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Monday, 05 March 2007


James Morgese

I can't agree enough with Dennis' comment that super serving our existing audience is an exercise in futility. New media serves new audiences and this is an ideal time to broaden the scope of public television, if we have the right content. Our biggest problem is that most of the people in public television are digital immigrants and not digital natives. Therefore, we are approaching new media with old media parameters. It is a mindset thing that is nearly impossible to overcome. My thinking at this point is to create a new business unit comprised of digital natives to help us break into the new media space with appropriate content for new media audiences. There will have to be a budget item for a skateboard park.

Dennis Haarsager

Stephen Hill has posted a very good summary and commentary on this post at his weblog. Please check out:


John Proffitt

Dennis -- I gotta go with Steve's comments below. The notion that we need a centralized delivery system sounded good to me a couple years ago, but it's clicking less and less for me now. I stand ready to be convinced otherwise, but I think some of the discussions I participated in at IMA centered not on centralization but on decentralization. We talked more about localization combined with federated syndication and sharing. The feeling I got (and now have) is that a central authority isn't needed in a world of XML and PBcore and peering based on shared values. Perhaps we need an IEEE for standards, but not a central storage/distribution medium.

(The one exception here could be advertising sales, as big media buyers prefer one-stop shopping. But I think that could be effectively federated, as it's a revenue stream rather than a content stream. People will make significant changes to get at the money needed for operations!)

Lately I've been coming to the realization that the future for small market and mid-market stations (like ours in Anchorage) will be determined by our ability to do what public broadcasting set out to do nearly 40 years ago -- serve the community with information, news and voices that do not have control of commercial distribution channels. But there's more to it now. In the 21st century, our mission must now extend to creating trusted spaces for shared communication and interaction, and we must find the voices in our community that deserve wider attention. We must become a two-way version of our one-way (and now outdated) past. We need to be broadcaster, publisher, collector, curator and connector all in one. Our communities need these services.

To achieve this community service mission, we at the local media level don't need a complex national content delivery system. It might be nice, but it's not required. Storage, bandwidth and organizing tools are getting cheaper and easier to use. While I definitely want to pull in national sources to bring the world into my community, I don't need to participate in the same back-end system -- we only need to share data feeds across a few well-defined syndication standards. Plus, my hyperlocal content will have limited value to people outside my area, so I don't need a huge content delivery system to push my stuff to millions nationwide. A few servers and 'net connections in my region will do, and I'll happily expose my databases and content to anyone that wants it. If I do develop a national "hit" in my local area, I can scale up with contracted services or turn over such a program to a larger regional or national entity for distribution and management.

I think you've already pointed to the right approaches in your prior posts:
* build relationships in your area with nonprofits as well as individuals
* expand public media to include those without transmitters
* focus on finding, creating, highlighting and publishing content of local value
* go back to the original mission of local community service, albeit revised for the 21st century
* focus on the payback we offer to the community that goes beyond mere dollars; gather funding based on that public service mission

My contention is that NPR's or PBS' leadership is superfluous here. We want to remain friends with the nationals, of course, but no one from PBS is going to come to my area and help me cover news and events and issues in my backyard. I have to do that for myself. I can't wait for NPR to figure out MY business model when, fundamentally, they're not in the same business I am.

Personally, I see this as an incredibly empowering time for public media entities nationwide. We're positioned to serve our communities in ways no one has ever done before, using a blend of transmitters and interactive web spaces and new collaborative relationships. But to meet the needs of our local community requires that we act locally while keeping one eye on the national horizon.

Dennis Haarsager

A response to Bill Moore's comment below:

Thanks for your comment. I suppose the candid truth is that it's a broadcaster solution to a large degree. Listeners aren't likely to care whether it's a for-profit or a non-profit that's offering the content they want. There are lots of examples now of public broadcasters posting content to commercial sites, including the big guns like NPR (to iTunes) and PBS (to iTunes, Google Video, and Amazon Unbox). Still, the reality of public broadcasting is that it's retailed by non-profits at the community level. I think that much of their/our future viability will be determined by how well they/we broaden our vision of public media to include other non-profits, educational and government entities in those communities. Doing this in a non-profit environment is likely to build those relationships much more quickly.

Coincidentally, I just encountered RadioTime a few days ago and shared it with some of my staff. Very nice. I've been using publicradiofan.com but it's nice to have (Dennis the listener typing now) your broader listings. How do you think that RadioTime could be helpful in this? I think it would be welcome.


Bill Moore

Is this a listener/member solution, or a broadcaster solution?

Don't listeners want a mix of public media along with other media? Do they want a public-only solution?

How can "outsiders" like RadioTime help? Our particular focus is getting radio broadcasting content part of new connected devices and services. Since we have no profit, should we convert to a non-profit?

Liz Russell

Dennis: More questions than answers...

- Obviously the ideas you're talking about here will require a complex technical infrastructure -- why not partner with for-profit coporations?
- What are the 1,000 little things we can be doing right now to get started? Or how can we bring the 1,000 little things individual stations are doing into a coherent plan?
- It's going to be pretty darned exciting when the online audience becomes larger than the broadcast audience, but without consistent statistical data, how will we know when we're there?
- Maybe we need to wrap our start around an upcoming event, say the 2008 Presidential election coverage? This would allow us (as you so rightly point out) to leverage our strength in community service.
- How can I help?

Steve Bass

Dennis -- this is an interesting and compelling posting. We need to recognize a few things about the public broadcasting system that plays into this: 1) the obvious point that we're a group of local stations rather than a top-down network (not likely changeable);
2) aside from a handful of effective joint licensees, the divide between public radio and television is wide and showing few signs of narrowing (despite the fact that web technology is blurring the broad lines between these two legacy media); 3) CPB is structured along a traditional radio/television divide whereby grants go to radio operations or television operations, with nothing really synergistic between the two.

I don't think that somehow putting public television and radio together in the online world will be easy at the national level. I don't think there's much point at tilting at that windmill as it will take too long and not likely succeed without some solid local operating models in place.

What I'd argue for is a small group of clear-thinking, committed joint licensees to work together to develop these models on a local, regional basis. Within a matter of days here at OPB, we'll be launching an online news site that will combine radio, television, newspaper, community partners, etc. in what we hope will be an effective third-platform play. We'll pull from NPR, the NewsHour and any other source we can and we don't need anything to happen on the national level to make this possible.

I don't think I can sit through another meeting about new realities, digital rights issues or why there's a need for some sort of imagined national leadership. There has been some progress and a few minor breakthroughs but it's time to move and perhaps a revolution from below is the only way it can happen.

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