The View from Outside the Newsroom


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My lightning talk from ASNE 2013. This is an overview of the broad digital threats & opportunities facing public radio and how we've responded. The video is here and starts at 20 min, 30 sec:

  • My speaker notes below
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  • =====
    11. Right now, we’re partnering with our public media partners to write the best API we’ve ever written.

    The public media platform will be flexible, fast, and eventually we’ll open it to all media companies.
    12. It’s also time for us to get back to what we do best. Two years ago we launched the Infinite Player as an experiment.

    It’s been called a “Pandora for News”.
    13. That’s not a perfect analogy, because news is different. We have to think about timeliness, editorial judgment, shared experience, discovery, and yes: a bit of personalization.

    It’s also started a lot of conversations about how we can tell stories when the broadcast constraints are removed.

    14. Whatever the next generation listening app looks like, it will have to be local. Public radio is about a shared sense of community, and the local station connection needs to be preserved.

    15. Another trend I watch is that we’re about to be inundated with data in the next few years.

    There’s open data and on top of that a wave of hardware sensors for city infrastructure, personal devices, and open source projects is about to release a deluge of data that can make big issues like health and the environment personal and local. We’ll be able to tell stories we’ve never told before.

    There are also risks.
    16. There were two unintentional sensor data stories this year. Tesla released logs that refuted a NY Times story. Vice magazine accidentally gave John McAfee’s location away. Data is coming fast, from unexpected places. We need to understand privacy implications, we need to avoid hurting the folks we protect, and we need to understand what can now be subpoenaed.
    17. In the short term, we need to keep investing in data journalism. Math beats anecdotes, and the public rightfully expects more.
    18. Finally, Money is oxygen, and we could all use more.

    The current ad banner model causes more harm that good. We make terrible decisions in the newsroom in pursuit of page views, executives misguide entire strategies, and we’re never going to do any better than tread water with impression based ads.

    19. The pledge model will work better on digital devices if we can keep it. Not only will you be able to donate within the app, but we can suppress the fund drive for subscribers.

    20. Data products may lead to new revenue streams if we are bold enough to embrace them. As a consumer, I would love more targeted offers from companies who meet my values.

    I’d love to see media rating companies according to environmental stewardship, labor practices, and quality the same way that Bloomberg rates companies on financials and US News rates colleges. If we want to change the world, we should tell consumers what to buy.

    Someone will turn detailed consumer preferences into a revenue model. Let’s take some chances.
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  • 1. The digital product team sits outside the newsroom. We aren’t on deadline and we have the time to look at the big picture trends. ===== 2. If you look at the entire public radio system, it behaves like a single vertically- integrated company. We own manufacturing, distribution, and retail. We have a built-in revenue model. Stations take donations from the public, and they use that money to buy programs from us. ===== 3. The problem is that this revenue model requires that all of those channels are in place. And right now, every piece is vulnerable to disruption by startups and internet efficiencies in general. So do we save what we have and ensure the future of public radio? ===== 4. We had to start by transforming our culture, because if that isn’t right, no amount of technology can help us. Luckily we have an open, innovative culture. My colleague likes to say that the the 20 somethings are the heart of NPR – they bring ideas and vigor. The veterans are the soul: they keep our value system whole. ==== 5. A few years ago we endeavored an enormous digital transformation with a grant that Knight gave to us. One terrific side effect was that we built a to of relationships across departments. We need that kind of collaboration and we’re doing it with the stations now. === 6. We need a culture that encourages grassroots innovations and the people who create them. NPR famously passed on This American Life. Planet Money was different: it was a bottom-up idea that executives nurtured from the very beginning. ==== 7. New platforms can be exciting and scary because they change the way content is consumed. We have to think differently about user experience on each platform. But the first problem we have to solve is sending our content everywhere. ==== 8. That’s why every thing we build is an API first. The first NPR NPR API launched in 2008. It was a radical idea. ==== 9. The backstory is that we didn’t have a CEO at the time and some smart people rammed it through. APIs are exciting because they let you build things quickly. That’s as close to future proof as life gets. ==== 10. A perfect example is the iPad. Apple didn't give us any advance notice like they did to some other organizations. We found out when the rest of the world did. We spent 5 weeks crashing on design and ux and produced an award winning app on a device that no one had yet touched.
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The View from Outside the Newsroom

  1. The view from outside the newsroom@javaunJavaun Moradi
  2. Stories (consumer product)Programs (packaging)FM/AM Stations (retail)Satellites(distribution)NPR, APM, PRI(manufacturing)
  3. Credit: Ilgar Sagdejev
  4. Culture
  5. PlatformsAPIs(i.e. MAGIC!)
  6. Reinventing Audio
  7. DataAlex Howard (@digiphile)
  8. The bar set by the competition, in otherwords, was invitingly low.Someone could look like a genius simply bydoing some fairly basic research into whatreally has predictive power in a politicalcampaign.- Nate Silver, “The Signal and the Noise”
  9. Revenue