Inside/Out: A Day With WBUR

Apr 8, 2016

WBUR, one of Boston’s two NPR stations, airs more than 25 hours of locally-produced programs and reaches approximately 500,000 listeners each week — in addition to running a significant digital operation. We were thrilled to send a team from Digital Services to visit their offices and see what they do.

In mid-February, Jackie McBride, Jenny Golden, Molly Holder, Robin Garner, and Simon Xia from Digital Services went to WBUR, where we met with people involved in content creation, software development, membership, and underwriting.

Digital Services people with John Davidow, WBUR's executive editor of new media. From left: Jackie McBride, Jenny Golden, Simon Xia, John Davidow, and Molly Holder.

John Davidow, WBUR’s Managing Director of Digital, kicked things off by welcoming our team and giving us an overview of digital production at the station. He explained how digital editors work hand-in-hand with broadcast producers to bridge the gap between platforms.

We were particularly interested to hear about WBUR’s website redesign project — why they are doing it and what they hope it achieves.

Audio is a key driver. It’s possible to listen to audio on the existing site, but they wanted to create a truly “audio-first” digital presence. In addition, they are committed to creating an API-centered solution, which will make it easier for them to make a wide range of new digital products more quickly.

Jackie McBride and Jenny Golden practicing being on air.

One goal is to bring the station’s diverse content into one domain. Davidow explained that the station currently has a lot of “verticals,” or single entry websites for separate purposes, and managing them all has become a real challenge — it’s difficult to track analytics and it’s difficult to implement change across a range of separate properties.

We were also fascinated to learn about how WBUR approaches online underwriting. They believe there is promise in exploring new display ad formats, and are committed to developing better audio ad-insertion capabilities. Additionally, they believe they see the potential of making a strong impact by focusing on digital audience engagement and conversion — that is, by getting more readers and listeners to become donors and members.

Be sure to check out WBUR’s site and their new beta site as well — at beta.wbur.org. We’re looking forward to seeing it go live and we can’t wait to hear more from WBUR about their digital strategy.

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