While there were many nuts-and-bolts sessions about the technique of fund-raising, the overarching theme of the conference was how to move with the audience.
Now it may seem like a simple thing, but compared to commercial radio's reaction to change, it's a very big deal. Commercial radio's answer to the shift to MP3 players was the introduction of the Jack/Bob/Single syllable man's name format. No DJ's and a mix of music that was supposed to simulate shuffle play on an iPod -- if your iPod only had the top 40 tunes from two or three different radio formats, that is.
Commercial radio answer to satellite radio was their version of HD Radio, which I've discussed elsewhere.
In neither instance did content enter into the equation. It's the same old bland focus-group-tested tunes, just slightly repackaged.
At the PRDMC it was an entirely different story. The emphasis was not just on the different media people now use, but how to not just repackage but to create new content for the appropriate media.
People listening to iPods? Supply more downloadable clips and podcasts.
People using the Internet more than the radio? Expand the website with content that's user-friendly and not just recycled from what's on-air.
People subscribing to satellite radio? Be there with exclusive content they can't get anywhere else.
Cellphone feeds, expanded RDS -- they're even testing new services to take advantage of the digital broadcast capabilities of HD Radio. Yep, it may be moribund for commercial radio (who wants to hear a 10-minute commercial block in pure digital sound?), but public radio is looking at text-based services and new programming channels that make HD Radio a valuable addition to the public's media options.
So what's the difference? Simply this. Public broadcasters believe they're providing an important service. Whether its news, entertainment or music, their main concern is the quality of their programming, and how to best serve their audience however they listen.
Change is difficult -- but on the whole, public broadcasters aren't shirking the challange. So while commercial radio blathers on about the "stations between the stations," pubcasters are evolving along with their audiences.
I'm looking forward to what's going to happen next down at the lower end of the dial.