I’m a big fan of National Public Radio, and very proud of the local Boston affiliate, WBUR. What really excites me about them lately, however, is how they are embracing social media, and exploring how the new landscape of technology changes (or doesn’t) a public radio station’s interactions with the people it serves. Ken George, who works on social media for WBUR was the best host and it was without question the most fulfilling event of its kind that I’ve ever attended.
Here’s what Ken did well: he invited us into several conversations. Keith Hopper led what I’m told was a great conversation on hyperlocal as it pertains to media. I started off a conversation about participatory media, which then almost immediately went all over the place, covering business models for displaced journalists, the question of how public radio stations might shift into being curators and editors more than frontline reporters, and several other great angles.
Every gathering is different, but what I loved about the WBUR event was that Ken George and Keith Hopper and everyone from WBUR who was around made an effort to make us all feel really great. I’m feeling really bad because I can’t remember Margaret’s last name, but she took me in her office and we talked about editing and sound and how radio is so intimate. It felt great, and I didn’t get a photo. (May I come back and do an interview some time?)
At the tweetup, there was everyone from Doc Searls to Shava Nerad to Mike Langford to Eric Guerin to Alex Howard and so many more. It was a grand time filled with wonderful discussions.
Public Radio and the Public
Public radio relies heavily on personal donations. There are corporate sponsors and there are occasional grants, but for the most part, it’s really “listeners like you” who keep it alive. With that in mind, it’s this embracing of the public, especially in this case the wired public, that will potentially keep a station like WBUR alive. How? Because once we know the face behind the voice, it’s a lot harder not to want to see the institution survive and thrive.
Will the walls of public radio become porous and let in more two-way experiences? I believe that’s where lots of media experiences will shift. We’ve seen the host-caller model for decades. What comes next (perhaps) is dozens of hosts and a few curators, plus the ability to interact at different levels. We see this last piece realized in the frequent use of, “For more information, visit WBUR.org and click on ‘news'” types of moments in broadcasts.
By the way, want a sign that WBUR gets it? Check out Inside WBUR. Front and center of the page? A Flickr photo slideshow of what? Mostly people visiting WBUR during these social outreach events.
Great job, gang. See you again soon.
This post by Ken George has even more info about the event, and his blog is worth checking out, too.
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