Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Public radio websites: One site to rule them all?

A not-so-recent commentary (Feb. 21, 2005) by Mark Fuerst in the public broadcasting newsletter, Current talks about the failings of public stations to create appealing websites in an economic manner. If a goal of the system was to create a website for each one of the 500 public stations, they've very nearly succeeded: only a few rural stations lack one, he states. What is being wasted is the opportunity for true collaboration between public radio stations and their major content provider, NPR. His answer is to look at people who are doing this well. His model is Major League Baseball's website. They provide a portal/co-branding solution through their common interface and integrated back-end system. He outlined what is needed to be considered in creation of a multi-station integrated platform:

1) A clear articulated vision of online service.
2) Consistent traffic metrics
3) A "unified back-end solution"
4) CPB's leadership.

This will not be easy. NPR is not the only game in town. There are independent producers, stations which syndicate independently of NPR, other distributors like PRI and American Public Media, as well as international ones. There are also many stations that are not part of the traditional public broadcasting community--i.e. NPR affiliates--that are essentially community broadcasters. Many of these take some network programming, but serve their communities in a non-profit function. Many questions: Will they be invited to the table? How will all these parties play together?

If NPR won't (or isn't allowed to) produce for all stations, who will do it? (I was going to say "step up to the plate" to further the baseball metaphor, but I'll refrain). What system will they use? Probably something which incorporates Content Depot which is gaining more traction as a content management system for the public broadcasting community. How will PubCore and other digital asset management systems fit into all of this? And what about music with its rich and complex relationships between contents, carriers, participants (with many roles), mediums, forms and genres. Stay tuned, more to come.



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