for space reasons:
A Propitious Time
Public radio has come of age at a propitious time. Consolidation is “genericizing” commercial radio. Public radio, meanwhile, has the opportunity to tap into the potential of new, increasingly popular technologies that allow us to connect with our audiences. We have a content niche and an increasingly important one. And we have the audience we want.
But we can’t take that audience for granted.
Our radio audience is aging – and younger people, accustomed to instant news and information on the Web, expect a different experience from us.
Technology is shaping those expectations. It is putting the audience increasingly in charge.
iPods are plugged into nearly everyone. Special ports in cars next year will make it easier to play iPod music through your car audio system. “Radios” that look, sound and operate like high-quality radios, but take their signal from wi-fi rather than from a local transmitter, work very well – and make any station or audio stream available anywhere.
Projections show a rise in the use of Web-based media to a point that may soon equal radio listening. Certainly, new technologies like podcasting and Web streaming present us with new opportunities – and challenges.
With audiences increasingly in control of when and where they listen, it is no time to take them – or our stature in the community – for granted.
The competition we need to worry about doesn’t seem to be satellite radio. I don’t think it’s commercial knock-offs of public radio, like the Washington Post station, either.
It’s iPods. Their use reduces radio listening time.
Public radio stations – like most traditional media – are at a critical juncture. We need to be smarter and have a clear vision now. We need to anticipate what our audiences want and where they will turn to to get it. We should be taking steps to adopt new technologies and create programming on all platforms that will keep us in the game.
That doesn’t mean we should throw out the fundamentals we’ve depended on to build our stations. But, I think it does mean that we should avoid the trap of “institutional thinking.” Of leaning on the past to define our future. We need to think about the “role” of the public radio station. And about our roles in public radio.
Transcript link [PDF]: Technology360.com.