Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's About Listeners, Not Us

One of the hallmarks of public radio programming is its near universal practice of shining the radio spotlight on others. The best program hosts, reporters, and commentators present stories and facilitate discussions with passion and an attention for details that make them jump out of the radio and stick. Egos are put aside in favor of providing a service to the listeners.

This listener-centric approach is critical to public radio's future success on the radio and on the web, especially on the web.

If you can find the time, scan some user-generated content on-line. Most of it is about the user. It's not created with an audience or a public service objective in mind. This even happens on sites designed to be a service. How many times have you gone to a favorite industry or hobby blog only to read an off-point account about the author's vacation, newly deceased pet, or pet peeve with the local government?

The argument for such personal content is that it helps the reader get to know the author. This argument, by the way, is typically made by the author and not the readers.

In public radio we know that familiarity isn't built that way. People trust our hosts and reporters for the value they create in the listeners' lives. In time, those hosts and reporters become friends.

Public radio's niche is not following the Web 2.0 pack by offering up creator-centric content. It is in steadfastly sticking to the core value that our service is about listeners, not us.

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