The Future is Public Service Media


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Revised slides from a presentation I originally gave at WOSU Public Media in Columbus on Friday, December 11, 2009. I was asked to talk about the "future of public media" and gathered some stats, some recommendations and more to share with the assembled group.

Additional versions of this presentation -- including a voiceover edition in video -- are available at

The Future is Public Service Media

  1. 1. c e r vi is Se The Future of Public Media John Proffitt
  2. 2. About this presentation • Originally presented Friday, December 11, 2009 at WOSU Public Media in Columbus, Ohio • WOSU: AM news/talk + FM classical/news + TV PBS + local newsroom • Somewhat modified slides + new voiceover
  3. 3. Let’s talk • Tech, Media and Social Trends (our changing world) • The New Media Economics (created by the trends) • Public Service Media in Practice • The Future
  4. 4. Tech Trends
  5. 5. Broadcast vs. Broadband • Pressure mounting from wireless carriers (revenue), consumers (services) and government (universal broadband / competition) to expand wireless spectrum • Fight over OTA TV spectrum has begun; TV likely to lose at least something • Commercial OTA TV outlets may even be willing to give spectrum up • How do you like that DTV transition now?
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  9. 9. Broadcast vs. Broadband • Broadcasters see a threat • Entrepreneurs see an opportunity • Broadcasters want protection from this threat and many will fight it • But you can’t fight 5,000% growth; they’ll just out-lobby you • Use this momentum to your advantage ( jujitsu )
  10. 10. Mobile Internet Explosion: iPhone • 60 million iPhone / iPod Touch devices in 2.5 years • (not to mention BlackBerry, Android, Palm, Nokia, netbooks, ad infinitum) • E-mail, web, YouTube, photos, videos, music, books all in your pocket • 100,000+ iPhone apps in 18 months • 2G / 3G wireless + WiFi + iTunes sync • Fastest Internet service adoption rate in history: 8X AOL after 8 quarters
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  12. 12. Music Radio Beware
  13. 13. Disintermediation expanding • Hulu • DVD & Blu-ray • YouTube • Pandora / Streaming • iPhone streaming apps • Boxee • NetFlix, NetFlix streaming, RedBox • PS3, Xbox 360 • Podcasting
  14. 14. Media Democratization: Tools + Distribution • Smartphones: pocket media producers (video, photo, audio, text, location, editing, uploading, social media) • HD video shooting under $300 + pro microphones, still cameras, etc. • Free editing tools, unlimited options for publishing, all basically free • RosenblumTV / Travel Channel Academy / NYVS • Free blogging, free photo sharing, on and on...
  15. 15. Home broadband approaching 70%
  16. 16. Media Trends
  17. 17. Media Consumption • Americans consume 34GB of data/info per day • Daily info consumption up 350% over 30 years • We consume about 100,000 words per day via all media • Info consumption up 6% per year • Gaming now represents 55% of the bytes we consume
  18. 18. Everyone watches online video 25% of ages 65+ 90% of ages 18-29
  19. 19. Online video trumps social networking
  20. 20. comScore Video Stats [Oct 2009] • 28 billion views by 167 million unique viewers in the U.S. • 84% of U.S. Internet audience viewed online video • Average online video viewer watched 10.8 hours of video • 125 million YouTube viewers watched more than 10 billion videos, about 83 videos per viewer • 42 million Hulu viewers averaged 20 videos, totaling 2 hours of video
  21. 21. New Media Forms: TWiT Network • Live video streams, live chat, audio podcasts, multiple topics, rotating casts, 40+ hours of new content weekly • Tight demographics + targeted advertising • 2.6M live views/month; 4.6M downloads/month; 600,000 monthly uniques • Studio: 1 person is live TV director / audio / show host simultaneously • Studio built with consumer and low-end pro gear, including Skype • Revenues rising, over $1,000,000 annually; operated by 1 owner + 2 staff
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  23. 23. Shot in HD, streamed live Up to 4 live Skype calls Host is also Director Optional In-Studio Guests
  24. 24. Public Media Trends: NPR and PBS • NPR gathering listener relationships directly • NPR web organizing around interaction, personalization, social media • mobile apps powering listening, reading, sharing everywhere • local station features are a hat tip; most stations don’t play at this level • PBS attempting the same; struggling with user demographics, leadership • viewer relationships gelling around producers, not retailers • most interesting work in progress: PBS NewsHour
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  26. 26. Public Media Trends: CPB • May attempt Public Broadcasting Act reauthorization; may push for expanded funding for public service media, less commodity broadcasting • Attention shifting to interactive media, public service, engagement, news: Facing the Mortgage Crisis; Argo Project; PublicMediaCamp • Congress may boost next budget to $445M • CPB spends 67% of their appropriation on public TV programming and operations — does that make sense today?
  27. 27. Public Media Trends: Public Insight Network • APM’s Public Insight Network continues to grow • Network effects + database management • Enriches, deepens and accelerates local / regional news gathering and public storytelling [ Why isn’t this a national requirement for CPB grantees? ]
  28. 28. Commercial Journalism “Collapse” • A little overblown, but still bad; Four terrible factors: • lack of vision, leadership or management at the top • disastrous financial choices (debt) driven by stock market pressure • aging journalists focused on privilege and history, not public service • less ad money generally + ads moving to measurable media (online) • Some papers out of business; others shrinking; “safest” papers are small local outlets
  29. 29. Nonprofit Journalism and Pubcasting • Journalists want to emulate public broadcasting’s fundraising success via donations and advertising to support their mission • Journalists criticize pubcasting’s weak commitment to local news • Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) and Knight Foundation reports push for change in public broadcasting to address community news needs • Nonprofit journalism projects firing up nationwide: MinnPost; St. Louis Beacon (with KETC); Texas Tribune;; Bay Area News Project (with KQED); ProPublica (lots more) • Does “journalism” need to be nonprofit?
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  31. 31. Social Trends
  32. 32. Online Communities • Low-cost simple tools make new communities possible • Building / managing communities is the new 21st century skill • Convene, host, participate, engage, interact
  33. 33. Social media meets real world • People meet online, meet in the real world • Tasty Tweets = $3,500 • Ignite Anchorage (or Ignite Columbus) • TEDxAnchorage (or TEDxColumbus) • Create new and deepen existing relationships • Pew study: New technology not isolating
  34. 34. A Global Meetup (
  35. 35. Social Media Explosion • 350 million on Facebook today — 2009 started with 150 million • 50 million Twitter accounts (9/09), adding 8 million a month; 2009 started with 6 million monthly web visitors • 50 million on LinkedIn (first million = 477 days, last million = 12 days) • Social gaming explosion; 69 million Farmville users • Watch the stats on the Social Media Counter
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  38. 38. NPR on Facebook • 500,000 fans of NPR • 2,000,000+ page views driven from Facebook posts in Aug 2009 • 4% to 8% of all traffic sourced from Facebook • Updates to Facebook, up to 10 per day, still manual as of Oct 2009 • Majority of traffic not from Fan Page, but from friend re-posts / likes • Facebook presence: free
  39. 39. The New Media Economics
  40. 40. (the end of media scarcity)
  41. 41. Economics of Abundance
  42. 42. Economics of Abundance • Pubcasting flourished in media scarcity; we still think in the old model • Today media demand demand spread across “infinite” & growing supply; media is mere commodity • What’s scarce in media today? • Context / Relevance • Face Time / Truly Special Events • Community / Belonging / Identity • Surprise / Uniqueness • Time and Attention • Trust
  43. 43. Public Broadcasting: Declining Economic Value • not invented here; national issues and focus; limited local relevance • available directly from the producer (often more conveniently) • deeply tied to schedules in an on-demand world • not particularly unique (especially TV) / too many competitors • services unfocused / content diluted across too many interests and markets
  44. 44. Social Ailments = Public Service Opportunities • Slow economic collapse of the middle class: housing, jobs, income, healthcare, food security • Evaporation of effective political debate (he said/she said, left/right) • Media Abuse: false populism, reality distortion for power gains • Representative democracy seemingly “for sale” • Systemic financial collapse or deficit-driven malaise are major risks • Civic disengagement via feelings of powerlessness
  45. 45. Economic Opportunities 1 • Context / Relevance: Focus on local service as job #1; become synonymous with local, meaningful and engaged; maintain, but do not deeply invest in low-relevance commodity products or services • Community / Belonging / Identity: Build, host, maintain communities with clear identities and purposes and help others do the same; always act to give community members feelings of ownership and belonging • Time and Attention: Help your community get the best service in the least amount of time; help them efficiently direct attention
  46. 46. Economic Opportunities 2 • Face Time / Truly Special Events: Get out of the studio; create and attend events that give the community access to you and give you chances to listen; make your events extraordinary and host lots of them • Surprise / Uniqueness: Follow the lead of Radio Lab — make surprising and new things that delight your community • Trust: Every action in every sector of the company must focus on developing deeper and wider trust with the community
  47. 47. Economic Opportunities 3 • News / Public Affairs / Promoting Civic Engagement: solve the problems of bad faith media, negative politics, opaque government, disengagement • May include digital media production education • Community Service via Media: identify problems, explore them with the community, help the community solve them via direct and indirect services • Niche Music Community: host a local community of music enthusiasts • Concern: Is this economically viable in a market of 2 million; could a national music community more efficiently gather support?
  48. 48. How will we get paid? • Government, university, • Event fees community, corporate grants (people want unique access, they (if your work is relevant to want to authentically participate) community needs) • Fees for services • Advertising / Sponsorship (media training and production) (businesses want to be associated with positive community outcomes) • Physical media sales (for a little while longer) • Community Membership (people want to belong, they want Sound familiar? access, they want to participate)
  49. 49. Will I be able to put up a paywall? • No
  50. 50. Public Service Media in Practice
  51. 51. scenario...
  52. 52. The Problem with “News” • 8 people ≠ 2 million people / 2,500 square miles • Mass news coverage is a commodity game • Service is focused on single platform (with declining economic value) • Service is generalized, not focused on community-identified needs • Service is essentially closed to outside participation • Service today lacks sufficient scarcities to be monetized
  53. 53. Game-changing goals for news • Umair Haque, economist, Harvard Business Review, on the HBR IdeaCast • Don’t run a news factory, manage a news community • News orgs must focus on creating better outcomes • Details: The Nichepaper Manifesto
  54. 54. “As we've been arguing at the Center for Social Media, successful Public Media 2.0 projects must directly convene publics to learn about and tackle shared problems. This means more than just handing out yet another serving of information to a surfeited audience; it’s about engaging users at every phase — planning, funding, production, distribution, conversation, curation, and mobilization — to make sure that all stakeholders’ voices are included. This ensures different perspectives are aired, and that content is interesting, relevant and accurate.” —Jessica Clark, Center for Social Media, American University
  55. 55. WOSU News 2.0: Conceptual • Keep the commodity news (what happened), but do it more efficiently while, ironically, expanding your service (be masters of breadth, not depth) • Encourage news partnership: abandon competitive work, invite participation • Atomize, unbundle, share the commodity product; put your stuff everywhere • Make all news products multiplatform and asynchronous to reach the public where and when they are (mobile, radio, web, TV, widgets, apps) • Create a second tier of news focused on community-identified topics • Network the news with Public Insight Network, citizen journalists, everyone
  56. 56. WOSU News 2.0: Actual • Boost the team to 12 • Reset and deeply clarify the mission of the team as “public service journalism,” not “news” • Two teams: • Newscasting • Central Ohio Insight (or some other “brand”)
  57. 57. WOSU News 2.0: Newscasting Team 1 • 2 people • Rapidly aggregate timely facts from the community using every available source; religiously point to sources and hold them up for credit, link traffic, more (part of creating a news community) • Web+mobile first, radio second, TV third • Constant web+mobile updates; 4 daily radio newscasts; 1 daily TV newscast • All content includes embedded ads (sponsorship)
  58. 58. WOSU News 2.0: Newscasting Team 2 • Audio newscasts made instantly available online • “Competing” news outlets granted full rights to rebroadcast (intact) • Goal: This team will build the premier news index for central Ohio; better than the Columbus Dispatch, better than anyone; if central Ohioans want to know what’s up, they’ll turn to your services first, regardless of platform
  59. 59. WOSU News 2.0: “Central Ohio Insight” 1 • 10 people • Public Insight Network deployment, possibly in cooperative model • This team will replicate the “Argo Project” approach to topical coverage • 10 issues affecting central Ohio’s people and communities will be identified in deep collaboration with citizens (via a new and ongoing “listening project”) • Each topic has a primary journalist driving investigative and aggregative coverage to the web while also feeding radio, TV, print and select partners • Each journalist will also head up a “news community” around that topic
  60. 60. WOSU News 2.0: “Central Ohio Insight” 2 • Outlets • Web: blog-style updates with text, still images, video, audio, data, links; includes all material released to all other outlets (master archive) • Mobile: either mobilized version of web or special app(s) • Radio: 1 NPR-style piece per week; 1 30-60min live call-in per 10 weeks • TV: 1 PBS-quality 15-min report per 6 months • Events: 1 forum-style event per 6 months (may also be broadcast)
  61. 61. WOSU News 2.0: “Central Ohio Insight” 3 • Oversight via • Public advisory panel • Managing editor • Multiplatform content manager • Commitment: 2-year pilot • Topical coverage can be suspended briefly around major news events
  62. 62. WOSU News 2.0: “Central Ohio Insight” 4 • Focus: Positive community outcomes (with metrics) • Advantages • Deep relevancy for the community • Opportunities for interns, citizen journalists, nonprofit partnerships • Attractive target for sponsors • Attractive target for granting agencies due to outcomes and relevancy
  63. 63. WOSU News 2.0: A Bold Move • Not easy; impacts legacy service priorities positively and negatively • Clearly signals long-range commitment to central Ohio not for broadcasting someone else’s material, but for impactful public service right here • Puts WOSU on the leading edge of public service media innovation and demonstrates a higher calling than legacy news organizations • Dramatically improves WOSU’s media economics position; moves away from commodities toward unique, high-value work; reduces competitive friction, creates new collaboration and distribution opportunities
  64. 64. The Future
  65. 65. (innovation vs. stagnation)
  66. 66. The Innovator’s Dilemma
  67. 67. The Innovator’s Dilemma Market Leader: QUALITY Analog TV > Digital TV Market Disruptor: DEMAND On-demand, limitless, searchable, interactive digital video TIME
  68. 68. Best Days: Behind • The best days of public media are behind us if you... • identify radio and TV broadcasting as your mission • feel you can distribute national content better than the creators • can’t clearly articulate a core purpose and pursue it with passion • take media, technology, social or economic changes personally • let market forces drive your company
  69. 69. Best Days: Ahead • The best days of public media are ahead of us if you... • focus locally and let nationals do their work • articulate a purpose that you, your community and a staff — hopefully the one you have — can passionately pursue as a true team • find new scarcities in a world of media abundance • know what benefit you provide the community (not what product) • like learning new things
  70. 70. The Future is Public Service Media ....because...
  71. 71. The Future is Public Service Media because... • Broadcasting being replaced by more efficient models; you’re being disintermediated • Content isn’t scarce, but attention, trust, context and help is • No one cares about your product, they care about the benefits you provide • Passionate people with purpose will out-perform legacy thinkers every time; someone will take on the mission — with or without you • Public Service Media is needed, it’s a necessity for our communities; public broadcasting is nice, but not necessary
  72. 72. thank you John Proffitt Anchorage, Alaska