Friday, July 10, 2009

PRDMC - Mark Ramsey and the Hard Question

One of the last sessions at PRDMC had what I considered to be the heart of the issues/problems/opportunities surrounding the adoption of new media by the old.

The session was split between Bryan Moffet, director of digital sponsorship operations for NPR, and Mark Ramsey of Hear 2.0, (often quoted in this blog).

Mark Ramsey opened up his half by asking a very basic question.

What does it mean to be a public radio station in a digital space?

It's a hard question. And it's a good one to ask whatever business you're in if you have an offline component. What does it mean to be a toy store in a digital space? Or a trade association? Or a commercial radio station? 

Because as Ramsey explained, it's not just recycling on-air content. A significant part of public radio's audiences never listen to the over-the-air signal. Extended listening is great for having the radio on in the office, but online audiences tend to prefer discreet packages -- and preferably short-form.

So repurposing content has to be more than just recycling the on-air broadcasts. And sometimes it doesn't have to even be the on-air broadcasts. 

Consider: radio shows have to fit into a programming grid. So they have to be an hour, or a half hour long (actually a little less to allow for local IDS, etc., but you get the idea). Fifteen-minute programs don't work, because it's easy for a listener to remember a show starts at 10:00 or 10:30, but hard to remember 10:15.

But that's not a problem online. A podcast can be any length -- and it can very from episode to episode. It's available all the time, and it doesn't have to fit into the station's schedule, just the listener's.

Ramsey's question was a very difficult one, because to answer it, you have to ignore most of the rules that are an integral part of broadcasting.

But as Ramsey pointed out, it's not about what the station wants; it's about what the listener wants. In a radio market, there may be only one public radio station so the listener has to accept whatever programming it offers. Online, though, if a station's website isn't providing the content a listener wants, there's plenty of other websites out there that will.

How do you attract and keep that audience.

Answer Mark Ramsey's hard question.

 - Ralph

Day 93 of the WJMA Podwatch (I'm not sure these guys even understand there is a question)

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