Friday, May 12, 2006

Panel I: What the Broadcasters are doing

billed as: A few broadcasters display and discuss their efforts - the opportunities and obstacles they have experienced - with incorporating, experimenting with, or using participatory and emerging social media tools.

Moderator: Chris Lydon (Host, Open Source from PRI)

  • Bill Buzenberg (Senior Vice President of News, American Public Media/ Minnesota Public Radio)
  • Terry Heaton (President, DONATA™ Communication)
  • David Liroff (WGBH Vice President and Chief Technology Officer)


Is the internet the new "public"? Back when in New England, "public" meant diversity and innovation in the public interest. It was an aggressively non-commercial, anti-commercial space. In the new internet century (Stephen Colbert's world), and any of us can be a broadcaster, podcaster, writer with global reach. What's the new rule on public broadcasting?


Minnesota Public Radio has been obsessed with user-created content for a while now. They've done a "Minnewiki" (ba-dum-bum) which is a music-based wiki on their site where folks are creating more and more pages around the music they like.

Public Insight Journalism

"on any given story, someone in the audience will always know more than we do" - Bill Kling, MPR President.

On a regular basis, they write to those folks in their database to request their knowledge. The knowledge comes streaming back and is reviewed by analysts who prep the info for the reporters who then create the stories.

At first, the reporters were reluctant (why include all these others? isn't it messy?) but now they embrace all these info, stories and ideas that they otherwise wouldn't have heard of. They're using people's ideas to help them know what to cover and how much to cover it (sometimes, what had been planned to be a one-time story grows to be a five-part series).
  • Public Insight Network: 18,000 people in 50 states and 12 countries
  • Resources: 4 staff and an intern


Personal Media and WKRN

"The triumph of personal technology over mass technolgoy" - Glen Reynolds, An Army of Davids

The business models and future prosperity is found in looking at the disruptive spaces where mass media and personal media collide.

Two important value props:
  • Media is unbundled at the point of origin and rebundled at the point of consumption.
  • Mediated people make their own media.
The Personal Media Revolution: What do you do when the deer have guns? You get into the ammunition business.

Nashville is Talking
  • maintains active blogosphere database
  • aggregates rss feeds of 400 local bloggers
  • manages ad networks for bloggers
  • this returns:
  1. influence
  2. visitors
  3. revenue
  4. ratings

They have a blogger that watches the feeds come in and then writes based on what she's seeing. This allows folks to subscribe to the WKRN feed instead of 400 individual feeds.


WGBH traces its history back to the 1830s and the Lowell family was the sponsor of public lectures back then and there's an unbroken line that extends all the way to today, although only a third of that history has been in the electric age.

The opportunities that we now have to engage with the many audiences are enormous.Before we write off the one-way broadcast and embrace the "new way," let's look at how broadcast marries so well with the internet.
  • Do a Google search on Evolution or Jesus, and the PBS sites around those searches are in the first few results.
  • Look at iTunes podcasting, you'll find in the top 100 podcasts on any day, at least 10 from public radio.

Earliest endeavor in this area is the forum network which is a series of lectures from the Boston area (30 institutions in all). Is typically a presentation/lecture attended by a few hundred people, but is then digitized and curated for broad consumption.The key to public media going forward may well be this notion of public engagement. It's dangerous to assume that the for-profit system will worry about a well-informed public. It's the job of the public media organizations.

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