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.


Going the 8 Mile: Community Engagement in Detroit

WDET-FM has a lot to show for its efforts to engage the Detroit metro community. “Truck Stop”—a project that empowers citizens to use anonymous text messaging to report illegal truck driving in low income and historically marginalized communities—is just one way WDET demonstrates its commitment to serve and strengthen Detroit.

The station is also part of an initiative for PRI’s The Takeaway that integrates regionally focused engagement to inform the program’s national content. WDET’s participation helps the series but, perhaps more importantly, it helps the station build local relationships that strengthen its local reporting.

“We’ve been working the last couple of years to make ties in different communities, showing up and acknowledging them,” says Jerome Vaughn, WDET’s news program director. “If you only show up when there’s a shooting, there’s not going to be any trust. So we show up because it shows we do care.”

The station is now finding opportunities for community connection along Detroit’s notorious “8 Mile Road”—a stretch of Michigan highway that starkly divides the city along racial and economic lines. Partnering with a community organization named “Blight Busters,” WDET is structuring a series of community conversations using questions crafted for the purpose of discovering needs and aspirations. It’s a chance for the station to listen (which is a crucial first step of a community engagement strategy) and learn about Detroit communities that are not regular public radio listeners. According to WDET Program Director Ron Jones, building in-person relationships is necessary to fulfill public media’s mission of serving communities:

“They begin to know who we are and we see who they are, and begin to understand what’s important to them.”

Explore other stories of public media’s impact on publicmediamaps.org. Is your station doing great work? Share it with us.


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.


Top 10 Tech Trends for Public Media

Author, speaker and digital expert Amy Webb presented ten technology trends that matter to public media during her remarks at the Integrated Media Association Conference in Austin, Tex. The trends illustrate just how quickly mobile devices (including tablets) and expanded web technologies like HTML5 will change the landscape in which public media offer content and services.

Webb created a nifty webpage that summarizes her remarks; it includes the Top 10 Trends, as well as links to resources and examples. Pay attention to number eight and, specifically, how Amy advocates an approach that focuses on “hyper-personal” instead of “hyper-local.” (Her “Hyper-Local Hype Cycle” graphic is definitely worth a look).

Learn more about Amy’s work at http://www.webbmediagroup.com/.

Goodbye Public Interactive, Hello NPR Digital Services

This morning NPR announced a re-imagination of its Public Interactive division at the Integrated Media Association Conference in Austin, Tex. The group will now be known as NPR Digital Services.

The change in name comes with an expanded mission to work with stations to “…grow and engage audiences across platforms.” NPR Digital Services will offer content, technology and resources so stations may provide more value to their communities by engaging thought leaders and focusing on mission-driven local content.

Read the full announcement.


iMA Conference: Opportunities for Action

The National Center for Media Engagement is on the ground March 10-12 in Austin, Tex. at the Integrated Media Conferences (iMA) Conference. Colleagues from public media and organizations outside the system are gathering to stimulate innovation and receive tips, tools, and resources that offer immediate opportunities for action.

Participating in the iMA conference too? Let us know. It’d be great to connect.

If you’re not in Austin but would like to keep up with the action, follow our session blogging (below).

5 to 6:15 p.m. – Thursday, March 10

Innovation Anxiety – How to Understand and Leverage the Opportunities of Networks

Presenters: Joaquin Alvarado, Senior Vice President for Digital innovation, American Public Media and Mark Ramsey, President of Mark Ramsey Media

  • Joaquin and Mark began by discussing the value of failure. True innovation produces both wins and losses. If your organization punishes failed experiments, is it also stifling innovation? (the conversation reminded this blogger of a recent post from NCME’s Jess Main).
  • We also discussed the emergence of the term “public service media,” and distinguished it from regular “public media.” Joaquin describes public service media as “…seek[ing] to identify needs and engage with communities to solve problems.” His definition aligns nicely with how we at NCME define community engagement.
  • Venture capitalists are devoting 100% of their budgets to innovation. How can public media innovate with dwindling resources? Harnessing human capital is key. Also, it’s about shifting expectations and perspectives. Minnesota Public Radio’s Jon Gordon remarked, “We need to be willing to risk instead of waiting for new money.”
  • Joaquin argued that meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse nation should be a key goal for public media. Mark also offered that reaching new audiences (e.g. non-college educated) should be a priority for all stations… “…what does their public service media look like?”

What does your public service media look like and how are you pushing the risk and innovation equation?

7:30  to 9 a.m. – Friday, March 11

PBS & NPR Local / National Strategies

Presenters: Kinsey Wilson, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Digital Media at NPR and Jason Seiken, President of Interactive at PBS.

  • Kinsey kicked off the conversation discussing how NPR’s strength is its news gathering capabilities and ability to have “boots on the ground” in communities across the nation. The recent re-imagination of Public Interactive as NPR Digital Services helps supports this key capacity by offering stations digital tools that can augment their work.
  • Jason Seiken discussed the history of PBS Interactive. Before 2007, the goal was to grow pbs.org. Since then, it’s been to grow pbs.org to benefit member stations.

Some recent stats:

  • 24M monthly users of PBS sites;
  • PBS was the 18th most popular website for video in January, with more than 105 million video streams;
  • PBS.org attracts a younger, more diverse audience;
  • The majority of COVE video content is locally produced.

What’s next from PBS Interactive? (a) COVE API coming soon; (b)  redesigned video experience; (c) improved administrative interface; (d) better performance and an ability to monetize national content for stations.

Next steps for mobile? (a) Local video to appear in mobile applications; (b) mobile version of COVE; (c) Mobile toolkits for stations.

1:30  to 2:30 p.m. – Friday, March 11

Top 10 Teach Trends that Matter to Public Media

Presenter: Amy Webb, CEO of Webb Media Group

Technologist Amy Webb offered 10 Tech Trends that public media to pay attention to in the months ahead. View this nifty webpage Amy created that summarizes her remarks.

NAMAC Features NBPC’s Fields-Cruz

Last month, the National Alliance for Media Art + Culture (NAMAC) profiled National Black Programming Consortium’s (NBPC) Leslie Fields-Cruz as its “featured leader.” In a Q&A posted on NAMAC’s site, Fields-Cruz discusses what drew her to public media and eloquently reveals how she remains engaged and inspired with her work.

As Vice President of Operations and Programming, Fields-Cruz manages NBPC’s Production Media Fund and supervises the distribution of NBPC funded programs to PBS. She also oversees the popular NBPC series “AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange.”

(Note: NAMAC’s previous “featured leaders” include Shirley Sneve, executive director of Native American Public Telecommunications and Justine Nagan, executive director of Kartemquin Films.)

NBPC has a busy week ahead. On Friday, March 11 Kay Shaw, director of NBPC’s Public Media Corps (PMC), moderates a session at the Integrated Media Association Conference that explores different models for community partnerships. Then, on Saturday, March 12 NBPC Executive Director Jacquie Jones participates in “Open Wide: New Models for Public Media” at the South by Southwest Festival.