Recognizing Our Opportunity in Digital Media

Apr 4, 2012

The first week at a new job is always a mix of excitement and confusion. It’s a quiz, really. How many new logins can you remember? How many new names and faces? Is this the way to the bathroom or the supply closet? Add to that a new city, new apartment, (same cats), and altered habits.

It’s fun but it’s wrenching. So after all that, why do any of us pack up our things and start over again? Well, we do it because of opportunity. We have the chance to use the skills we gained in our previous jobs and apply them to a new challenge.

Opportunity is how I look at public radio’s position in the digital world right now. It’s tempting to frame it as change, but change isn’t new: there always was change, always is, always will be. I’m not even sure that change is happening more quickly now.

But here’s what I do know: we have an unprecedented opportunity in front of us.

We have owned the radio space in the U.S. for decades. There’s only one place to find in-depth, unbiased news, thoughtful conversation, and great, often overlooked, music: public radio. But, as television and newspapers struggle with the effects of disruption, public radio has an opportunity to own the digital space for news, conversation and music in the U.S. 

And that’s why I’ve joined NPR Digital Services.

We’re changing in big ways. We used to be mainly about software and websites for 90 stations, but now we serve all of public radio. Software is still important: we’ve launched 62 stations on Core Publisher so far, with more stations coming online every week. We’ve added a new level of business intelligence and revenue support to our services. Stations get the expertise, advice and tools they need to support their operations, and can focus more of their effort on providing quality local service.

And, for me, the most important change has been editorial support, in the form of training and consultation in many forms: webinars, small group sessions, and on-site training with individual stations. We’ve been experimenting with new ways of pushing local station content to users, through NPR’s Facebook page, as well as

The model is simple: learning and sharing and growing. We have a lot of work to do, but we can be excited about the opportunity that’s ahead.