Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital Age
In November, NPR and the regional public radio organizations around the nation convened a meeting that I believe will be important in charting a course for the future of public radio. Much of the meeting focused on the sizzling pace of technological change taking place for consuming media content and how stations can and must adapt to providing content in this brave new world. There were three takeaways from the meeting:
With the expanding ability to find and access content from a multitude of national providers, adding value for public radio listeners by connecting programming to local communities and regions is essential. Public radio listeners care deeply about their local stations and communities so stations perform a vital public service while achieving an important business objective when they create as much local programming as possible. At JPR, we have always understood this value. In recent years, as some stations moved away from locally produced music programming in favor of less expensive nationally produced programs, JPR has remained committed to creating high-quality local music programs that allow us to connect our program content with the communities we serve and the many arts organizations that contribute to the cultural fabric of our region. In the area of news, JPR’s Jefferson Exchange provides a valuable forum for the in-depth discussion of local civic issues within a regional context. As we continue these established local elements of our programming, we are actively exploring ways to cost-effectively generate additional high-quality local content that complements the excellent national and international programming we create with NPR and other national public radio networks and program producers.
Create Content Across Platforms
With consumers accelerating the pace at which they adopt mobile platforms for consuming media, public radio stations must consistently disseminate content across multiple platforms. This is not an easy task as it requires a significant investment in a central JPR digital content platform with the near certainty that the technology we adopt will continue to rapidly change. NPR, together with stations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is currently working to develop this platform and a system for supporting its continued technological evolution. Even with these challenges, I am convinced there are ways for us to leverage the work we do each day to better serve listeners. For example, when JPR has an important civic leader in our studio for an interview on the Jefferson Exchange we are actively exploring how that content can be made available to listeners who mostly listen to Morning Edition or All Things Considered as well as attracting listeners via online and mobile platforms who get news on demand. This work will be difficult and multi-dimensional but I believe it is an exciting opportunity for expanded public service.
Collaborate or Die
In the digital age, aggregating content is the name of the game in order to achieve an audience large enough to attract online revenue sources – which is essential in order for programming to be sustainable. As stand alone operations individual public radio stations, and even NPR itself, are not major players when compared to the emerging national content mega-aggregators. But, together, if we combine the audiences and loyalty of NPR with the excellent local stations around the country we are a digital powerhouse. During the coming years, as younger audiences migrate to current and newly imagined digital devices to consume media, we must work together. NPR needs to collaborate with local stations, local stations need to collaborate with NPR, local stations need to collaborate with each other, local stations need to collaborate with their University licensees, local stations need to form regional networks with which to collaborate. You get the point. No longer is collaboration a feel good thing – it is an absolute business imperative.
JPR has begun, and will continue to engage in the planning necessary to implement some of these concepts. I’ll keep you apprised of our progress as our service evolves with the goal of creating better informed and inspired citizens of the State of Jefferson.