Thursday, July 31, 2008

Public Radio Core Values in a Web 2.0 World

Public Radio’s Core Values are frequently mentioned on this blog, most recently in the context of how public radio can preserve and apply its Core Values across new distribution channels and in social media. That’s a topic worthy of further conversation, so let’s start one.

First, some background. About 8 years ago PRPD, the professional association for public radio program directors, set out to uncover and articulate Public Radio’s Core Values. The process was thorough and included resources to help stations and program producers identify and nurture Core Values in all forms of programming including fundraising, underwriting, and promotion.

Today’s challenge is to do the same in a Web 2.0 world, especially with blogs and user-generated content. On one hand, public radio needs to ensure the Core Values of the “brand” are protected. On the other hand public radio can’t ignore or suppress the richness of Web 2.0 opportunities.

How does that happen? Which of public radio’s core values have universal application? That is, they apply on the radio, to the written word, on video, and in community dialog. Which of public radio’s core values don’t translate to Web 2.0? Do other values need to be uncovered and defined so public radio can maintain its identify in new spaces? Does public radio’s identity change beyond calling it public “media?” How so?

Leave comments here or join the dialogue at DirectCurrent.

To ensure that “Core Values” isn’t reduced to a mere buzz phrase, here’s a link to the original introductory report from the PRPD Core Values project. Please read it as part of participating in this discussion, even if you read it before. And here are the Core Values:

Qualities of the Mind and Intellect
Love of lifelong learning
Respect for the listener

Qualities of the Heart and Spirit
Inspired about public life and culture
Belief in civility and civil discourse

Qualities of Craft
A uniquely human voice
Pacing that's appropriate to the substance of the content
Attention to the smallest details of music, sound, language

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's the Content, People

Spotted on a social media blog the other day -- "response via Twitter."

It reminded me of those motels that still have signs that say COLOR TV. Or ABC's Wide World of Sports showing a graphic telling viewers they are watching an event via satellite. And the 1980s DJs telling listeners that the next cut is from a CD.

Kind of pointless.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Change Is Not New To Public Radio

Public radio has changed in significant ways over the past few decades. The funding mix is very different with listener-sensitive revenues playing a more important role than subsidies. For better and worse, NPR's relationship with stations isn't what is used to be. There are three major networks. Audience research plays a prominent role in how programming decisions are made.

Change is not new and lessons from the past could be very useful today. For example, there are strong similarities between many of today's Web 2.0 proponents and many of those advocating the use of audience research in the 1980s, including:

1. The ability to see change coming
2. The ability to visualize opportunities to grow public service and revenues through change
3. Low tolerance for slow adopters

While there's no way to know for sure if low tolerance further slowed the industry's ability to appropriately apply and benefit from good audience research, it certainly couldn't have helped.

The question facing the today's visionaries is this, can lessons from the past help you speed public radio's success in a Web 2.0 world or are you destined to make the same mistakes as those who preceded you?

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Buy Panties, Support Social Media

This, we are told, is public media's future. Bloggers don't have to use the advertised products, right?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Social Media and Core Values

Updated 8:20p: Jeff Jarvis' blog BuzzMachine went down earlier today and our links to his site are no longer working. We will try to fix that. In the meantime, you can read the Jarvis blog that inspired this post by going to and scrolling down to the July 13 posting "A Cure for Curmudgeons."

Jeff Jarvis is one of the leading proponents of social media. He is widely read and influential. That's why the values he brings to his postings matter. They are defining the Core Values for many of those who will follow the path he is blazing.

I picked up this Jeff Jarvis posting via The post revolves around a familiar theme -- social media is the future, traditional journalism is dead -- but it says even more about Core Values and opportunities for public radio.

You really should read the posting and subsequent comments for yourself. It reads much like a commercial radio talk show host sounds. Many of the commercial talk techniques are present. Issues are presented in divisive terms. People who strongly disagree with the position of the "host" are dismissed through mockery. The "cause" is presented as a "war" complete with a campaign to discredit and marginalize others. There is heavy self-promotion.

Not exactly the values public radio aspires to. And that's okay.

Public radio hasn't cornered the market on Core Values. Public radio values serve public radio audiences well. Different audiences respond to different Core Values.

This is the crux of the social media/traditional journalism conflict. The issue is positioned as "either/or" but a fragmented marketplace dictates "both/and." There will be a market for traditional journalism, there will be a market for social media, and there will be markets for hybrids of the two.

Ultimately, those markets will not be defined by the media platforms or academic definitions of journalism. They will be defined by the values and interests shared by content creators and audiences.

The opportunity for public radio is to learn everything we can about using social media tools from the Jeff Jarvis' of the world. Ensuring that public radio's Core Values translate to social media isn't Jeff Jarvis' job, which is probably a good thing. That responsibility still rests with public radio's leadership and content creators.

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