Note: The following posted on August 8 because I accidentally hit "Publish" instead of "Save as Draft." I deleted it almost right away because I didn't think it was ready, but you really can't delete these things. I just discovered today that it was out there long enough for New Realities leader Robert Paterson to post it on his blog. So here it is, again, on radiosutton.
Much has changed since I started the series on setting new, somewhat audacious goals for public radio. Audience 2010 provided some valuable insights about our audience and its listening behaviors.
NPR's New Realities Blue Print has presented fresh opportunities to tackle long-standing problems. Various reports on public radio's fundraising trends appear to confirm that difficult economic times are ahead. Every report, meeting, and conference session I’ve been exposed to offered some new angle on public radio’s new media possibilities.
After weeks of trying to synthesize all the information and ideas into a new media goal, I keep coming back to this simple question.
What do listeners want?
So much of public radio’s new media conversation is about public radio not public service. It’s about infrastructure and rights issues and revenue splits and protecting what we have. That needs to change.
I think NPR has the right idea when it talks about creating a “trusted space.” That concept works well with public radio’s behind-the-scenes activities and public radio’s public face.
Listeners want to trust what they hear and see no matter where they hear and see it. Building a “trusted space” is such a good concept I think it could be the foundation of a major, coordinated marketing and fundraising campaign for all organizations in public radio.
Think of the possibilities: “trusted space” direct mail fundraising letters, e-newsletters, on-air spots, fundraising specials, foundation grant applications, and outreach and marketing efforts. Perhaps there could even be a “trusted space” fund to invest in projects that would help national, regional, and local organizations accelerate their ability to add to the “trusted space” in the new media environment.
Now you might ask how building a “trusted space” is a measurable goal. The key is the word “trust.” That’s a listener-focused word.
Listeners’ level of trust in what they hear on the radio, on their iPods, over their broadband Internet device, or read on a web site can be objectively measured over time. There are probably several ways to measure that starting today.
It makes for a daunting goal to build the most trusted space for news and information on the radio and on the Internet. But imagine what the conversations would be like if the entire public radio industry embraced that goal.
Content would truly be king. Partnerships, revenue models, and infrastructure would emerge from the public service possibilities rather than driving, and perhaps, limiting public service outcomes.
Try it. Ask this question the next time you’re in a conversation about new media, “how would that help make us the most trusted space for (your mission here) on the Internet?” If that’s a conversation stopper, then start a new one. Ask, “how could we become the most trusted space for (your mission here) on the Internet?
I suspect you will find that conversation far more interesting and productive than you could ever imagine.