Allison Muller, CRM manager for Accenture, has some interesting observations on how new technologies are making it easier for retailers to individualize and personalize for consumers. She writes:
... Phenomenon like YouTube and MySpace
give young consumers a stage for voicing their opinions and showing off
their social lives and it's influencing how they shop. Some companies
are reacting by offering customers avenues for personal expression,
like personalizing a Heinz Ketchup bottle or Kleenex box with personal
slogans and pictures. ¶ More sustainable ideas include MyTwinn.com
that produces dolls that are exact replicas of real girls, allowing
them to celebrate their identity through their toys. And, for an extra
charge, you can get specific freckles or birthmarks painted on the
Our new SVP & GM Digital Media at NPR, Kinsey Wilson, sent around the following email to a few of us this morning. With permission and thanks, I'm sharing it with you. --Dennis
As you dig into
the morning papers, I'd call to your attention an
interesting article in the NY Times today that describes how small, independent,
not-for-profit local news web sites are springing up around the country --
further evidence of the growing number of players that hope to lay claim to the
local news franchise as papers come under increased financial pressure.
This line in particular caught my attention: "[F]financially, VoiceofSan
Diego and its peers mimic public broadcasting, not newspapers. They are
nonprofit corporations supported by foundations, wealthy donors, audience
contributions and a little advertising."
If they succeed, they could gradually compete for the audience, allegiance and
charitable giving that traditionally has sustained public radio. The audience
for terrestrial public radio isn't likely to go away anytime soon. But as
younger audiences form their media habits and older audiences look for serious
local news sources to replace the papers they once relied upon -- something
that's happening right now -- sites like these will gain in influence and
popularity among our target audience and could eventually pose a threat to the
member station franchise.
radio stations are ideally positioned to form alliances with sites
like these. The member stations have reach; they have an audience already
pre-disposed to quality journalism; and if they want to use it to this end, the
ability to drive traffic to these (or co-branded?) endeavors. They
also have established relationships with funders, which these sites
presumably are just starting to put together. The startup-ups, meanwhile, have
the capacity to innovate in ways most stations do not.
words, member stations could potentially bring audience and money to the
table to help keep these efforts alive; and in the process further
develop their reputation and capacity as a source of serious local news.
(And NPR, through its API, could provide wider visibility and lift for these
If half a
dozen of the more progressive member stations around the country aligned with the
best of these sites on a trial basis, they might create a model that other
start-ups and stations could emulate.
to the sites mentioned in Richard Pérez-Peña 's piece, also check out the newly
launched Spot.US, which solicits
story pitches from individual journalists in the Bay area and asks readers to
donate money to support story ideas they think are worthy of further effort. It
N.B.Many readers know that I'm the Interim CEO at National Public Radio, but this personal blog (now closing out its fifth year) has only a couple of times been used to talk about related things going on at NPR or at my previous workplace. However, since what we're trying to build is so closely related to what I've learned over those five years and earlier, all of which I've shared here, I thought it made sense to share this "private" email to NPR station managers here.
If you're at a public television station or in a non-profit, education or government organization, please read on because this initiative could very well be for you also. So now, I'll quote from this morning's email with only very minor changes. --Dennis
Dear station colleagues,
Happy Monday! With apologies for the length of this,
I’m hoping to stitch together several developments at NPR in the context of
what they mean for the future of your station. It will pay special
attention to connecting a number of developments into a coherent digital
strategy. I am excited about these because I think they can be important
building blocks in lifting all of public radio.
The 90 stations that founded NPR did so because they wanted
to serve the public in a way that could only be achieved through
collaboration. This collaboration has encouraged impartial distribution
of both branded programming (NPR, PRI, APM) and independent productions - in
the intervening 38 years through PRSS and, more recently, PRX.
Distributed hours have grown tremendously over the past four decades. As
we seek to strengthen our relationships in content creation and fundraising, we
must make a strong commitment to reinventing distribution for a new age, or we
will fail to reach the audiences we seek to serve.
Radio will remain strong long after I’m a full-time grandpa,
but the rapid adoption of new digital platforms means we must effectively
utilize these platforms or ultimately witness the erosion of our audience
and economic model. More importantly, the new digital platforms give
greatly expanded opportunities to deliver broader public service, to be
more significant in our communities and nation.
Toward this end, there are now several initiatives on our
plate at NPR. I'll write primarily about a cluster of digital distribution projects from which we will draw to create something we're calling the "Community-Building Initiative," but I also want to mention a news-related one that will benefit from the same initiative.
A “News Network of the Future” (NNoF) is envisioned to provide structure and scale for collaboration in the support
and production of news for all platforms, building on ideas which have already brought promising results to a few stations (e.g., N3, the Northwest News Network);
Three related projects in the category of what I’ll call “distributed distribution” —expanding our ability to reach our listeners better, and expanding and engaging our audience:
The openApplication Provider Interface (API),
The acquisition of Public Interactive (PI), and
The Community-Building Initiative (CBI), which I’ll discuss below.
There have been several digital distribution efforts in
public media in recent years. Leaving out many, I’d like to tip a hat to
a few that have made extraordinary contributions. Independent producer
Stephen Hill showed us that the web can be an important means to serve the
audience, and that they will financially support such efforts.
Entrepreneur/philanthropist Mike Homer developed Open
Media Network, a functioning content delivery network for public media,
with the help of Stephen, KQED’s Tim Olson, myself and several others, and
gifted it to public broadcasting. PI (above) under the direction of Debra
May Hughes has been public media’s innovative application service provider for
years. Jake Shapiro’s team built Public
Radio Exchange (PRX) under the sponsorship of the Station Resource Group,
creating a way to cultivate, discover and distribute new talent, voices and
ideas and to innovate with models that connect listeners to a broader
world. Mark Fuerst’s Integrated
Media Association has led beyond-the-transmitter thinking for years.
NPR’s Dana Davis Rehm has championed both the News Network of the Future and
the Digital Distribution Consortium (DDC) of 2006 in which Jake, Tim and others
played critical roles. Lastly, the WGBH
Forum Network and Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Channel are important
inspirations to the CBI.
Bottom line – there has been a ton of work by dozens of
people over nearly a decade during which, independently, Web strategies and
content distribution over the Internet have matured. We have learned a
lot in this time, we have successful exemplars, and it’s past
time to put those to work in ways that strengthen public radio.
This and what follows provides some context for the
announcements you’ve heard about the open API and the PI acquisition and why
it’s important for the future of your station.
The open Application
Programming Interface (API) is an awful name for a very powerful
functionality that permits accessing NPR and, soon, station and other content
and placing it with modest but important restrictions on non-NPR web
sites. These might be your station’s web site, or it might be a
non-profit organization with which your station has a relationship, or it might
be a blog that your sister maintains. If you look down the left column of [this] blog, you
can see an example that took me ten minutes to install. Why do
this? Because open, distributed access to public radio content will
result in much greater usage than if we require everyone to come to our
portals. It’s expanding the reach of public radio beyond the radio or our
own websites. This is being fairly recognized as one the most
progressive and powerful web initiatives in American media. Open APIs
are common on the web but are very rare among major media companies.
Interactive (PI) has been around for a long time and has a great
reputation for providing Web
services to the public broadcasting community. We’re pleased to have
reached an accord with Public Radio International to bring it into the NPR
family. Its mission is entirely consistent with our goal of increasing
NPR’s commitment to station services, as was our acquisition of National Public Media(NPM) last
fall. PI has a great suite of products and its core competencies are
consistent with our open API and other “distributed distribution” efforts to
grow the quality and relevance of station websites.
Combining these, we are developing the Community-Building
Initiativeto expose public media content
to broader audiences, strengthen public stations as a key community anchor,
help national and local community service organizations be more effective, and,
through all that, enhance and diversify the public media economy.
Like NNoF, the CBI is a “child” of NPR’s New Realities effort. An example
follows and this weekend I doodled a simplified drawing [see link] for
those among you who are visually oriented.
To seed this effort, we are working to establish several model
national partnerships with non-profit organizations which have affiliates
in your communities. There is a complex array of ways new partnerships of
this kind could work, so to help in understanding one of them, here’s a
Let’s say that you’re a public
radio manager who wants to gain exposure for what your station does and
build community public service alliances, adding local value. You
have recently been approached by a local conservation organization that has a
best-practices initiative relating to salmon recovery for which it would like
build awareness. It is also interested in building a community dialog
using modern social media tools. Traditionally, you might have put them
in touch with your news director, who has done stories on salmon recovery in
the past and perhaps might be interested in another one. She handles the
story in the journalistically critical arm’s length way and it is heard by
10-15% of your weekly cume on the air and then it (maybe) goes into a podcast
or is archived on your web site.
But the CBI expands
possibilities. Let’s say that the organization also has some video
content that it commissioned, perhaps from your local PTV station. With
proper guidelines, branding and labeling, it can be part of a larger collection
that you can distribute. So this video piece, the ten radio stories you’ve
already produced archived on this subject, some NPR stories on the subject
(Google gives 574 hits for “salmon” on npr.org), a couple of related stories
from PRX, and links to related blogs in your community are curated by your web
producer into a widget (a
piece of portable code that can fetch content from other web sites) carrying
your branding, the template for which has been provided to you by Public
Interactive. That template also includes social media features to
build communities of interest, plus opt-in sponsorship messages arranged by
NPM. The widget then goes on the partner’s web site, on those of many of
your other partners, on your own pages, on relevant blogs, etc. Others
will use the API tools to extract some of these pieces and republish them still
more places. Web searches build still more users, not just for the
distributed content but for your main web site. In the context of how
search works (see PageRank),
these multiple linking relationships make it more likely for your content to
emerge higher in search results. This strategy builds a much larger
audience by bringing content to people rather than requiring them to come
to your website.
Perhaps the station undertakes
similar partnerships with 25 or 50 or 100 other community organizations.
Some of these are local affiliates of national service organizations with which
NPR will have initiated relationships that stations can opt into. Others
are those you develop yourself. You can see that the placement
opportunities for content grow tremendously. So do new partnerships that
increase your station’s impact in the community, not to mention new funding
opportunities from new sources.
Public broadcasters have learned over nearly 40 years that
distribution success depends on brand impartiality. Recent digital
distribution work has taught that we’re better off starting with a
service modeland related economics, instead of with
technology, and that we need a to place our content many places on the web,
not just on our own web sites. To be sure, there are important
issues, especially with the need to maintain a wall between partner-generated
content and station journalism efforts, but there are numerous successful
examples to follow. The CBI plan is to incorporate all of these
assumptions in a way that just might transform the value equation for public
broadcasting stations in their communities.
These are exciting and challenging times for all of us in
public radio. I continue to be encouraged by what I see and hear from
stations around the country, and what is happening here at NPR. These
latest developments should give us some important new tools to address our
common future in a way that can transform both the impact and economics of
public media. Please share your thoughts about these issues with
me by posting a comment below.
Steve Gillmor interviewed NPR digital media directors Zach Brand, Daniel Jacobson and me July 17th on NPR's release of its Application Programming Interface for his GillmorGang podcast. Although it's a little technical, it should give you a good overview of what it's doing. It's now been posted. Link: GillmorGang.
The March 24th issue of Time has a feature, "10 Ideas That Are Changing The World," one of which is "The End of Customer Service" by Barbara Kiviat. This is presented as an inexorable and vaguely positive thing, but I don't know.
A trip (two, actually) to a Maryland Ikea store this past week to buy some furniture for my new apartment sure brought this home. Ikea has features nice design, inexpensive prices, and great Swedish meatballs with lingonberries for $5. Well, maybe I should reverse the order of those attributes. They make it easy for a decorating doofus to match things.
I swear that every time I go to an Ikea store, which is only about annually, I see fewer employees. The ones that are left are always very helpful, but sometimes you have to look a bit to find one. This time, all the check-out lines were self-service. A single employee worked all the lanes to assist people like me who couldn't find the barcodes and to keep us from scanning both Box 1 and Box 2 when they're part of the same item or you'll pay twice.
I wouldn't be surprised if a few years from now, you'll walk into Ikea and see only customers. There will be a couple of guards on the way out, Costco style, to check your receipts against your cart, and maybe some people behind the scenes converting dollars into kronor. Go to the cafeteria and hold your plate under an opening and your dozen meatballs will drop out. Rotate the plate quickly and you'll get a splat of lingonberries and a blob of mashed potatoes (or is it the other way around?). Can't find something? Go to a kiosk and talk with a helpful operator named Bruce or Christine from Bangladesh (unless you're in an Ikea in Germany, in which case they're named Helmut and Helga). I'd rather they automate their self-service furniture pick up so I don't have to go for the Advil when I get home.
Bringing this back to media a minute... It's probably not too far off the mark to say that self-service is one of the defining characteristics of new media vs. old media. The legacy media are full service media. We think about what programs you want and when you want them so you won't have to. Just turn on your radio and television and sit back. New media are self-service. Search for this podcast or that video or that streaming link. Decide both what you want to consume and whether it's MP3 or Real or Windows Media or QuickTime. Which of the several players I have do I want to use? Want to use one of the new IP radios? Then sometimes be prepared to manually enter the URL of your favorite audio service. You get the picture.
So we who want to succeed with distributing programming over emerging platform choices need to design those services to make them simulate the full-service environment as much as possible. --Dennis
... We're often asked why, in the face of declining
overall listening to radio, Public Radio continues to thrive? It's simple -
everything about Public Radio programming is long-term. And they cherish their
audience relationships. They're patient, they nurture their programs, they
research their listeners' needs. ¶ Their conventions and meetings are more frequent, better attended, and more
considerate of the values and qualities that contribute to product development,
brand building, and audience relationships. While admittedly they don't suffer
under the pressures of Wall
Street or profit goals, they are in fact businesses that need to pay bills
(with a lot less government support than people think). The bottom line is that
Radio succeeds because they think long-term. ¶ And while Public RadioPublic Radio's core
values doesn't have
"celebrity" program directors you've heard of, most have been in their local
communities for a long time and understand how to connect with the locals.
Additionally, are brilliant, concise, and imbedded in the minds of every person
responsible for the creation of programming. They are the guiding force behind
their emotional attachment with their listeners. ...
... According to the North American Technologies [Technographics®] Benchmark Survey published
by Forrester Research, all adult consumers still devote more than twice
as many hours in a typical week watching television as using the
Internet. Gen Yers 18-27 are moving toward parody [parity] in spending as many
hours online as watching TV. But they also spend nearly as much time
watching DVDs–a hybrid activity on TVs, PCs and video-game consoles. It
suggests what other surveys also reflect: Young consumers move fluidly
from one media-related activity to another (whether interactive or
passive) because a screen is a screen is a screen. ¶
However, as interactivity becomes more pervasive and all of
television goes digital in a year, more Boomer consumers will follow
suit. So the increasing interactive attention and spending of consumers
ages 42 to 62 is key. These 78 million Boomers (the single largest
demographic segment) already make a healthy showing in an array of
interactive activities–from managing and printing personal photos to
conducting finance and security checks. The focus should be on how to
increase maturing consumers’ routine use of interactive devises for
potentially profitable social networking–e-commerce, entertainment and
communications –not a comparison to younger early adopter habits. ...
Link: MediaPost. Link and corrections added. --Dennis
Blogger John Bracken, whose day job is at the MacArthur Foundation, sent me and a bunch of others a request to name the most influential media writing of 2007. In spite of a reminder, I couldn't come up with anything on a par with Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks that I and many others nominated last year. Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur was quite influential, largely as a provocation to the new media cognoscenti, and David Weinberger's Everything Is Miscellaneous has also been influential for more positive reasons. Both are in my to-read stack, but I hadn't gotten to either of them so didn't feel comfortable nominating them.
Fortunately, others on John's list weren't as lacking in imagination as I and this year he's put together another great list. I look forward to exploring the ones I've not yet read. --Dennis
As I noted in the previous post below, audio files and presentation decks from the 2007 Iowa DTV Symposium have now been posted online. This includes my own presentation from Oct. 2nd (and intimidating it was to be presenting the same afternoon as John C. Dvorak and Mark Schubin) titled Myth, Media and Meta: Three Information Epochs and What They Mean for Broadcasting. Here is the agenda description:
Humans have always created information faster than we create humans. And, consequently, humans are in a constant struggle to extract value from the "noise" of too much information in their environment. The title refers to epochs that are characterized by the techniques we've used. "Myth" being story-telling, poetry, music, etc. "Media" dates from Gutenberg and encompasses traditional broadcasting. "Meta" is the digital age, characterized by use of metadata, compression, "pull" distribution, and distribution systems that can learn user preferences. Broadcasters use all these techniques and social systems may enable them to be successful in "many-to-many" distribution in the future.
Links: MP3, PPT or for Flash version of the deck click here and scroll down in the Content Track to 4:30 on Tuesday. Also, I've placed both the MP3 and PPT links permanently in the Files section to the left.
For a written version, see these four posts from early June. Reboot Redux: Myth, Media and Meta; Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. --Dennis
I was happy (though I had to follow two of my tech heroes, John C. Dvorak and Mark Schubin) to give a presentation again this year as part of the Iowa DTV Symposium, a national event held annually in Des Moines and organized by Dan Miller's great staff at Iowa Public Television. My topic was the title of this post and attempts to use information theory to find a middle ground between legacy media and new media, the former group too often suffering from hubris and the latter often characterized by naïvté. I made a preliminary series of four posts on this topic back in early June (here's part I and you can get to the other three from it). My wife the professor and I are writing a book expanding on the topic. Stay tuned.
I think they'll be posting audio to their web site, but for now, you can look at my PowerPoint deck which I've posted in the Files area on the left of this blog's main page. Here's the direct link. --Dennis