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.

 

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.

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.