Saturday, September 16, 2006

Final PRPD Update

Former PRPD President Marcia Alvar was honored with a lifetime achievement award. Bill Siemering introduced her. It was good for everyone to hear about some of those early days in public radio when its founding principles were being developed and first put in practice.

Interesting contrast to be handing out lifetime achievement awards and wrestling with the uncertain future presented by new technologies at the same conference. Perhaps the future would look more certain if public radio applied the collective wisdom gained in the past to today's challenges.

Public radio knows quite a bit about starting small, having lots of enthusiasm and not enough resources, and still developing a significant public service. We've done it before.

The listeners and their content needs have not changed. More important, public radio's understanding of those listeners and its expertise in creating that content has not changed.

It might be called "new media" but the most important lessons we learned from our "old medium" still apply.

4 Comments:

Blogger Aaron Read said...

Howdy John. Here's a great little tidbit I stumbled across via the MIT AdverLab Blog

A list of all the tricks retailers use to get you to shop and buy more

The Laugh-out loud then realize "My God...it's true" entry in this interesting list: TILES: Supermarkets used to have a trick placing slightly smaller tiles on the floor in the more expensive aisles of the shop. When a customer entered on of these aisles their trolley would click faster making them think they were travelling faster and thereby subconsciously slow down and spend more time in that aisle.

This got me thinking...is public radio "too honest"? Would we do better if we took more of a "sneaky" approach designed to prey upon human nature without the "customer" (i.e. listeners) even realizing it?

For example, the "NPR Clock" is so standard it's virtually gospel. 60 second billboard, five minutes of newscast, then 13 minutes of show, etc etc etc. Do we know if that format is still relevant with today's audience? Is there another format that would play better with people?

11:14 AM  
Blogger Aaron Read said...

Mary McGrath of Radio Open Source made a post about PRPD today that was, I think, rather too self-congratulatory. But it had an interesting nugget:

There was a little buzz about the results of a local news survey in several big markets that revealed that most people think the ambient sound public radio producers love to put into their stories to make them "sound rich" just sounds like background noise.

I find this rather intriguing when viewed in light of a recent brouhaha here in Boston, where there was a big deal about potentially moving the Red Sox baseball games to an FM outlet instead of their AM home of the last several stations. One of the big arguments for the move was that the Patriots (football) games went to an FM outlet a few years ago b/c of the improved fidelity that (I'm paraphrasing a bit) allowed the audience to hear the crowd noise clearly, and therefore have more of a feeling of "being there at the game" while listening to the play-by-play.

At first glance these two points seem contradictory...but assuming for a moment that they're not, I have to think that either public radio's listeners are not sports game listeners. Or (more likely) the kind of ambient sound public radio producers love to include has a different (lessor) value to listeners than crowd sound does during a game.

I sense there's something important here...something about why pubradio producers like a certain style of ambient sound that influences their entire view on how they produce the content. And that's not lining up with what listeners want anymore.

11:24 AM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Aaron -- I think you got it right when your wrote this:

"...pubradio producers like a certain style of ambient sound that influences their entire view on how they produce the content."

The PRPD presentation included a quote from Morning Edition Exec Producer Ellen McDonnell about writing a good story first and then adding sound. Her point is that the words tell the story. It's a good rule of thumb that will have the rare exception.

Perhaps this is the way to think about it: Sound writing first, ambient sound second

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear too much ambiant sound inserted for no reason. If you are at a protest march, then the chants of the protesters bring the listener to the event. If you are doing a story about highway safety and you have the sounds of cars going by, that's boring and unnecessary.

4:14 PM  

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