Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Future

Public radio stations aren’t going away. In the future, they will be vital sources of public service content and social networking, even though listeners anywhere in the world will have access to all NPR programming, live and directly from the network. In the future:

Public radio stations will remain a focal point for news, issues, cultural information, and conversations that transcend each station’s geography. Localism, as it is defined today, will remain a relatively small and insignificant component of public radio’s success.

The number of listeners to all of public radio will grow as individual stations customize their network offerings to differentiate them from the network feed. These similar, yet distinctive offerings, will serve a broader range of listeners who are more likely to be defined by what interests them than by their age/sex/ethnic demographics.

The content used to customize the network news programs is just as likely to be acquired as it is to be produced locally. Using services such as PRX and Content Depot, stations in Boston and San Francisco will swap stories on the regional economic impact of the technology sector. Stations in Arizona and Florida will swap stories on the political impact of retired boomers on state politics.

Listeners will continue value the “currency of live content,” even though they are able to assemble their own news programs via podcasts. The continuity, companionship, and immediacy crafted into each Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Weekend Edition will compel listeners to continue to choose radio.

The “currency of live” will bring even more listeners to public radio’s high quality discussion programs, which will remain one of the few places on the air and on-line where reasoned conversation will thrive.

All the new technologies and the applications that go with them will not kill public radio. They will enhance it.

Some listeners will engage more deeply in topics of personal interest with podcasts or by participating in on-line chats or by contributing to blogs. But most listeners won’t do all three.

A small percentage will use the station’s web site to plan ad hoc meetings at local coffee joints where they might discuss an author they heard about on Fresh Air or plan a response to a local environmental problem they just learned about in their community.

Another small group of listeners will hear stories and features on the air and e-mail audio file links to their friends. Or, by relating a story about how funny Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me was this week, they remind a spouse to listen to the Wait Wait podcast.

I can hear you saying, “This doesn’t seem like very far in the future.”

No, it is not. Everything here is happening, or should be happening, today. This is what the next 10 years will be like. We are living the future; we just haven’t mastered it yet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may say so, "Localism" is the absolute future of successful, local public radio.

By that I mean that successful local stations will be working closely with local, public events: Film series; outdoor art and craft fairs; public concerts; neighborhood festivals; non-profit fundraisers; county fairs and other public events.

Their participation can take the 1950's model of commercial radio: The station's name and logo are included on everything printed about the events, the station devotes a small amount of time to promote the events; the station has a presence at the events that is open, inviting and draws in both listeners and non-listeners alike; during the events themselves the station devotes small segments throughout the day originated live at the event (whether they're actually live or not) to encourage listeners to attend the events.

With my wi-fi radio I can tune into at least 80% of the public stations in the U.S. and I can just as easily listen to stations from all over the world. But my involvement with those programs is limited by physical constraints. While I might really enjoy the BBC Proms, there's no way I'm going to be able to hop into my car and drive to London so be there in person. But the annual art fair in beautiful [my city] is a different matter. I'll see the name of my public station everywhere the fair advertises, during the 1 minute breaks in "Wait Wait" or Says You, I'll hear actualities from the fair and I will feel more compelled to drive across [my city] to join in the fun.

And I won't need my wi-fi radio or a distant broadcaster to be so encouraged.


6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appropo of nothing, I thought this strip was telling:


Particularly panel #2: "The whole point of taking your music with you (in reference to an iPod) is NOT listening to the radio."

This represents a particular angle I've not quite heard before. The author of the comic, Scott Kurtz is in his early 30's and is mildly techie, and earns his living off the webcomic (unusual in the industry) but otherwise seems pretty much your Average Joe. I wonder how representative it is.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Dennis Haarsager said...

I want very much for that future to be realized, but don't get the impression that we can just sit back and it will happen naturally without much effort on our part if we just keep doing what we're doing. John probably doesn't intend to leave that impression either. In my opinion, it will require a profound rethinking of how we do business, adapting to the emerging many-to-many realities, and learning to become competitive on multiple platforms. There will be casualties along the way from stations that choose sit back and let the future happen to them rather than proactively shape, and their communities will be the losers. --Dennis Haarsager

10:35 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home