Why PBS’ Use of Gowalla Matters

In late February, PBS entered the world of location-based social networking by joining Gowalla—a mobile platform that allows users to “check-in” at physical locations they visit and share photos, highlights and tips. The application boasts more than 1 million active users and walked away with the coveted “Mobile Award” at last year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival. It hopes to garner 5 million users by summer.

While an early innovator, Gowalla is far from alone in the mobile social networking market. FourSquare, The Hotlist, Gbanga and Facebook Places are just a few on a growing list of location-based applications that seek to attract users by blending physical and digital spaces.

And attracting users they are.

FourSquare has 7.5 million users, with roughly 35,000 people joining each day. The growth is not surprising considering last year nearly 39 million Americans participated in social networks on a mobile device. By 2015, that number is expected to reach more than 79 million.

What are the opportunities for public media?

The growing popularity of geo-location services offers public media opportunities to interact with new communities in new ways. Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that young adults, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to go online wirelessly than other groups (more than a quarter of U.S. teens access the Internet from a mobile phone). Overall, African Americans are the most active users of mobile Internet—and their use is growing at a faster pace than other groups.

Additionally, trends suggest that media content will be increasingly tied to physical spaces. FourSquare allows users to submit photos with check-ins, YouTube has been tying content to location for years and, just last week, NCME’s Ann Alquist discussed how Broadcastr maps audio content based on where it was created or what it references.

Imagine: A mobile user checks into your city’s art museum on Gowalla and they’re offered a clip your station produced about the institution’s Picasso exhibit. Or, a high school student visits Washington D.C.’s Vietnam War Memorial and is prompted to stream a preview of a Ken Burns film. Both are potential parts of public media’s future.

Beyond providing another platform for distributing content or reaching new audiences, location-based social networking helps public media build relationships—a paramount priority for any organization seeking to engage the people it serves. Participating in geo social networks creates opportunities for stations and producers to connect with communities in new ways; it pushes conventional boundaries for what public media “is” and creates new relevance for quality content and the indispensable value stations offer to local communities.

How to get started:

Inspired by PBS’ foray into Gowalla? Join the site (you can opt to connect via Facebook). Need a quick overview of location apps? We found a Location Apps for Dummies article (see both part one and part two) that offers quick differentiation among 12 popular tools.

When you’re ready to dive in, consider friending NCME on FourSquare.

 

Toward an Engagement Ethos

I once had a professor who used a handful of favorite mantras.  One that he repeated most often went something like this:

“The things that made you successful up until now are not the things that will make you successful in the future.”

While that sounds counter-intuitive, it encompasses the notion that we have to change and evolve with the times and the contexts we’re in.

A similar theme recurred at the recent iMA conference. Sometimes the conversation focused on adapting to emerging tools, such as Amy Webb’s presentation about technology trends. Other times, the conversation focused on getting better at everything from innovation to collaboration to social media, leveraging networks, and creating multi-platform content.

It can all be a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. These conversations have one thing in common: the challenge to change and evolve with the times and contexts we’re in without compromising the things that made us successful in the first place.

More specifically, how do we maintain and reaffirm the skills and standards that help us successfully curate and distribute content of the highest standard while simultaneously developing the skills to successfully engage our communities and strengthen civic life?

With your help and CPB’s support, we’ve discovered that deeply engaged stations tend to behave in certain ways. They put the community first. They cultivate an engagement ethos–a mindset and internal culture for engagement. Some have always behaved this way–it’s in their organizational DNA. Others realized that future success required something different than past success. They changed who they are as an organization and their way of being a part of the community.

Making this change is hard work. Like change in our personal lives, changing organizational culture requires vigilance and a commitment to a core set of key behaviors. To learn more, watch this brief video. Then adopt an engagement ethos as the first step toward building even stronger stations, stronger local service, and stronger communities.

And that professor I had? He probably followed his own advice, which is what made him a good teacher and why I still remember his mantras.

 

POV Awards Grants for ‘Most Dangerous Man’

American Documentary | POV has awarded seven grants totaling $50,000 to public television stations to support local programming and community activities around the Oscar®-nominated film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. The grants are part of the second phase of POV’s national campaign to engage communities in dialogues about issues the film addresses. Funding for the campaign is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

KNME – Albuquerque, N.M.
KNME will collaborate with the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque Public Schools. The station will broadcast a panel discussion on ethics and freedom of the press, and promote the documentary’s April broadcast on the public affairs program New Mexico in Focus. Host Gene Grant will interview Daniel Ellsberg via satellite uplink from KQED, using questions submitted by University of New Mexico Ethics in Journalism students and History of Media students, who will be in the audience. A panel of working journalists will discuss the issues.

KQED – San Francisco, Calif.
KQED is partnering with University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and the Northern California chapter of the ACLU to hold an afternoon of discussion and debate about WikiLeaks, the legacy of the Pentagon Papers, national security, personal freedom and the rule of law. Ellsberg will talk about these issues on a panel that will also include university professors, government officials, reporters and other experts from across the country. The Most Dangerous Man in America also will be screened as part of the event.

Maryland Public Television – Owings Mills, Md.
MPT will engage journalism students at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merril College of Journalism with a screening and panel discussion on the station’s Direct Connection program. Audience members will participate in a live “Tweetup” with a hashtag to track the discussion. Prior to the event, the dean of the college will assign related projects to students.

WFYI – Indianapolis, Ind.
WFYI, along with the Pulliam School of Journalism at Franklin College, will host a community screening and discussion focusing on issues of transparency and freedom of information; Ellsberg will Skype into the event. WFYI will also reach Central Indiana listeners through the production of an episode of the local public affairs radio show No Limits.

WGVU – Grand Rapids, Mich.
WGVU is partnering with the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, journalism and political science classes at Grand Valley State University, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, where a public screening and panel discussion will be held. Ellsberg will participate via Skype, and the event will serve as a “Tweetup” for some of the attendees. WGVU will also produce special editions of its local public affairs television program, Newsmakers, and radio call-in show, the WGVU Morning Show.

WVIZ – Cleveland, Ohio
WVIZ has forged a partnership with Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State, as well as five local libraries and the Lakewood Public School District, to present a screening and panel discussion. The event will be accessible to viewers across the nation through real-time videoconferencing, posted on the WVIZ/PBS ideastream® website.

WXXI – Rochester, N.Y.
WXXI will collaborate with New York State universities Geneseo and Brockport, along with Rochester-area colleges, to hold a public screening followed by a Q&A with one of the film’s directors in-person, and Ellsberg via Skype. WXXI will also broadcast a radio interview with Ellsberg and use the encore broadcast of The Most Dangerous Man in America for its spring pledge drive.

Questions about the grant program? Contact Eliza Licht at POV.

 

Broadcastr: Knowing Where You’ve Been to See Where You Need to Be

Imagine a tool that shows radio stations the areas in communities they’ve visited, and distributes content from places they’ve reported on or from.

Enter Broadcastr, a new social media platform for location-based stories. It enables the recording, indexing, listening and sharing of audio content. The tool is guided by the belief that, just like in human memory, all stories are bound to a place. Broadcastr strives to amplify our collective voice by allowing users to take GPS-enabled walks, during which stories about physical surroundings are available for on-demand streaming.

What are the opportunities for public media?

Radio Milwaukee’s Digital Content Manager Tarik Moody BETA-tested submitting stories for his station’s Make Milwaukee campaign. The process allowed Radio Milwaukee’s producers to post stories from the field and also encouraged engagement with community members by allowing users and audience members to create and upload their own content.

Beyond storytelling, imagine the value of being able to visually map the places to which your news coverage connects. Which neighborhoods are frequently visited? What are the places that rarely receive coverage?

Although still in BETA, Broadcastr offers a robust, searchable site. Give it a visit and explore its features; browse content by categories, or specific locations.

Already using Broadcastr? Let us know! We’d like to highlight your experience to colleagues in the public media system.

Update: On March 10, Broadcastr released an app in iTunes.

 

#FAIL? There’s No Shame in Learning from It

A key component to successfully engaging with your community is knowing your value, knowing what you bring to the table as part of the community. We learn what value we bring by evaluating our successes and failures continually, making improvements, replicating success, adapting over time.

At NCME we’ve been thinking a lot about success stories lately, due to our recent launch of the Stories of Impact layer on Public Media Maps. We’re thrilled to provide a tool to help stations demonstrate their successes and to highlight the nationwide impact of public media work. Stories are integral to our engagement work in public media, and stories of success aren’t the only ones out there. We struggle to open up about our failures, but there seems to be a trend of people clearing the way to help us all learn from that other, equally important side of the coin.

In the interest of shining a bright light on failure in order to learn and improve, Engineers Without Borders Canada has started Admitting Failure, a website that allows organizations to come and share a story of failure in the interest of helping all organizations collectively improve. Their motto? “Learning from what’s not working. Creating space for what is.” There is some relief in calling a spade a spade, and novelty in seeing others publicly do so. But the site also emphasizes the importance of seeing failure as an opportunity, and those who are submitting their stories of failure are making a point to cover the lessons learned, not just to paint portraits of disaster. A similar public offering will be available at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference next week (one of several conferences in March at which you will find NCME staffers). I’ve noticed several of the sessions specifically deal with stories of failure, and bringing those lessons to light for the nonprofit sector. Public media is taking steps in this direction, too: according to the PBS SPI Twitter feed, they’re working on a session about lessons learned from failure for the PBS Annual Meeting.

We can learn the most from ourselves and others when we assess our work honestly and authentically. Author Nina Simon (The Participatory Museum) described some incredible engagement work she and her students did in a recent blog post. Her recounting of the projects this team took on contains great gems of information about place-based engagement and collaboration. In addition, she writes with refreshing frankness and transparency about what worked, what the challenges and surprises were, and why.

Not all organizations feel the freedom to put their failures on a public stage, and perhaps yours is one. What are the ways in which we can infuse the openness of that public platform into our work?

Engage NCME in a Community Near You in March

Don’t look now, but staff members of the National Center for Media Engagement (NCME) are coming to a conference near you during a flurry of activity in March 2011.

Charles Meyer, Cristina Hanson and I (Bryce Kirchoff) will be at the Integrated Media Association (iMA) Conference in Austin, Texas, March 10-12. The iMA gathering is part of the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) conference. It will feature sessions that explore the latest innovation in public media. For more, click here.

Also on March 10-12, Ann Alquist, NCME’s Director of Radio Engagement, will be giving a  presentation at the Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio (AMPPR) conference in New York City. She will facilitate, and present, as part of the Going Local: The Community Session where she will be joined by representatives from the Houston Grand Opera and WQXR, WNYC’s classical music channel. The AMPPR conference runs from March 9-11. More info here.

Jennifer MacArthur, NCME’s Director of TV and Digital Media Engagement, will participate in a special panel discussion as part of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival sponsored by the Center for Asian American Media. On Sunday, March 13, Jennifer will discuss Mastering the Art of Engagement and Crowdsourcing alongside panelists John Lightfoot (California Council for the Humanities), Alicia Dwyer and Tom Xia (Xmas Without China), Ellen Schneider (Active Voice), Pete Nicks (The Waiting Room) and Dien S. Yuen (Give2asia). The panel will explore the dynamics of crowdsourcing through case studies, offer new strategies for media makers, and even reveal funding opportunities. Learn more.

Finally, NCME’s engagement manager Jess Main will be attending the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., March 17-19. Sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), the  conference brings together nonprofit professionals from around the world to collaborate, innovate, and maximize technology in the nonprofit space.

Headed to any of the gatherings mentioned above? Drop us a note. We’d be delighted to connect.

Turning Social Buying into Community Engagement

Groupon’s Patty Huber participated in an event with NTEN today, regarding Groupon’s G-Team. Huber describes G-Team as a “core part” of the business that not only helps connect nonprofits with social buying opportunities, but that will eventually expand the company’s work to encourage community building activities beyond monetary gifts. (See my NCME colleague Jennifer MacArthur‘s great post about KQED’s recent use of Groupon.)

Groupon’s G-Team isn’t alone. CauseOn operates much like Groupon, but slides 20% of the take over to a local nonprofit – essentially creating two incentives per deal. Philanthroper has yet another model, encouraging people to give in small and frequent amounts – donations are limited to $1 per day, and the site features one 501(c)(3) per day. This model is designed to “create a culture of daily giving,” as Thomas Hughes posted today on Technology in the Arts.

The changing conversation about donation incentives and giving patterns not only makes us consider how  public media can best build sustainable practices in the digital space. It can also help us shift our thinking to the sustainability that lies in the way we convene and connect people locally. What’s most exciting about this growing social practice is the possibility of bringing communities together around an issue: essentially turning social buying into social buy-in. Huber expressed excitement about the possibilities for using Groupon to help mobilize volunteers. This could certainly be of value for public media stations that often rely on volunteer help. But let’s push further: how else could we leverage this trend to benefit the communities we serve?